Cathay Building

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The Cathay Building (Chinese: 国泰大厦) was opened in 1939 by Dato Loke Wan Tho as the headquarters for the British Malaya Broadcasting Corporation. Located at 2 Handy Road in the Museum Planning Area of Singapore, it was most known for its air-conditioned theatre, then a technological marvel and the first to be built in Singapore.


The Cathay Building was designed by British architect Frank W Brewer in the 1930s. The building was the first and tallest skyscraper in Singapore and in Southeast Asia, with a height of 83.5 metres from the Dhoby Ghaut entrance to the top of the building's water tower. Opened on 3 October 1939 as Cathay Building, with a 1,300-seat Cathay Cinema, and the tower block as Cathay Hotel, it was the island's first air-conditioned cinema and public building, and where one could sit in an arm chair to watch a film, which was rare in those days.

At the beginning of World War II in 1942, the building was converted to a Red Cross casualty station. When Singapore fell to the Japanese, it was used to house the Japanese Broadcasting Department, the Military Propaganda Department and the Military Information Bureau during the occupation period, utilising the height of the building to broadcast propaganda in the Japanese language in a bid to brainwash the populace. The building was also used as a landmark for a final approach for landing at Singapore's first purpose-built civilian airport built in 1937, Kallang Airport.

When the war ended in 1945, it...
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