Category Archives: Heritage

Restored buildings received URA Heritage awards

The quaint 1930s one-storey Alkaff Upper Serangoon Mosque, with its distinctive horseshoe arches and Ottoman-style minaret, stands out from its modern high-rise apartment neighbours.

Constructed by the mercantile and land-owning Alkaff family, the sanctuary for Muslims was restored over 22 months on a $3.1 million budget.

Its restoration was so successful that it not only gained national monument status last December, but also picked up the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)’s Architectural Heritage Award yesterday.

It is the second mosque in Singapore to win the award in the programme’s 21-year history. The Abdul Gaffoor Mosque in Dunlop Street won in 2003.

The Alkaff mosque is the second mosque in Singapore to win the URA award in the programme’s 21-year history. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Among the reasons the Alkaff mosque won: It stayed true to the vision of the original architect – colonial firm Swan and Maclaren – by reinstating its pyramidal roof, fixing its decorative archways, and reinstalling its original decorative cast-iron grilles and balustrades.

“The mosque did all this on a modest budget. It’s like stepping into Morocco. It is both airy and beautiful,” said URA’s director of conservation management Kelvin Ang.

The 66 Pheng Geck Avenue mosque won in the award’s Category B, which recognises developments that integrate old and new.

The other winners were Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall; National Gallery Singapore; and three 1950s bungalows – 12, 13, and 17 Rochester Park. These projects cost $158 million, $530 million and $10 million, respectively.

The interior of the newly refurbished Victoria Theatre, taken on Jul 9, 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

They fall under Category A of the award for national monuments and fully conserved buildings.

A total of 12 projects were submitted to the URA’s panel of 13 judges, comprising experts from the government, professional and academic institutions, and the Singapore Heritage Society.

The award ceremony was held at Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall yesterday. It was officiated by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who said the accolade recognises those who have gone the “extra mile” in restoring Singapore’s heritage buildings.

“For our conservation efforts to be successful, the Government cannot do it alone. We need the cooperation of our building owners, our architects, our engineers and our contractors,” he said.

The mosque project started out with the aim of expanding the space for its congregation.

The architects from Shing Design Atelier went beyond just increasing the capacity from 850 to 1,200 people. They also consulted long-time worshippers to understand the mosque’s original character, and referred to original architectural drawings and old photos.

Meanwhile, the restoration of 12, 13 and 17 Rochester Park was lauded for the “holistic approach” in retaining the nostalgic charm of what was once a colonial home for British military officers.


The judges noted that Forum Architects retained the buildings’ original open-air verandahs, outhouses such as servants’ quarters, and the site’s lush mature landscape.

The Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall were “elegantly rejuvenated with great skill”, the judges said.

They also applauded the National Gallery for an impressive and complex restoration.

The URA has published its second volume of Architectural Heritage Singapore, which compiles winners of the past decade.

NHB launches revitalised river trail

As a young girl in the 1940s, Mrs Geraldene Lowe-Ismail would see people stream in and out of a Chinese clinic in Chinatown as she watched opera shows with her grandmother at two theatres nearby.

The theatres are long gone, but the building in Eu Tong Sen Street which originally housed the clinic, known as Thong Chai Medical Institution, still stands and is now a national monument.

Mrs Lowe-Ismail, now 77 and a veteran tour guide, is glad that the building has been preserved. Established in 1867 by seven Chinese merchants, the clinic provided free medical treatment to the needy, including coolies and boatmen who worked along the Singapore River.

The former Thong Chai Medical Institution is one of 14 heritage sites featured in a self-guided walking trail launched by the National Heritage Board (NHB) yesterday.

The 2.8km Singapore River Walk, which takes about 1 1/2 hours to complete, stretches from Collyer Quay to Robertson Quay. It covers historic buildings, places of worship and bridges.

Those who walk along the route – which replaces the Singapore River Trail launched by NHB in 2005 – can learn about the river’s story through 14 “heritage markers”, plaques detailing the history of each site. Seven are new – including those featuring the former clinic and the Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka, Singapore’s oldest mosque and place of worship established in 1820.

Mr Tan Boon Hui, NHB’s assistant chief executive of museums and programmes, said the revitalised trail focuses on the river and its evolution, unlike the previous trail which offered a broader storyline of Singapore’s development. “We hope the enhanced trail will reveal lesser known facts of the river and enable a renewed appreciation of its vital role over the years,” he said.

Global services company American Express funded the refurbishment of the decade-old trail, which cost US$160,000 (S$227,000).

The funds went towards further research, trail booklets, the development of new and updated site markers, and an interactive website which will be available early next year.

The sites featured on the trail will not overlap with those on the upcoming Jubilee Walk, said NHB curator David Chew. The Jubilee Walk – an 8km trail – comprises 25 historic and iconic markers in the civic district and Marina Bay area, and will be launched on Nov 29.

