Shaw Towers was built in 1970 by Shaw Organization and was one of Asia’s largest cinema operators at the time. Constructed as part of the third Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) sale of sites programme in 1970, Shaw Towers consists of a high-rise cinema building and office complex, and a three-storey commercial podium.
The building site was the location of the former Alhambra and Marlboro theatres, as well as the Satay Club at Hoi How Road. The site’s irregular shape posed a significant design challenge.
Shaw Towers is characterised by a functional and practical modernist style. The unadorned building structure consists of repetitive rectilinear geometric elements. Small design flourishes such as moulded façade framing around the office tower windows, and floor level articulations that moderate the scale of the building elements, add a touch of creative eclecticism.
To optimise available space, shops in the commercial podium block were distributed along the corridors rather than the centre. The first two floors of the commercial podium block were reserved for street access. To eradicate the need for costly underground parking space, parking was on the third floor and above with the ramp intersecting commercial space.
Two new cinemas, Prince and Jade, were officially opened by Shaw Organisation in 1977. Prince and Jade were located at opposite ends and different floors of Shaw Towers. The cinemas operated separately as two discrete entities with a dedicated box office and foyer each. The smaller Jade cinema screened mainly new releases, while the larger 1,600-seat Prince cinema screened popular films.
In 1988, under the Cineplex model, both Prince and Jade were expanded to contain two halls each. In 1996, both cinemas were sold to United Artists, which renamed the four halls as Grand Prince, Alhambra, Royal Jade and Emerald. Shaw Organisation bought back the cinemas in 2001 before their eventual closure seven years later.
In 1989, Shaw Towers underwent extensive renovation and was renamed Shaw Leisure Gallery. The renovations cost $14 million over a duration of about half a year with only the two cinemas in operation. Decorative elements were added, such as pink blocks along the balcony’s skirting, and a coloured ceiling.
The Straits Times reported on 31 November 2018 that all tenants had been given advance notice to relocate by June 2020; the 42-year-old Shaw Towers will likely be torn down, and a new 35-storey grade A office and retail building will be developed in its place by 2023.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of May 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.