Old spaces: The new frontier

Old spaces: The new frontier

On a Tuesday evening, about 20 people are in the foyer of what used to be the largest cinema in Singapore when it opened in the 1970s.

Lounging about on minimalist white furniture, they wait for a screening of Canadian-French film Incendies (2010) to start.

A cafe nearby is closed, otherwise they would have artisan coffee and popcorn in hand.

Fresh-faced ushers open the wooden theatre doors and scan e-tickets off the smartphone screens of patrons streaming in. Inside the cinema, a trailer for Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961) plays.

Welcome to Golden Mile Tower - just one of a number of old buildings in Singapore either getting or long overdue for a revival from the ground up.

Once the go-to place if you are hankering for authentic Thai food or catching a bus to Malaysia, the brutalist-style building in Beach Road has undergone a sea change.

Just one storey down from The Projector, an old-new art-house cinema in the refurbished Golden Theatre, an art installation about murders in hotel rooms is now the main attraction, in a former film-reel storage space.

John Martin, The Butcher And The Surgeon by local art collective Vertical Submarine is an imaginative rendering of a hotel room, with seemingly normal interiors concealing hidden dioramas of secret rooms for the inquisitive visitor.

Meanwhile, the open-air carpark of People's Park Complex in Chinatown has also become a breath of fresh air.

Since January last year, the 63,000 sq ft space has been used at one point as a rooftop farm by urban agricultural consultancy Edible Garden as well as a night market and concert venue.

The rooftop space is managed by event curator Josh Theoh, 34, on behalf of carpark owner Xiang Loong. In April this year, Anglow Group, which owns food establishments such as vegan eatery Afterglow on Keong Saik Road, will launch Lepark, a tapas bar and beer garden, on the same rooftop.

Mr Theoh says the management hopes to develop the carpark rooftop into "an alternate social space" to host events and collaborative projects to woo "younger generations to historical Chinatown".

And over in Bukit Merah, artists and partygoers have descended on The Mill, a 54-year-old former rice mill.

Over the past three weeks, the building - which is now a collaborative space shared by six creative firms - has been drawn and painted on, hacked at and sung and danced in. The arty party, titled Destruction & Rebirth, ends tomorrow.

The Mill will be demolished in May to make way for a larger creative collaborative space, still helmed by The Mill group founder Roy Teo.

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