Makeover for Chinese, Japanese gardens

SINGAPORE - The iconic Chinese and Japanese gardens in Jurong are getting a makeover.

The JTC Corporation, which manages the gardens, is planning a year-long redecoration and refurbishment project, starting from the year end.

The statutory board told The Straits Times that the project will include architectural repairs, electrical and repainting works.

"The gardens would still be open to the public except for those areas that are under repair," said a spokesman.

It declined to say how much the makeover is expected to cost or when the last refurbishment was carried out, downplaying it as part of the regular maintenance of the parks.

But the extensive refurbishment list obtained by The Straits Times tells a different story.

The areas to be repaired include the main entrance plaza, the pavilions, the iconic pagodas, the Stone Boat and footpaths.

The repair works involve removing wood that has rotted or become infested with termites.

They also include patching up spalling concrete and cracked walls, replacing loose roof tiles and stopping water leaks, as well as replacing old electrical wiring, timber footpaths and rusted fittings.

A contractor who saw pictures of the areas to be repaired said the damage would have developed over several years.

"It does not look like regular maintenance," said the contractor, who has more than 20 years of experience and who declined to be named for fear of offending JTC.

The gardens are among the most famous landmarks in Jurong and have a storied history. About the size of 26 football fields in total, the Japanese Garden opened to the public in 1973 and the Chinese Garden in 1975.

They cost $3 million and $5 million respectively at that time and were the brainchild of late deputy prime minister Goh Keng Swee.

The Japanese Garden was designed by renowned Japanese architect Kinsaku Nakane and was the largest of its kind outside Japan at the time of its opening.

The Chinese Garden was built initially with Song dynasty architectural features, with additional features like the Stone Boat inspired by the Beijing Summer Palace.

In 1991, it was expanded by adding a Suzhou-style landscape.

Mr David Ong, Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC, said it is important for such parks and gardens in the Housing Board heartland to be well maintained.

"These are important community spaces in land-scarce Singapore," said Mr Ong, adding that "residents have strong emotional attachments to them".

"These are not just places for exercising, but also for relaxing and recreation," he said.

Taman Jurong resident S. L. Chan, 43, a businesswoman, agrees. "The makeover is timely, otherwise the gardens would not be able to keep up with the rejuvenation of the area," she said.

This article was published on May 5 in The Straits Times.

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