Maxwell Chambers combines modern architectural features with rich historical elements, housing its day-to-day operations in two conserved heritage buildings.
The former Custom House building located at 32 Maxwell Road served as the headquarters of the Department of Customs and Excise (now Singapore Customs) from 1932 to 1989. The building was commissioned and built by the Public Works Department of the colonial government in 1932 at a cost of $313,000. From the late 1940s to 1970s, the department’s officers used Custom House as a base to suppress the smuggling of contraband and drugs, as well as the illicit distillation of liquor.
During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, the building became a place of refuge for expatriate customs officers and their families who had escaped from Malaya. It also sheltered Australian soldiers who were rescued after being attacked by Japanese troops. The customs department also played a significant role in war relief funding efforts by collecting taxes on fireworks, playing cards and rubber.
The building was were given conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 2007. It was renamed Maxwell Chambers in 2010 and designated a historic site by the National Heritage Board (NHB) in the same year.
The building at 28 Maxwell Road was built towards the end of the 1920s. Designed by the former Public Works Department’s chief architect, Mr Frank Dorrington Ward, the building shares a distinctive colonial architecture alongside other heritage buildings designed by Mr Ward, including the former Supreme Court, and the former Hill Street Police Station.
The building was first used as a Police barracks until the Traffic Police Headquarters moved in in end January 1930. The Traffic Police Headquarters remained there for almost 70 years until 1999, after which it moved to its current premise at Ubi. The building also used to house Singapore’s first driving test centre, before the Queenstown Driving Centre was opened in 1968.
In November 2005, the Red Dot Design Museum Singapore moved into the building. Accordingly, the building was renamed ‘Red Dot Traffic,’ incorporating the identities of its former and current tenants. In 2017, it was announced that Maxwell Chambers would be expanding to occupy 28 Maxwell Road, which has since been renamed Maxwell Chambers Suites. It is currently undergoing refurbishments and set to officially open in early 2019.
04 Feb 2017 – Red Dot building to lose its red exterior