Worth keeping

Worth keeping
Academics feel that key sites which should be saved include some of the old Singapore Improvement Trust low-rise blocks in Commonwealth Drive.

They are where you grew up, or learnt to spell, or they provided the garden backdrop for your wedding photos.

They are what advocacy group the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) describes as Singapore's housing, industrial, schooling and leisure heritage.

These categories may not involve splendid colonial buildings, but they are valuable for the role they have played in national life, SHS secretary Yeo Kang Shua, a conservation architect, tells Melody Zaccheus.

Housing: Remaining markers of history

SINGAPORE's public housing model is praised around the world, yet significant physical milestones chronicling this success have been demolished over the years, notes Dr Yeo.

The Housing Board successfully provided affordable housing for low-income groups after it succeeded the British-run Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) in 1960, he points out.

However, early HDB flats in Redhill and Outram Park have been replaced by modern developments.

Older ones from the SIT era, including the 14-storey 1956 Forfar House in Queenstown - the tallest block of its time - have also been torn down.

Urban historian and architect Lai Chee Kien agrees that it is important to save buildings representing each chapter of Singapore's housing history.

Academics feel that key sites which should be saved include SIT blocks 57, 61 and 67 to 73 in Commonwealth Drive; others in Redhill Close and Dakota Crescent estates; and the first terrace houses here in Stirling Road.

Blocks 45, 48 and 49 in Queenstown - the very first Housing Board public housing developments - should be protected as well, says the founder of civic group My Community, Mr Kwek Li Yong - something Straits Times readers agree on.

Heritage blogger Jerome Lim also suggests saving Block 53 in Lorong 5 Toa Payoh.

The early HDB flat has a viewing deck on the roof where dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth were taken for visits.

Leisure: Hell and older shopping havens

For many Singapore children, their introduction to the 10 gory courts of hell courtesy of Haw Par Villa theme park was a memorable part of growing up.

Leisure places and spaces like this where families spent weekends together should be considered for conservation, says SHS' Dr Yeo. They include the rustic island of Pulau Ubin, the Chinese Garden and the Japanese Garden.

Haw Par Villa - owned by the Myanmar-Chinese Aw brothers of Tiger Balm ointment fame - was popular with families and tourists at different junctures in its history, especially its 1,000 statues depicting scenes from Chinese folklore.

It made a comeback recently as part of the Singapore Tourism Board's Tourism50 campaign to encourage Singaporeans to visit local attractions.

Then there are the Chinese and Japanese gardens side by side in Jurong East.

They hold the collective social memories of the public, say heritage experts.

Purchase this article for republication.

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