The Quadrant, built as a temporary Oversea Chinese Bank HQ

2 12 2018

There has been much mystery over the origins of The Quadrant at 19 Cecil Street. Identified in Gretchen Liu’s wonderful compilation of images charting Singapore’s progress over the year’s, Singapore: A Pictorial History 1819-2000, as having been built for the Kwangtung Provincial Bank, it turns out that it was for another Chinese bank – the Oversea Chinese Bank – for which it was erected for.

The Quadrant

Built in 1928/29 and designed by Keys and Dowdeswell, the motivation for the construction of the quadrant shaped Art Deco building – in an area that wasn’t considered by the directors of the bank to have been in a “not quite central” location – was the need to search for temporary premises. The bank’s HQ at 62-63 Chulia Street was affected by the implementation of the 1909 amendment to the Municipal Ordinance known as the “Back Lane Scheme” (more on the scheme: Off a little street in Singapore), which effectively cut its premises into half.

As the Kwangtung Provincial Bank, 1939 to 1979.

Rather than invest time and effort to seek new premises, the bank decided instead to erect a new building on a site at the corner of Cecil and Market Streets occupied by 6 three-storey shophouses they had acquired. The bank felt that the building – even if there were no plans to use it once a more central location (closer to the hub of commercial activity by the Singapore River) was found – was a “good investment”. The bank moved out once its permanent premises at China Building in Chulia Street (current site of OCBC Centre), which was co-developed and shared with Chinese Commercial Bank, was completed in late 1931. The two banks together with Ho Hong Bank merged in 1932 in the face of the Great Depression under the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) banner and China Building became OCBC’s HQ.

China Building, completed in 1931.

The temporary HQ was occupied by wine merchants, Eastern Agencies from 1933 to 1938, the Kwangtung Provincial Bank from 1939 to 1979 and Four Seas Communications Bank from 1982 to 1990 (which was already part of the OCBC group by that time). Pacific Can, when the building was renamed Pacific Can Building, occupied it from around the early 1990s to the 2000s, by which time I have been advised it had come into the hands of the State. Other occupants were Cherie Hearts – a childcare group, and then the Homestead Group, , which has a lease on it until 2021. The group had planned to lease the premises out to a bank, but despite much interest, the economic put paid to the idea and instead has sub-let out the lower level of the building to The Black Swan. The grand banking hall the building was given is still very much in evidence in the gorgeously decorated bar and bistro – almost three decades since it was last used as a bank.

The Black Swan.

Stairway to the gallery (mezzanine).

Also in evidence at the rear section of the 20 feet high banking hall is an upper level “gallery” from which the bank’s managers could have a view of what went on below, which the bistro uses as a cocktail bar, The Powder Room. There is also a private dining area located in the former vault.

The former banking hall – seen during yesterday’s Discovering Singapore’s Best Kept Secrets.

The Powder Room.

The former bank vault.

The upper levels of the building – access to which is through a beautifully built stairwell where a rebuilt 1929 vintage Marryat and Scott elevator is installed – is occupied by a co-working space run by WOTSO.

The stairwell.

Some of the lift’s original mechanism.

WOTSO’s co-working spaces on the upper levels.


Another view of the Powder Room.

The visit to The Quadrant was organised on 1 December 2018 as part of the Discovering Singapore’s Best Kept Secrets series of State Property Visits, supported by the Singapore Land Authority, the Homestead Group, The Black Swan and WOTSO.



Getting high on Martell Elegantology

21 02 2014

Martell VSOP recently introduced its philosophy of Elegantology at The Black Swan. Intended to put the focus on elegance and the elegant life, it celebrates individuals who embody the philosophy through qualities such as unique elegance, self-confidence and charisma and in combination with that sense of curiosity and discovery in the pursuit of an elegant lifestyle – all of which is manifested in three pillars of contemporary life: Look, Music and Bar.

Elegance in a glass. A Martell VSOP cocktail flavoured with almond and a hint of spice called 'Japanese' - to depict Daryl's personality.

Elegance in a glass. A Martell VSOP cocktail flavoured with almond and a hint of spice called ‘Japanese’ – to depict Daryl Chan’s personality.

The launch saw six Elegantologists being introduced, with elegance of Look represented by Clinton Leicester, co-founder and creative director of AMEN and Crawford & Sons; and Daryl Chan, partner of KIN and Sifr. Music is being represented by DJs Dean Chew, Kurt Loy and Tirso Garcia. Bar is being represented by Kamil Foltan – the Bar and Beverage Manager of Black Swan, who was responsible for creating the six Martell VSOP cocktails to reflect the personalities of the six individuals.

The six Elegantologists who epitomise the three pillars of Martell VSOP's Elegantology philosophy: Look, Music and Bar.

The six Elegantologists who epitomise the three pillars of Martell VSOP’s Elegantology philosophy: Look, Music and Bar.

The cocktails will be made available at Elegantology Nights – a series of parties that will commence with one at Art Bar at The Butter Factory, the details of which will be released in time. The cocktails will also be available at The Powder Room at The Black Swan. More information will be made available at

More my cup - the Georgian House Julep freshened by mint to reflect Clinton Leicester's strong sense of dress sophistication.

More my cup – the ‘Georgian House Julep’ freshened by mint to reflect Clinton Leicester’s strong sense of dress sophistication.

'Between the Sheets' - a light and refreshing combination of cognac and rum with orange liqeuer and lemon juice.

‘Between the Sheets’ – a light and refreshing combination of cognac and rum with orange liqeuer and lemon juice.