Bridges in need of a spruce-up

Bridges in need of a spruce-up
A dimly lit Cavenagh Bridge along the Singapore River. Despite its prime location near The Fullerton hotel, its lights no longer work and the bridge is shrouded in darkness at night.

They are grand old dames that have played witness to the ebb and flow of maritime trading along the Singapore River.

But some of the conserved bridges along the river are in such disrepair that they seem to have been forgotten and neglected by the passage of time.

Take Cavenagh Bridge, for instance. Linking the civic district to the commercial one, the wrought-iron structure from 1869 is one of the oldest bridges along the Singapore River.

Despite its prime location near The Fullerton hotel, its lights no longer work and the bridge is shrouded in darkness at night.

Then there is Read Bridge. Linking pedestrians from Clarke Quay to Swissotel Merchant Court, the structure has a history dating back to 1889, but long cracks have emerged on its walls and its paint is faded and peeling.

The 1910 Anderson Bridge, a vehicular pass, faces another problem - its decorative lights flicker.

Last month, architect Lim Huck Chin gave feedback to the authorities about the malfunctioning lights on Cavenagh Bridge and Anderson Bridge.

He described the faulty lights as "compromising" the appearance of these conservation structures, resulting in the "rapid loss of dignity".

Urging the authorities to repair the lights, he said the bridges are significant historical landmarks which are seen and photographed daily by hundreds of visitors on foot and on river cruises.

They are a key part of the experience of visiting the historical waterway and riverside, he added.

"They provide a backdrop for visitors' photographs and frame the river views from The Fullerton hotel, the Asian Civilisations Museum, UOB Plaza, Boat Quay, the Parliament House and other major waterside landmarks," he said.

Architect and artist-in-residence at Temasek Polytechnic Tia Boon Sim agreed.

"If we don't upkeep them regularly, it will be embarrassing for Singapore," she said.

Ms Tan Yen Nee, director of lifestyle precincts development at the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said the lights at Cavenagh Bridge, which it is in charge of, "have become faulty over the years" due to wear and tear.

She said STB is working to restore the faulty lights.

Between 2007 and 2010, STB and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) spearheaded an enhancement project meant to light up the riverside. The effort included installing colourful lights on Cavenagh, Clemenceau, Elgin and Coleman bridges. But Mr Lim said these colourful LED lights are tacky and not durable.

He suggested repairing the bridges' original lamps and installing energy-saving lights that fit in with their historical character.

Consultant Chanelle Wang, 24, said structures with heavy usage should be maintained more often.

"The condition of Read Bridge is really bad. A lot of people sit on it to drink and eat. Sometimes, fights break out."

An LTA spokesman said it inspects the bridges it maintains - Read Bridge and Anderson Bridge - every quarter. He described the condition of Read Bridge as "satisfactory", adding that it has arranged for repair works. It plans to fix the lights on Anderson Bridge by the end of August.

Singapore Heritage Society secretary and conservation architect Yeo Kang Shua said the country must train people to maintain and conserve historical structures.

"We need to build up our capabilities in technical aspects such as how to prevent degradation of materials - for instance, how to take care of cast iron and prevent termite infestation," he said.

Civic group My Community founder Kwek Li Yong said Singaporeans also have a part to play. "If we see something that does not reflect well on the country, we should flag it to the authorities," he said.

This article was first published on May 26, 2014.
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