Endangered landmarks

Endangered landmarks


TAN HUI YEE looks at some special buildings and structures currently not protected



Pandan Valley condominium

Ulu Pandan Road


Then: Built in 1978, this was one of Singapore’s first condominiums. The pioneering design by Archurban Architects Planners made use of the natural contours of the valley to create a spacious condominium with terraced gardens. The development was also built up to a lower density than the maximum allowed to create more open spaces for residents.


Architect Evi Syariffudin, 29, who has been living there for 24 years, likes the fact that the gardens and other communal facilities are nestled within a valley. ‘It may not look luxurious, but it’s an architectural masterpiece.’


Now: Surprisingly for a private condominium, Pandan Valley is something of an ‘education hub’ as its retail podiums brim with small set-ups providing all sorts of extra-curricular classes for children.


Future: Apartments there fetched between $809 psf and $1,000 psf from January to April. There is talk that residents are gunning for an en-bloc sale. If that succeeds, the condo could be torn down.



Queenstown Community Library

Margaret Drive


Then: Completed in 1969, it was the first full-time branch library in Singapore. Generous use of glass windows allowed the reading rooms to be lit with direct light, while clever orientation of rooms allowed the library to stay cool with natural ventilation. The queues to borrow and return books used to snake outside the two-storey building.


Now: A major renovation in the 1990s moved its trademark central staircase (below) to one corner and the children’s section has shrunk as young families have moved out to new towns served by newer branch libraries.


Mrs Kiang-Koh Lai Lin, the National Library Board’s director of reading initiatives who worked at Queenstown library from 1980 to 1982, says: ‘The library really served a function at that time. Nobody can demolish these memories – how people grew up with it, how they used the library. It’s good enough that we have helped so many people acquire reading habits.’


Future: The lease of the building comes up for renewal in 2010. The former thriving Margaret Drive neighbourhood around it is shrinking. The polyclinic next door has been relocated and the blocks of flats opposite will be demolished under a HDB resettlement scheme by end-2011.


The HDB plans to incorporate a market with a parabolic-shaped roof nearby into its future plans for a new generation estate in the area. It is not clear if a library will be part of the new scheme of things.


Singapore Improvement Trust flats

Dakota Close, Dakota Crescent, Old Airport Road and Jalan Enam


Then: The 17 intimate brick-clad blocks in the area were built by the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1958 and handed over to the HDB management in 1960. Some of the two- and three-room flats in the area come with breezy balconies. The cluster has an eye-catching variety of designs created out of low-cost materials, like crushed stones set in panels that line external walls.


Now: Some of the flats are let out to lower-income residents, while others are under the care of managing agents. Resident and odd-job worker Choo Yew Seng, 46, has lived there all his life. He says: ‘The rooms are bigger than what you can find in new flats, and the environment here is very nice. I hope they can conserve them.’


Future: The HDB says it has no plans to redevelop the blocks, so it is safe for the immediate future.



Former Ministry of Education headquarters

Kay Siang Road


Then: Built in the late 1960s, the sprawling modern complex comprises a 12-storey main block, a seven-storey annex, an educational television production building and four three-storey blocks.


Now: In 2000, the MOE moved to a new site in Buona Vista after the URA earmarked Kay Siang Road as a site for residential and commercial development in the long term. After it moved out, however, part of the site was used as temporary premises by Republic Polytechnic, and later the ill-fated University of New South Wales Asia.


That section of the compound is now occupied by the Youth Olympic Games organising committee, while another part which used to house TV studios has been overhauled by New York University Tisch School of the Arts Asia to become a ‘New York shabby chic’ campus for budding filmmakers.


Future: The complex (right) is safe for the time being, given the long-term plans of both institutions using it.



Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Tanjong Pagar Road


Then: This high-rise 1,116-flat Housing Board project was designed as a mammoth self-sufficient development with an internal courtyard and a hawker centre, market and banks on the lower levels, and flats going up the 27 storeys. Blocks 1 to 5 were built in 1976, while Blocks 7 and 8 were built in 1979.


Now: The HDB flats in the heart of the city are much sought after by home buyers, while white-collar workers from nearby offices throng its shops at lunchtime. Elderly folk exchange gossip in its courtyard, while giant orchid motifs adorn the side panels of the blocks.


But to many residents like Mr Mark Chee, 40, it’s just a very convenient place to live. The businessman laughs when asked about the architectural value of the development: ‘There is nothing special about it. It’s nothing impressive.’


Future: The seven blocks have been scheduled to have their lifts upgraded, which means that the flats will stay for now.



Golden Mile Complex

Beach Road


Then: Built in 1973 and conceived by Design Partnership, the much-feted example of an early mixed-use building houses apartments, shops and offices. This ‘vertical city’ has a sloping slab form which aids natural ventilation and shades a concourse above the shopping podium.


The signature terraced design of apartments – all of which come with balconies with a sea view – maximises natural lighting within each unit. Long-time owner Ande Lai, 60, who runs a photography shop, says: ‘This design is like a typewriter, where all of us are able to see the sky…If you have good neighbours, you can stand at the balcony and talk to each other.’


