Chan Tong Yew was an early pioneer of Modernist architecture in Singapore. He started out as a draughtsman around the end of the First World War, which was how most Singapore architects acquired their training in those days. Back then, there was no school of architecture to attend locally, and overseas study was beyond the reach of most aspiring architects. He was briefly in practice on his own in 1920, before joining the engineering firm of Lim & Seah who also practised as architects. Lim & Seah were themselves pioneer Modernists and this is probably where Chan Tong Yew picked up his Modernist influences.