George Dromgold Coleman was an Irish architect who first came to Singapore in June 1822 to meet Stamford Raffles. During the four months he spent waiting for Raffles’ arrival, he designed a Residency House. Construction started in November that year after Raffles sent his approval.
Superintendent of Public Works
In 1833, Coleman was appointed Superintendent of Public Works and implemented a range of improvements to the town. His efforts included land reclamation, road construction and the draining of marshes. He also built a few elegant private residences in a gracious Palladian style
Palladianism is a classical style named after Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. A Palladian building is notable for its proportion and symmetry, and bears distinct columns and windows, among other characteristics.
, which he would become known for.
Coleman’s architectural style was reflective of the tastes of European merchants, who had direct dealings with Calcutta and were accustomed to this style.
Coleman had a flair for the Palladian and Georgian architectural style
A term used for buildings built between 1730 and 1800, Georgian designs usually followed the Classical orders of architecture and employed a decorative vocabulary derived from ancient Rome or Greece.
, evident in several iconic buildings he designed:
– Old Parliament House (now The Arts House in Old Parliament Lane);
– Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator in Hill Street
– Caldwell House (now part of CHIJMES in Victoria Street)
These buildings were built by Indian convicts, who were transferred to Singapore from Bencoolen in 1825. From quarrying stones to making bricks, they were involved in the entire construction process.
As expensive plaster was susceptible to tropical humidity, the Indian convicts invented a special plaster called chunam. Made with local materials like shell lime, egg white, jaggery and coconut water, it gave the walls a beautiful sheen, was durable and kept insects away.
Apart from his contributions to architecture, Coleman was also a publisher. Together with lawyer and editor William Napier and other co-founders, they established The Singapore Free Press & Mercantile Advertiser
—Singapore’s second English-language newspaper.