Here today, dust and rubble tomorrow?

Here today, dust and rubble tomorrow? 

With Singapore’s old landmarks under threat, YouthInk writers weigh in on how and why these architectural relics should be preserved



Don’t just conserve, educate the public too


BUILDINGS are not just bricks and clay; They tell stories. But only the few which hold significant tales of our cultural identity are conserved.


These are chosen for different reasons. Whether it’s the AIA Insurance Building, the first high-rise office building in Singapore, or shophouses in Chinatown, all conserved landmarks highlight an event in our history.


However, the Government cannot stop at the mere conservation of landmarks. They have to educate the public on why these buildings are conserved.


This should be done so that the landmarks do not become empty shells of a history that we do not appreciate.



Owen Yeo, 20, has a place to read Social Sciences in Singapore Management University.





How should we decide which places to keep?


SINGAPORE‘S emphasis on the preservation of our important landmarks and historic buildings seems very parochial.


On the one hand, there are commendable projects such as the restoration of colonial government quarters and houses, like at Seletar airbase and Townerville.


It is nostalgic to see these houses still around, well maintained and well used by the families who rent them.


On the other hand, there are pieces of our past that have been lost. The National Library was demolished to make way for the Fort Canning Tunnel. The Fullerton Building, once home to the nation’s first General Post Office, the Singapore Club and the Chamber of Commerce, has been transformed into a hotel. Chijmes, a former convent school, is now a popular entertainment and nightlife venue.


There must be a better way to determine what is worth preserving to benefit future generations.



Tabitha Mok, 21, is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Western Australia.





Embrace our cultural history in architecture


AS I walked along the uneven sidewalks of Bangkok, it struck me that the city’s unabashed grime – the litter, flies and mongrels – was part of its character. There is a certain realism about its imperfections that makes for a very seductive personality.


In Singapore, city planners seem to have been over-zealous in their pursuit of cleanliness, perfection and comfort at the expense of the nation’s culture and history.


The National University of Singapore, for instance, always has some construction work going on, whether it is to upgrade facilities or to build larger, sleeker buildings.


Contrast that with Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, where some buildings are not re-built; only maintenance work is done.


While NUS students enjoy the modern facilities on campus, there isn’t the same sense of pride and history when they talk about it, as compared to the Thai students, who have proudly shown me their traditional, stupa-roofed buildings, complete with tales of the campus history.


Perhaps, contrary to what the authorities seem to think, Singaporeans may prefer older buildings which reflect our cultural history much more than modern ones.


There are so many modern, cosmopolitan cities in the world. If Singapore begins to look just like any of them, without buildings of unique and authentic cultural history, how can Singaporeans feel at home?



Lee Xin En, 21, is currently on an exchange programme at Thammasat University in Bangkok. She is a South-east Asian Studies major at the National University of Singapore.





Establish more museums instead


IT IS impractical to try and conserve all of Singapore’s historical landmarks, given our land constraints.


Why not have more museums instead?


Museums take up less space, but still preserve our heritage.


Furthermore, they are tourist attractions and very educational.


This idea has been employed by Japan’s Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum and California’s Heritage Square Museum, both of which showcase historic buildings.


Why not Singapore too?


Admittedly, the experience of visiting a landmark first-hand cannot be replaced. But given Singapore’s constraints, museums may be a more viable option.



Anna Wong, 22, is a third-year psychology student at the National University of Singapore.





Put old landmarks to good use


RECENTLY, I was miffed to discover the fates of two of my former schools – Serangoon Garden South (SGSS) and Westlake Secondary.


The former was bought over by the French school, while the latter remains vacant.


Established in the 1940s, SGSS was situated in two estates. Exit through the main gates and you entered a pleasant ‘village’ of houses, five-foot walkways and cobblestone roads. Go through the back and you reached typical heartland with good food and ambience.


Though saddened by their disappearance, I am happy that one of them was revived by the French school. It is a chance for new experiences to be forged.


Another example of this is the Bencoolen area, which used to be filled with older folk visiting the temple there. Now, it has been given new life with arts and business students who have formed new attachments to old surroundings.


What makes a place more meaningful is what you do with it.


Aisha Mostafa, 22, is an art honours graduate from the University of Huddersfield.


Reminders of a city’s spirit and longevity


GREAT cities are not just fleeting centres of commerce sprouting one gleaming tower after another. They are built on the backs of fierce grit and tenacity.


Old buildings represent that resilience. These buildings should be preserved where possible, as they are a mirror into a city’s soul, echoing its past, good and bad times, reminding its inhabitants that their city is eternal.



Eef Gerard Van Emmerik, 19, has a place to read Law in Singapore Management University.




Source: Straits Times

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