40A Orchard Road, Singapore 238838
Location: 40a Orchard Road
MacDonald House is an historical building in between Istana and the Former Cathay Building. Built between 1948 and 1949, designed by Reginal Eyre of the architectural firm Palmer & Turner, it is one of the first high-rise buildings along Orchard Road and the first Palmer & Turner’s building in Singapore. The building became a prominent landmark and ranked among the tallest buildings in Singapore at the time. It was named after Malcolm John MacDonald, Governor-General of Malaya and, later Commissioner-General of Southeast Asia.
This building was built for The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), thus it functions ideally as a banking hall. The ten-storey building was built in a Neo-Georgian style, with reinforced concrete frame structure and clad in light red brickwork with fine details from Alexandra brickworks; it was the first to be fully air-conditioned in Malaya & Singapore. It was the first in Southeast Asia to have an air-conditioning The system cooled the entire building while allowing individual temperature control in every room (innovative at the time). While the roof is overlaid with green glazed Chinese tiles, an open well also runs through the building, allowing natural light into the office and reducing the need for artificial light during the day. The structure was completed with two tall marble columns on either side of the main entrance. MacDonald House was the first large office building in Singapore after World War Two, representing the prevalent optimism and confidence in post-war Singapore.
Despite HSBC no longer occupying MacDonald House, a large plaque embossed with the bank’s logo is found on its front façade, coupled with two projecting balconies each bearing an HSBC monogram. The old night safe beside the main entrance also became a feature of the building, which clients could use to make deposits after operating hours.
The building is however better known to be the site of a bombing attack in 1965 during the peak of Indonesia-Malaysia konfrontasi.
On 10 March 1965 at 3.07 pm, a nitroglycerine explosives bomb exploded near the lift at the mezzanine floor in MacDonald House, killing three innocent civilians and wounding thirty-three others. The bomb ripped off a lift door while the inner walls of the mezzanine floor were exposed to the full force of the blast. Besides the mezzanine floor area, the explosion also damaged the Australian High Commission office within the building. The explosion destroyed the pillars of the building and exposed the steel reinforcements within them. Windows within a few hundred metres were shattered and almost every car parked near the building was affected, including the Cycle and Carriage’s and Wearne Brothers’ car showrooms located in the vicinity. Two Indonesian military personnel – Usman bin Haji Muhammad Ali and Harun bin Said – were arrested and convicted of murder. Both perpetrators were hanged on 17 October 1968.
Since 2005, Citibank have occupied MacDonald House’s banking hall after years of vacancy and still do to this day. However, the night safe is no longer in use. The building currently also houses Mccann Worldgroup and Expressions International.
1. National Library Board Singapore. (30 July, 2015). MacDonald House bomb explosion. Retrieved from SINGAPORE INFOPEDIA: Link Here
2. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (6 October , 2014). Article: MacDonald House. Retrieved from WIKIPEDIA THE FREE ENCYCLOPEDIA: Link Here