Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

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Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay
The Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.jpg
The Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay in 2010
Alternative names The Esplanade Theatres
General information
Type Performing arts center
Location Marina Bay, Singapore
Construction started 1996
Completed 2002; 13 years ago (2002)
Cost S$ 600 million
Management Esplanade Co Ltd
Technical details
Floor area 60,000 square metres (6.0 ha)
Design and construction
Architect DP Architects
Russell Johnson
Structural engineer T. Y. Lin International
Main contractor Penta-Ocean

Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay (also known as The Esplanade Theatres, or simply The Esplanade) is a 60,000 square metres (6.0 ha) performing arts center located in Marina Bay near the mouth of the Singapore River. Named after the nearby Esplanade, it consists of a concert hall which seats about 1,800 and a theatre with a capacity of about 2,000 for the performing arts.



The name for the centre was revealed in 1994. It was named after Esplanade due to its significant presence in the Esplanade Park.[2]


In 1989, the Advisory Council on Culture and the Arts, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Ong Teng Cheong, recommended to build a performing arts centre. Planning for the construction of the centre started in 1992, headed by the Singapore Arts Centre Co (now known as "Esplanade Co Ltd"). Construction officially started on August 11, 1996, with a groundbreaking ceremony officiated by then Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Tony Tan.[3]

The Esplanade occupies the site of the former "Satay Club", a popular food haunt for Singaporeans which had been discontinued prior to the Esplanade's construction. The "Satay Club" had been re-allocated next to Sembawang Shopping Center,[4][5] before closing down.


Completed in February 2001, the centre was officially opened on 12 October 2002, by the then President of Singapore S. R. Nathan.[6] The Esplanade was developed at a cost of about SGD 600 million.[4]

2002 to present[edit]

On 5 July 2005, the opening ceremony of the 117th IOC Session was staged in the Esplanade, featuring a 30-minute long performance aimed at showcasing Singapore's multi-cultural heritage to her international audience.[4]

For its last financial year ending March 2014, the Esplanade incurred a loss of S$2.3 million, the first operating deficit since its opening. This loss was despite the Esplanade racking up relatively similar numbers in terms of audience attendance and activities from the previous year and was attributed primarily to the drop in sponsorship and donations.[7]

Featured acts

In the relatively short time that The Esplanade has been open it has played host to a wealth of big name acts and performances, including the Queen musical We Will Rock You, Avenue Q and the defunct Mosaic Music Festival.[8] It has also championed locally based acts.


Aluminium sunshades ornament the roof of the Esplanade.

The building was designed by two architectural firms working in conjunction: by DP Architects (DPA) of Singapore and the London-based Michael Wilford & Partners (MWP), although the latter left the project in May 1995. The design consists of two rounded space frames fitted with triangulated glass elements and sunshades, which balance outward views with solar shading.[9]

The original design, presented to the public in 1994, consisted of unadorned glass cases over the theatres, and initially elicited criticisms from the public, including calling it "two copulating aardvarks". Critics also accused that the design is insensitive to Singapore's location and climate as it would have created a greenhouse in the tropical climate of Singapore, but according to DPA director Vikas Gore some form of shading was always intended,[10] and a cladding of aluminium sunshades was added to the final design. The unique architectural design has been said to have an appearance similar to either a durian (a tropical fruit) or the eyes of a fly. Hence, the building is colloquially known to locals as "the big durians".[11]


Performance venues[edit]

The Esplanade contains world-class performing spaces, coupled with a wide range of professional support services and facilities. Other than performing venues, the Esplanade also contains meeting venues, as well as other lifestyle and arts related services. The main highlights of the Esplanade – the concert hall and theatre, are connected to the main concourse via a foyer, while the Esplanade Mall is accessible through an entry point located between these 2 halls.

Concert hall
Foyer to the concert hall

The concert hall serves as a venue for concerts, recitals, and other performances. There are only five other halls in the world with such state-of-the-art acoustics.[12]

The orchestral platform is able to hold up to 120 musicians.

The concert hall's pipe organ comprises 4740 pipes and 61 stops. It was custom designed and built by Johannes Klais Orgelbau.

The Concert Hall is able to comfortably seat about 1,600 people over four levels in an intimate setting. Types of seats include Stalls, Foyer stalls, and Circles 1, 2, and 3. There are another 200 seats in the choir stalls behind the concert hall stage, which may be converted into Gallery seats for an additional 200 people.


The Esplanade's Theatre which has a capacity of about 2,000 seats is a form of an adaptation of the horseshoe form of a traditional European opera house.

Recital Studio

The fan-shaped Recital Studio is able to contain 245 people and is a good venue for small scale and intimate chamber musical performances, as well as presentations and meetings.

Theatre Studio

The Theatre Studio, with a capacity of up to 220, is a small setting for experimental theatre and dance presentations.

Other facilities[edit]

Main article: library@esplanade

The library@esplanade, located on the third floor, is Singapore's first public library devoted to the performing arts. There are also outdoor performing centres, and retail and food space at the Esplanade Mall. There is an outdoor open space on the fourth floor of the building, which is the highest point open to the public.


As one of the world's busiest arts centres, Esplanade offers a wide range of programmes.[13] In addition to Esplanade Presents performances, other offerings by diverse presenters complement the programmes at the centre.

Esplanade's programmes are broadly organised around key areas – the community and access programmes form the foundation of activities at the centre, collaborations with mainly local arts groups help develop the industry, while leading international productions aim to offer innovative programmes in the major arts genres. These programmes are presented in different festivals and series designed to appeal to a broad range of audiences.

Esplanade's in-house programming team presents over 14 festivals and 20 on-going series throughout the year. As a centre for everyone, the programmes range from PLAYtime! for 2 to 4-year olds, Bitesize – a monthly talk and workshop taster series for a range of Arts topics, to at the Concourse – a non-ticketed music series that runs everyday of the year, as well as Coffee Morning Afternoon Tea – concerts featuring nostalgic English and Chinese golden hits by veteran local artists.

Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "T.Y. Lin International Group | Projects | The Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay". T.Y.Lin. 
  2. ^ "Design for world-class arts centre unveiled". NewspaperSG (Originally from The Straits Times). July 22, 1994. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Esplanade Theatres on the bay Singapore - So Much to Choose From!". SG Travel. May 1, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c MobileReference (1 January 2007). Travel Singapore: Illustrated Travel Guide, Phrasebook, and Maps. MobileReference. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-60501-015-1. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "Satay Club". Infopedia. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  6. ^ "It’s showtime at the Esplanade". NewspaperSG (Originally from The Straits Times). October 13, 2002. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  7. ^ Martin, Mayo (12 November 2014). "Esplanade posts losses for first time". MediaCorp. TODAY. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Mosaic Music Festival
  9. ^ DP Architects : The Master Architect Series. 
  10. ^ "Interview Vikas Gore: Esplanade Integrates Modern and Asian Elements". ABC Interview with Vikas Gore. Archived from the original on 26 October 2009. 
  11. ^ The New York Times "Travel Guide: Singapore"
  12. ^ "Concert Hall introduction in Esplanade homepage". Archived from the original on 12 November 2006. Retrieved 18 February 2007. 
  13. ^ "Esplanade the National Performing Arts Centre". Ghetto Singapore. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 1°17′23.6″N 103°51′18.3″E / 1.289889°N 103.855083°E / 1.289889; 103.855083