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What Bulls*** about Conservation of Built Heritage?

By my queenstown on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 with 0 comments

A stroll along the streets of Queenstown is likely to evoke memories towards her rich and diverse history, whether you are an ex-resident or a Singaporean who had never stepped into the heartlands of Queenstown. A nation is an imagined community of people who feel attached to the country because these group of people shared distinctively similar elements of a common heritage and a common experience. Queenstown presents herself as a walking museum of the enduring process of nation building and Singapore's struggle for economic success and social cohesion. In the URA's upcoming plans to conserve built heritage, Queenstown was excluded. Before we set forth our arguments on URA's flawed policy of conservation in Singapore, let us look at URA's principles of conservation.

The Iconic Queenstown Remand Prison is Gone-despite protests from Singaporeans

Monuments, symbols and other built settlements are conserved to enhance Singaporeans' identification and attachment to a particular nation. Some of the objectives in conservation include: 1) instill a sense of pride and achievement and to testify to the pace of social progress; 2) to commemorate a shared experience 3) to preserve and protect monuments of historic, traditional and archaelogical architectural or artistic interest; and 4) to stimulate public interest and support.

Some of these protected areas include colonial buildings like Raffles Hotel, Fullerton Hotel, Civic district; Little India, Chinatown, Kampong Glam; secondary settlements in Beach Road, Joo Chiat, Geylang, etc. The creation of heritage landscapes not only provides Singapore with a sense of historical continuity but also confers on the city on a distinctive visual identity of its own.

Singapore's tallest building then and the first high-rise apartment-Gone

While some the above places are duly recognised and conserved due to their importance in certain phases in time, there are several eye-popping examples of monuments which are conserved but not "national" enough. Many Singaporeans are unable to name them when they see them. 

This is a national monument. Do You know what's its name?

How about this temple?

While some of these unrecognisable (pardon the writer's ignorance) monuments or settlements are gazetted, it puzzles many Queenstown residents why some of the nation's most recognised structures and settlements in Queenstown are being demolished. Some may argue on the economic (tourism) value of these settlements and monuments but the writer would like point out that these temples and churches (no offence to these structures) do not generate money too! 

Examples include Queenstown Remand Prison and Forfar House. When 2011 comes, Commonwealth Avenue Cooked Food Centre (the first food centre built after the Itinerant Hawkers Act was enforced), former Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Centre (The first heartland bowling alley) and KTM tracks (symbol of Singapore's struggle for sovereignty and independence) will duly follow.

Commonwealth Avenue Cooked Food Centre-One of Singapore's most popular food centre in the heartland

KTM tracks have to go

What is so special about Queenstown that her conservation must be advocated? To put it simply, Queenstown's history mirrors the early struggles prior to Singapore's independence. 

Let's talk about Singapore's most recognised structure, the HDB block. 
Rows of 4-storey flats in Commonwealth Drive and Princess House in Strathmore symbolises the colonial government's attempt to improve public housing condition in Singapore after World War II. 
The First HDB Blocks in Stirling Road

Self-governance came and the newly established HDB went on to complete the unfinished buildings and 2-storey "bungalows" in Stirling Road. Blocks 45, 48 and 49 were the first public housing estate built by the newly formed statutory board.

The rush to provide basic sanitary and living environment meant that Tanglin Halt estate was built-in a rush! HDB blocks looked like matchboxes and they were devoid of design and patterns. 

The lack of interest in HDB flats from Singaporeans was reversed with the implementation of Home Ownership Scheme in Commonwealth district in 1964.
Racial tensions among Singaporeans prompted the HDB to introduce "void decks" in 1968 for residents of different race and language groups to mingle. This was first seen in flats in Queens' Close and Mei Ling. 
Singapore's first point block in Mei Ling

In response to the rising demand for privacy from younger generations, the first point block was constructed in Mei Ling in 1969.
The easing of slums in the crowded citycentre in the early 1970s signifies that HDB can depart from its standard architecture and start to introduce "design" and aesthetics. Blk 158A, along Queensway, was fondly termed a "Butterfly Block."

Selective Enbloc Redevelopment Scheme was implemented in 1995 when the estate's appeal was diminishing and many young people had moved out of Queenstown. Forfar Heights, the towering 40 storey flat, was the first SERS scheme introduced in Queenstown.

While Queenstown is rich in its history and heritage, it bewilders residents and Singaporeans alike that some memorable places may have to disappear due to developments in Dawson. Some of them, whose 'status' remains unclear, include Queenstown Public Library and the former Queenstown Polyclinic. 

Queenstown Library-will it stay or go?

The cruel twist of fate meant that Queenstown and her older residents are living at the mercy of time and development. While developments are crucial in sprucing up the mature estate, public consultation is important to garner feedbacks for sustainable development. One day, Queenstown might look entirely different and foreign to her residents who lived there for decades. 

What do you think about conserving built heritage in Queenstown? Tell us at our facebook page now!




Category: News in the Dump , recent

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