Now: Many professionals who moved in when it was first built have left. They have since been replaced by foreign tenants. Some owners have covered their balconies to create more space, resulting in an unsightly mish-mash of metal sheeting on one side of its facade. The retail section is known for its authentic Thai food and groceries, and the lively Thai community that gathers there to eat and chat on any given day.


Future: An apartment there fetched $864 psf in January. Owners have made plans to sell the building collectively. If it succeeds, the building may go.



Singapore Polytechnic (former)

Prince Edward Road


Then: Built in 1958 to house Singapore’s first polytechnic, the handsome complex featured an 150-seat auditorium supported by four stonewash columns which doubled as an entrance porch. Within the leafy compound of the institution on the edge of the Shenton Way financial district, many technologists and professionals were trained to support Singapore’s industrialisation efforts.


Now: Singapore Polytechnic moved to its new Dover campus in the late 1970s. In 1994, the state tendered out the space to developer Bestway Properties (right) for use as offices. Today, it is home to MediaCorp’s TV12 and a host of other firms.


Future: The lease of the building comes up for renewal next year. It is not clear what are the Government’s plans for the site. Bestway director Anthony Tan says: ‘Other institutions like Harvard University keep their buildings, too. In time, when Singapore Polytechnic becomes one of the best around, (but the building has been demolished), we’ll feel like we’re missing something.’



Havelock Primary School (former)

Ganges Avenue


Then: Believed to be built in the 1950s. This is possibly the last remaining single-storey school compound in Singapore.


Now: The Boys Brigade has been using the premises as its headquarters since the mid-1980s, with a lease that is renewed yearly. The charming, laid-back compound has many kinks: Rotted wooden doors fall off their hinges. It’s difficult to find replacement tiles when the ones on the roof break. Termites once chomped through books in the storeroom.


But the building attracts film producers looking for period settings.Boys’ Brigade executive director Desmond Koh says it’d be willing to put more money into refurbishing the premises if the building is conserved and the organisation can stay there for the long term.


Future: With the lease renewed every year, it could be turned over for redevelopment at short notice. Property consultant Ku Swee Yong from Savills Singapore thinks it could be used for new homes as there are an increasing number of condominiums sprouting up in the vicinity.


Nan Chiau High School (former)

Kim Yam Road


Then: It was designed by James Ferrie and Partners, and built at a cost of $2 million in 1969. The C-shaped complex, which used to house 2,700 students at its peak, hugs a five-lane running track and two basketball courts.


Classrooms were flanked by corridors on both sides and distinctive pointed roof vaults capped its auditorium. Chemistry teacher Tien Chee Wai, 37, recalls: ‘Everyone could see everyone in the building. It was very open and airy.’


Now: The school moved to Sengkang in 2001 and its former premises in the gentrified River Valley neighbourhood have been vacant since.


Future: The site has not been identified by the authorities for any particular use. But property consultant Ku Swee Yong from Savills Singapore thinks it could be used for art galleries or cafes instead of condominiums since the surrounding district is too crowded with homes.



Telok Kurau West Primary School (former)

Lorong J Telok Kurau


Then: The compact four-storey building was completed in the 1960s and is typical of many built by the Public Works Department during that period. The use of materials like brick and precast concrete vents give it a distinctive look and tropical feel.


Telok Kurau West eventually merged with Telok Kurau East Primary to form Telok Kurau Primary and relocated to Bedok Reservoir Road.


Now: From 1986 to 1995, the building housed the then-LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts. In 1997, it became studios for about 30 artists under the National Arts Council’s arts housing scheme. Performance and installation artist Amanda Heng, who occupies a ground floor studio, says: ‘You need all this – some space where you can see the sky and be quiet. Being quiet in Singapore is very difficult these days.’


Future: The lease on the building is up for renewal next year. After which it could be redeveloped.



Bus stop

Old Choa Chu Kang Road


Then: This particular concrete design, created in the 1970s, served generations of military men from the army bases around sleepy Old Choa Chu Kang Road. It was where young men bade lingering goodbyes to doting sweethearts and caught their last glimpse of civilian life before they booked into camp.


Now: The elegant concrete and metal structure looks none the worse for wear even after multiple coats of paint. It is the oldest bus stop in Singapore.


Future: It will not be around by 2011. The Land Transport Authority is replacing it with a new one that will incorporate facilities like lighting and bins.


But architectural writer Dinesh Naidu says: ‘Its an artefact, and it’ll get more valuable with time. Someone should kidnap it, if it really has to be replaced, and park it somewhere. It’s going to be a great fixture for some museum or park – maybe an urban history or transport museum or an outdoor rest area or part of some sort of art installation.’




YOU’VE studied in them, lived in them, worked in them, and travelled past them. But have you realised how important these early modern icons are to Singapore’s landscape? Tell us which landmarks you will like to see conserved. Cast your vote.


Source : Straits Times


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