More information on the Singapore River Walk can be found on the NHB’s website.

Tiong Bahru Plaza reopen next year after major revamp

Tiong Bahru residents will soon have a newly refurbished mall to go with the hipster joints and boutiques their estate is known for. By the end of next year, the 21- year-old Tiong Bahru Plaza will fully reopen with a more modern look after renovations, which began a year ago, are completed.

The makeover, which costs more than $90 million, aims to draw younger residents and families already living there.

After its makeover, the mall, which draws 1.2 million visitors each month, will cover 215,000 sq ft, up from the previous 190,000 sq ft. It will have new communal spaces for people to mingle, including an open terrace on the fourth level, and a plaza, which may be used for events like flea markets or music performances.

On the third level, there will be a new 800 sq m playground, with a structure in the shape of a bird – inspired by the mosaic ones found in older public housing estates.

The mall in Tiong Bahru Road will have 155 shops on five storeys, up from 150 previously. It will also have an air-conditioned, two-storey link with shops to Central Plaza, the mall’s office tower.

So far, nearly 85 per cent of tenants have confirmed their interest in opening shop. Some are returning brands like foodcourt operator Kopitiam and IT chain Challenger, while others are new ones such as Thai restaurant Bangkok Jam.

The mall, owned by a real estate fund managed by investment manager Pramerica Investment Management Singapore, is hoping to attract more visitors as more people move into the area.

Over the next three years, Tiong Bahru will have 11 new residential developments, with about 2,800 units. For instance, Highline Residences, a condominium within walking distance of the mall, is expected to be completed by 2018.

History’s written on the walls in Everton

A small section of Everton Road has become memory lane. An amah, or housemaid, handwashes her kebayas and sarongs in a metal tub. Around the corner, a boy reads an Old Master Q comic while drinking Green Spot, as another gets an old-school haircut. Coffee in a Milkmaid can ” hangs” from a pipe.

The lifelike images of Singapore’s past are the work of Mr Yip Yew Chong, 46, who has lived near Everton Road and walked along that same road every day for about 20 years.

He was inspired last year after seeing the murals in Kampong Glam painted by Mr Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian whose street art in George Town, Penang, has become a tourist attraction.

But the self-taught artist started thinking seriously about his own project only after he quit his accountant job three months ago to pursue other interests.

Singapore’s street art is mostly found on the sides of shophouses or in alleyways. Here are several places to go:

•Jalan Klapa and Jalan Pisang, near Victoria Street

•Junction of Joo Chiat Terrace and Everitt Road

•Junction of Bukit Timah Road and Anamalai Avenue

•Alley between The Substation and the Peranakan Museum in Armenian Street

•Haji Lane

Stanley Quek buys shophouses in Duxton Hill for S$19.6M

A CONSORTIUM led by property investor Stanley Quek has picked up a couple of adjacent shophouses in Duxton Hill for S$19.6 million. The properties, which have three storeys and an attic, are on two separate land lots; however the units are linked, forming a distinctive corner shophouse lot. Tenants on the street level include Italian restaurant Latteria, which has also leased the open space next door from the state on a temporary occupation licence to operate an alfresco dining area.

The upper levels are leased to office tenants, the biggest of which is Duxton Asset Management, a leading international and boutique asset manager that focuses on agriculture and Asian emerging markets. The group’s two founders, Ed Peter and Desmond Sheehy, through their own private company, are the sellers of the pair of Duxton Hill shophouses.

The two properties are said to be the last shophouses owned by Mr Peter along Duxton Hill; at one time, he was one of the biggest owners along the street.

When contacted, Dr Quek told The Business Times the price he paid translates to about S$2,200 per square feet on a floor area of slightly below 9,000 sq ft. “It’s a fair value to pay for a corner property in a prime conservation area…”

Zoned for commercial use, the shophouses have a total land area of 2,540 sq ft and a balance tenure of 72 years.

Leases for the main tenants still have some time to run. “We’ll be getting 4 per cent gross yield based on the purchase price,” said Dr Quek.

The doctor turned developer and property investor stitched together a small consortium of close friends for the acquisition.

Another recent transaction, this time in the private residential market, is the S$21.07 million sale of a townhouse at the freehold Bishopsgate Residences by its developer, Kajima Overseas Asia. The buyer is a foreign-incorporated company. The price works out to S$3,465 psf based on the strata area of 6,081 sq ft. The townhouse has direct access to a basement carpark. On the ground level of the unit are a bedroom and a family area. The master bedroom and two other bedrooms along with the kitchen, dining and living areas are on the second level. The unit comes with a private rooftop pool. The townhouse comes fully furnished; the interior design was done by Hirsch Bedner Associates.

Bishopsgate Residences, which received Temporary Occupation Permit in late 2012, has four townhouses and 27 apartments.

