Colvin Prize

“Everyday Modernism: Architecture and Society in Singapore” Awarded 2023 Colvin Prize

Book on the stories of everyday modernist architecture in Singapore is adjudged this year’s prime “work of reference on architectural history” by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain

Words and images Jiat-Hwee Chang, Justin Zhuang, and Darren Soh (Colvin Prize)
Editing The Kanto team

Everyday Modernism: Architecture and Society in Singapore (Jiat-Hwee Chang, Justin Zhuang, and Darren Soh, NUS Press, 2022) has been fêted the prestigious 2023 Colvin Prize by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (SAHGB), a leading authority on the study and appreciation of architecture in the United Kingdom. The awards ceremony was held yesterday, December 15th, 2023, at Toynbee Hall, London. Two of the book’s authors, Jiat-Hwee Chang and photographer Darren Soh, were in attendance, receiving the Prize’s unique ‘Beehive’ medal by Abigail Burt.

“An incredible publication that draws on important fieldwork photography in combination with deep scholarship and superb prose. This book makes a unique contribution to architectural history and will have a lasting legacy in post-colonial studies and the appreciation of the value of mainstream modernism in narrating social and cultural histories,” shares Richard Brook, Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the Manchester School of Architecture and jury member for the Colvin Prize on this year’s winner.

Darren Soh and Jiat-Hwee Chang with the Colvin Prize medal
The 2023 Colvin Prize medal by Abigail Burt

“We are extremely honored that the SAHGB and the esteemed jury members have chosen Everyday Modernism for the prize. Being shortlisted already puts the book in excellent scholarly company, but winning the prize is an amazing affirmation of the work we are doing,” the authors share.

The Colvin Prize is an annual award given to written material considered an exemplary work of reference in the field of architectural history. It has been awarded seven times since it was established in 2017 and was named in honor of Sir Howard Colvin, a former president of the SAHGB. The prize recipients are awarded a concave medal with a beehive motif created by modern sculptor Abigail Burt. The design is inspired by Colvin’s personal library, his championing of the Beehives project (ACP) at St. John’s College, Oxford, where he was a longstanding fellow, and the collaborative nature of research. Dr. Elizabeth Darling of Oxford Brookes University chaired this year’s prize judging panel, which is composed of the following members:

  • Dr. Elizabeth Darling (Oxford Brookes University) (Chair)
  • Professor Richard Brook (Manchester School of Architecture)
  • Professor Louise Campbell (University of Warwick)
  • Dr. Valeria Carullo (Royal Institute of British Architects)
  • Professor Simon Pepper (University of Liverpool)
  • Professor Leslie Topp (Birkbeck, University of London)

Colvin Prize
Everyday Modernism authors Justin Zhuang, Darren Soh, and Jiat-Hwee Chang

Everyday Modernism, published by NUS Press in 2022, showcases modernist architecture in Singapore and the stories that drove its development. The book features works of ‘everyday modernism’ alongside the usual heroic landmarks, with the untold stories behind the nation’s public school buildings, car parks, bridges, housing, cinemas, and shopping centers taking center stage across the book’s 33 essays. It fills gaps in existing studies on Singapore’s built heritage and provides new frameworks and narratives to understand the significance of the nation’s modernist built environment.

The book is available for purchase at The NUS Press.

The book’s three authors, Jiat-Hwee Chang, Justin Zhuang, and Darren Soh, express their gratitude to their families and friends for their unwavering support throughout the five years they spent writing, rewriting, photographing, and re-photographing.

The authors are also thankful to the various institutions in Singapore that made the project possible. The research for the book was supported by a Ministry of Education (MOE) Academic Research Fund (AcRF) Tier 1 Grant, which was awarded through the National University of Singapore (NUS). Moreover, a Minor Project Grant from the National Heritage Board (NHB) supported the book’s production.

The authors also extend their gratitude to the publisher NUS Press, especially its director, Peter Schoppert, who provided constant support for the project from its inception. Additionally, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the National Library Board provided resources and opportunities to develop the research, and the authors look forward to collaborating more closely with them in the future.

Lastly, Jiat-Hwee and Darren also thank the Department of Architecture, NUS, and the National Youth Achievement Award Council for enabling their attendance at the awards ceremony.

Colvin Prize
People’s Park Complex, photographed by Darren Soh

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