PHOTOS: Dyson’s new global HQ is in one of Singapore’s most historic sites – see how St James Power Station evolved over the last 92 years

The 92-year old building has gone from a simple power station to one of Singapore’s largest nightlife hubs.
The Straits Times

After abruptly cancelling its “ingenious” electric car project in Singapore, British technology company Dyson has announced plans to move into St James Power Station, one of the nation’s most historic sites.

The 110,000 sq ft. power station will undergo renovation and retrofitting works that are expected to finish by the second half of 2021.

In a report on Thursday (Nov 28), The Straits Times reported that Dyson was planning to double its pool of engineers and scientists here in the next five years. The company currently hires around 1,100 people in Singapore, The Straits Times said in previous report.

Jim Rowan, Dyson’s chief executive, said in a statement that the company had outgrown its current Singapore technology centre at Singapore Science Park, and that the “historic St James Power Station will be a most inspiring backdrop for Dyson’s people”.

“It will be a hive for our research and development endeavours, as we focus on great technology breakthroughs,” he added.

Built as a power station in the 1920s and then abandoned, the national monument was for a time also one of Singapore’s biggest nightlife hubs.

These archived photos from The Straits Times and The New Paper show how the site situated near Sentosa has evolved over the past century:


According to the National Library Board (NLB), St James Power Station was Singapore’s first power station, and was built by the British between 1924 and 1927.

Located near the entrance of Sentosa, the coal-fired station started generating electricity on June 1, 1927, and was officially opened by Sir Hugh Clifford.

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This is a photo from the 1960s, when the station was just renovated.
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The Straits Times

However, the station was beset with power failures and blackouts.

In 1950, Singapore suffered its most extensive blackout when electricity to the entire island was cut off for 1.5 hours, NLB said.

Then in 1956, the station underwent renovations as it was deemed to be running inefficiently.

The Straits Times

The site was reopened in 1960 by Goh Keng Swee, who was Finance Minister at the time.

The upgraded power station was equipped with new machines and generators that increased power output to 40,000 kilowatts.

However, it was unable to meet the Republic’s rising demand for electricity, and was decomissioned in 1976.

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The Straits Times

In the 1980s, the building was converted into a warehouse by the Port of Singapore Authority until 1992.

After which, it remained largely vacant.

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The New Paper

In 2006, St James Power Station was given a new lease of life as a nightlife complex, thanks to Mapletree, EK Holdings, FJ Benjamin, and local entrepreneur and nightlife veteran Dennis Foo.

According to NLB, the transformation cost about S$40 million, half of which was invested by Mapletree primarily on conservation, and the other S$20 million from the rest of the investors on interiors and furnishings.

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The Straits Times

The revamped St James Power Station was used for all sorts of electrifying acts, and saw concerts by Taiwanese boyband Fahrenheit, K-pop star Jay Park and local singer JJ Lin.

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Taiwanese boyband Fahrenheit singing for a fan at St James Power Station.
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The Straits Times

Acrobats and trapeze acts were a regular feature of the nightlife complex.

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The Straits Times

Here’s a photo of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at St James Power Station at the launch of a Chinese media-learning web portal.

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SPH

In 2009, the National Heritage Board (NHB) gazetted the building as a national monument, which meant that owners of the building are not allowed to alter the facade, build any extensions, or hack any walls.

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The Straits Times

However, a series of crimes saw the complex’s reputation decline.

In 2016, five men were charged for hurling Molotov cocktails at a club in St James, in a bid to set it ablaze, ST reported.

In March 2017, a 34-year-old man died after being stabbed there.

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SPH

Subsequently, St James Power Station was shut down once again in 2018, after 12 years as one of Singapore’s biggest nightlife complexes.

According to ST, the premises were returned to Mapletree and restoration works began.

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The Straits Times

The complex is now set to become Dyson’s new global headquarters.

Mapletree said that the restored monument will house a Heritage Gallery in one of its chimneys to showcase its contribution to the country as a power station.

There will also be a heritage trail around the monument featuring maritime artefacts, and will be further developed in collaboration with Dyson.

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Artist impression of the new Dyson headquarters at St James.
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Dyson

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