History of Bras Basah Bugis Precinct


Bras Basah.Bugis (BBB) Precinct is the arts and cultural district in the heart of Singapore's civic centre. The Precinct plays home to museums including the National Museum of Singapore, the Singapore Art Museum, the Peranakan Museum and the Singapore Philatelic Museum as well as national monuments such as the Armenian Church of St Gregory the Illuminator, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and the Central Fire Station on Hill Street, to name a few. Located within the Bras Basah area are other notable institutions such as the Central Library and the School of The Arts (SOTA).

Charmed with a unique mix of the rich heritage of Singapore's past and the modernity of art and architecture, BBB is a living representation of a modern city that thrives on its vibrant and energetic creative communities while also treasuring the heritage that our forefathers have laid.

BBB is all about excitement, creation, energy, inspiration and experiences. From museums to monuments to outdoor events - we bring you the best in arts and culture.


View of Bras Basah Road during the 1900s
Image courtesy of National Archives of Singapore
Bras Basah is one of Singapore’s oldest district and the term “Bras Basah” was first mentioned in a GD Coleman map dated 1835 as “Brass Bassa”. The name “Bras Basah” is a transliteration of the Malay words “beras basah” which mean “wet rice”. The most credible account of the origins of the name “Bras Basah” can be attributed to an article entitled The Night Soil Carriers published in The Straits Times Weekly dated 16 February 1982 which explained that the road was given its name because of the “decayed rice” from sailing vessels which had to be transported from ships to a site out of the city centre because of the abominable smell of saturated and rotten rice.

Bras Basah was once marked out by Sir Stamford Raffles as the European part of Singapore Town and had served as the suburb to the busy city centre which wrapped itself around Commercial Square (now known as Raffles Place). As a result of its central location, the Bras Basah area was considered an ideal location for the establishment of schools and places of worship to the ever-growing multicultural communities that have sprung up along with the development of Singapore.


Junction of Bras Basah Rd and Bencoolen St, C. 1900 -1930s
Image courtesy of National Archives of Singapore