The Maxwell Chambers began as a Custom House, built in the early 1930s by Chief Architect Frank Domington Ward and the Public Works Department (PWD). The neighbouring Maxwell Chambers Suites, also known as the former Red Dot Traffic Building, was designed by Frank Domington Ward as well, whose impressive portfolio also included the old Supreme Court and former Hill Street Police Station.
The distinguished curved front facade of Maxwell Chambers’ adds a soft touch to the pointed junction of Maxwell Road and Wallich Street. For 57 years, from 1932 to 1989, the four-storey landmark of the Maxwell Road vicinity functioned mainly as the Customs headquarters. Other tenants in the whitish building included the Maxwell Road Post Office and Film Censor’s Office.
The Custom House survived the destruction of the Second World War, acting as a temporary shelter for the expatriate custom officers and some Australian troops. After the war, the customs office resumed its function and went under several rounds of renovation in the sixties and seventies to accommodate the increasing number of customs staff.
In 1989, the Customs headquarters was relocated to the former World Trade Centre. The building was then renamed White House and was made available for lease for commercial usage. It was gazetted as a conservation building in 2007, and had its name changed again, in 2010, as Maxwell Chambers.
Maxwell Chambers Suites, located adjacent to Maxwell Chambers along Maxwell Road, was better known as the former Red Dot Traffic Building, due to its previous eye-catching red appearance.
Constructed in 1928, it functioned as the Traffic Police headquarters for more than seven decades until 1999. Besides the offices for daily administrative and operation works, the Neo-Classical building also provided accommodation for the traffic police staff and their families.
The Red Dot Design Museum took over the building in 2005, and repainted it from white to the red outlook that made it such an iconic landmark. Other than the design and art exhibitions, the building also housed several bars and restaurants.
After Red Dot Design Museum moved into a new building at Marina Boulevard in 2017, the Ministry of Law took over the building. A $25-million renovation was carried out; its appearance was restored to whitish colour and its name changed to Maxwell Chambers Suites. A bridge was also built to link Maxwell Chambers and Maxwell Chambers Suites together.
Like Maxwell Chambers, Maxwell Chambers Suites was conserved in 2007 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
Published: 26 December 2019