Conservation stories

Conservation stories

SINGAPORE - Last Friday, 75 buildings joined a coveted list of protected spaces in Singapore. Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority Master Plan 2014, an eclectic mix of old buildings from places of worship to a public library was conserved.

Expanding beyond colonial buildings, this year’s list also threw up lesser-known spots – and some would say unexpected ones – such as the five blocks of Singapore Improvement Trust flats in Kampong Silat, a former wet market and nine warehouses along the Singapore River, including one housing the popular nightclub Zouk.

More than 7,100 buildings have been protected here since 1973.

Conserved buildings come under strict guidelines, depending on building type. For example, entire buildings in historic districts have to be retained and restored, while the main house in conserved bungalows must be kept, though outhouses can be demolished for new extensions.

Details on newly conserved buildings are available at the My Conservation Portal (www.ura.gov.sg/conservationportal/cons map.html).

Life! checks out 10 places to see what makes them conservation gems.

Former Chee Kong Tong (now Thekchen Choling) Entrance Gate

The temple at 2 Beatty Lane was built in 1939 by a Shanghainese migrant, dedicated to Chee Kong, the Taoist deity from the Southern Song dynasty in China.

The entrance gate, designed in Art Deco-style, is a striking part of the temple’s architecture. It is shaded by a concrete canopy which stands on decorative brackets.

The entrance gate frames Singapore’s first giant mani-wheel, a Buddhist artefact with gold-plated copper plates that contain countless prayers and mantras.

On a plaque above the arched doorway, Chee Kong Tong’s name is carved in granite. A pair of couplets (lines of Chinese poetry) are also inscribed on both sides of the doorway.

The temple contains a statue of Chee Kong that is about two centuries old.

Ban Siew San Temple

The temple in 2 Telok Blangah Drive was built in 1880 by Hainanese priest Wong Guan Teck for Hokkien and Hainanese immigrants who had come to Singapore.

Though founded by a Hainanese, the temple’s architecture was designed mainly in the Teochew style, featuring traditional roofs and walls.

The gables of the roof are moulded with wood at the ends. This is a design aspect specifically selected based on the Chinese belief of using one of the five elements according to the building’s characteristics. Teochew- influenced decorations line the walls inside, including plaster panels that look like Chinese scrolls.

The temple also features some European touches in its details and finishes, such as the geometric- patterned floor tiles that resemble decorative carpets.

Two dragons are perched on the roof of the front hall.

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