The conserved buildings within Sentosa Conservation Area are split into two groups; the Ironside Road Conservation Area located southeast, and the Sentosa Conservation Area, located further west. They were conserved by the Urban Redevelopment Authority because they are “representatives of British Military Architecture” that exhibit “particular aesthetic, creative and technical qualities in their design and construction”, thus depicting “a particular period of Singapore’s history”.
British colonial architecture was a fusion of European and Malay architectural styles, designed to suit the humid tropical climate of Singapore. The buildings in the Sentosa Conservation Area often sport features common to both architectural styles as a result.
The buildings are typically white in colour, in order to reduce the heat absorbed from the sun, a feature that proved useful to the British in colonial India.
Wide Overhanging Roofs
There is a Malay style pitched roof (also known as bonnet style) that features overhanging eaves, constructed with interlocking clay tiles. These roofs were designed to protect the occupants from both sun and rain; with the slanted shape preventing rainwater from ponding and deforming the roof, while also reflecting the heat rays of the sun away from the house.
Large Wall Openings
Taking into consideration the humid environment and high temperatures of tropical Singapore, British colonial buildings typically featured large wall openings and well-ventilated interior spaces to help cool the occupants.
Furthermore, the use of European-style Louvre Doors allowed the British to keep their windows and doors shut, while allowing for airflow into the building.
Several structures in the Sentosa Conservation Area feature external staircases, which are reminiscent of European-style architecture.
The symmetry of the staircases places emphasis on the centralised landing, thus giving prominence to the entrance of the building, creating a front hall that extends out into the open veranda.
Similar to Malay houses, the buildings feature a wide serambi (veranda) at the front of the building, with added European-style cross balustrades. Traditionally, the wide verandas were used to receive guests, and act as a space akin to the void-decks of HDBs today – an area for rest and relaxation.
The external support pillars (colonnades) were characteristic of British colonial architecture, featuring prominently in British mansions in India, America, and Singapore. The crossed balustrades are a recurring trend amongst buildings in Sentosa Conservation Area, making appearances at 59 Ironside Road, 26 Larkhill Road, and other sites.
While the crossed balustrades are allegedly European in origin, the choice of material to construct them – concrete – is peculiar. Traditional Malay building materials included bamboo and timber, mostly items that were organic or natural in origin. Reinforced concrete was introduced in Europe, with the first reinforced concrete house constructed in England. The use of concrete in the construction of the house is an example of the influence of British colonial architecture.
Altogether, the buildings in the Sentosa Conservation Area can fall under two groups; Malay-style buildings with a European influence, and European-style buildings with a tropical influence.
The majority of the barracks follow the Malay-style of house design, with bumbung lima-styled roofs that were influenced by the British and Dutch. European elements such as cross balustrades, concrete building materials, front halls, and Louvre Doors enhanced these two-storied buildings.
On the other hand, colonial mansions and bungalows that were synonymous with British colonialism typically followed a more European architectural style, that focused on compactness and symmetry within the building. Malay-style design elements like large wall openings were highlights of the cooling features of such bungalows.
Overall, the buildings represent the unique architectural techniques and styles that were influenced by the climate and the simple utilitarianism of British military architecture.