Old Thai Embassy building torn down

The old Thai Embassy building which sat in Orchard Road for more than five decades has been demolished, and a makeover is under way.

The Straits Times understands that a Thai pavilion will be built on the land where the old building once stood, with landscaping in front of it.

Consular services and embassy officials have already moved to another five-storey building - one of several - constructed inside the complex. Works on these were completed in 2012.

Now, the two-storey structure that once served as the centrepiece of the complex has been torn down, ready to be replaced by a new form. The project is being designed by architects AWP.

The Thai Embassy did not respond to queries on what works were being done on the site. The most recent approval to redevelop the embassy grounds came in 2013, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority website.

When The Straits Times visited the site yesterday, the old building had been reduced to a pile of rubble.

A sign posted on the gate indicated that demolition and redevelopment works started on Dec 22, and gave an expected completion date of July next year.

The old embassy building in 1981.Photo: The Straits Times

The old embassy building was built in the 1950s before most of the modern shopping malls came up, in the middle of almost 190,000 sq ft of prime freehold land at 370, Orchard Road. Part of the land was first bought by King Chulalongkorn in 1893, and more lots were added later.

Plans to redevelop the site for commercial use, including a 30-storey luxury hotel, were floated in the 1990s and 2000s but dropped because of reasons such as bidders failing to meet requirements, or the Thai government having more pressing priorities back home.

The Thai Embassy is the only embassy still occupying its own land on Singapore's shopping belt, which also used to be home to the Indonesian Embassy.

The land formerly occupied by the Indonesian Embassy was sold in 1981 at a profit of more than $100 million, and is now occupied by Wisma Atria.

Other embassies in Orchard Road today include those of Cambodia and Peru, but they occupy units within commercial buildings. More are located in adjoining Nassim Road, which is known as Singapore's "Embassy Row".

The works on the Thai Embassy have not gone unnoticed.

Mr Dharmadasa Appuhamy, 66, a security guard at the Palais Renaissance mall adjacent to the embassy, said: "The new buildings are brighter and bigger, very nice... The old one looked old and untidy."

Mr Augustine Lau, 52, who sells consumer electronics at Far East Shopping Centre directly opposite the embassy, said: "It is time for change... a new structure that refreshes the place. The old building was quite all right, but it didn't warrant preservation."

"It still has the Thai taste," he added, referring to the steep roofs above the entrance doors in the new buildings. "It will continue to represent the Thai people."


This article was first published on Dec 31, 2016.
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