A Family Business, a Heritage Legacy

Kampong Glam, an ever hip arts enclave, is a heritage district in the city. It is distinctive as being the former palace of the sultan, it has an immersion of rich cultures from Malay, Arab, Turkish, Javanese influences, while also having Indian, Chinese and Eurasian touches in the neighbourhood. Sultan Gate, a road leading to the former Sultan Palace which is currently a Malay Heritage Centre, is also a “gate” to a wealth of Art and Legacy.

pic2Just located outside the Malay Heritage Centre, lies a row of shophouses that are full of art and heritage. Within a wall of street art, a shop strikes out. Within a glass frontage, one can see the unique Malay and Javanese craft welcoming you into the interiors.

SAMSUNG CSC “Kiah’s Gallery” is a Batik-inspired arts showsroom. Started by a Malay family, one can see the family legacy passed down to the modern age. Yati, the founder of the gallery, started the business together with her family, including her husband and daughter Ain, three years ago. They called this business “Kiah’s Gallery”, with inspired with the name of Ain’s nenek or grandma, as part of keeping the family legacy.

SAMSUNG CSCBeing inspired by a Batik piece they bought from a trader, they grew to love this art, despite it being a dying craft in Singapore. With their personal love of the art reaching its peak three years ago, the family decided to convert their personal love to share with the lovers of this unique Batik art.


SAMSUNG CSCFor the first 18 months, the business was tough. Being new in this line and having to compete with other players in the neighbourhood, Kiah’s Gallery had to find a place in this business. From purely retailing batik-designer pieces, they have extended their services into tailoring and customization, as well as introducing other art pieces like paintings and sculptures.

SAMSUNG CSCSince then the business has been growing well. Their customers consist of a mix of locals as well as tourists. Kiah’s Gallery also carry designer pieces and artefacts that reflect the cultural influences of the Nanyang and Malay heritage. Art pieces from internationally renowned Batik painter Sarkasi Said are also displayed and sold here.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCEvery Batik piece is an art. There are several techniques in the craft. It has influences involving Chinese, Dutch, Indian, Malay and Javanese cultures, as this part of the world has such infuses of these cultures throughout the centuries. Different emblems, like the phoenix and other legendary icons symbolizes the influence of the associated culture. Now there are also modern touches to the craft, like Japanese incursions, to make Batik an exciting artpiece to wear. SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSC If you are interested to visit the gallery and explore for yourself, please note the following information.

Name: Kiah’s Gallery (look for Yati and Ain)

Address: 71 Unit B Sultan Gate Singapore 198496

Wear an Artpiece, Touch a Legacy (Introduction to Batik Art and fashion)

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

“Batik is a technique of manual wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, or cloth made using this technique. Batik is made either by drawing dots and lines of the resist with a spouted tool called a canting, or by printing the resist with a copper stamp called a cap. The applied wax resists dyes and therefore allows the artisan to color selectively by soaking the cloth in one color, removing the wax with boiling water, and repeating if multiple colors are desired.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCA tradition of making batik is found in various countries, including Nigeria, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines and Sri Lanka; the batik of Indonesia, however, is the most well-known. Indonesian batik made in the island of Java has a long history of acculturation, with diverse patterns influenced by a variety of cultures, and is the most developed in terms of pattern, technique, and the quality of workmanship. On October 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. ”

Batik art was rather unappealing to me for quite a long time. Preferring contemporary art work, I thought Batik art as somewhat outdated and unfashionable. Even old Chinese art fascinated me more than Batik. The closest encounter I had with Batik art, was during a trip to Genting in 2001. It was during a short trip shortly after my graduation when my friends and I were thinking of visiting the casino, but we were not in the right attire. Based on the management, we have to wear either collared formal or Batik wear. Being newly-minted engineering graduates then, our apparel style was just the basic streetwear of T-shirts and jeans. That killed off any idea of visiting the casino there even till now, as well as any positive feel in this art ironically.

After the visit to Kiah’s Gallery in 71 Unit B Sultan Gate, my encounter for Batik art took a new twist. The owners of the gallery, Yati and Ain, introduced  a new batik world to my partner and I . What I thought as just some outdated craft in making clothes is actually a detailed art with centuries of history. It has influences from Chinese, Indian, Dutch and other cultures, which periodically have a major influence in the South-East Asia region over the past millennia. Every fabric has a story to tell and a culture to teach.

SAMSUNG CSCUsing each batik fabric, one can tailor into fashionable apparel according to one’s needs. Kiah’s Gallery is retailer of Batik art as well as customizer of batik wear. Their passion to revive the dying batik art propelled them to share with the public, using dedicated craftwork and skillful hands into an fashionable wear one can put on their body.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCEvery batik fabric is an delicate piece of art. The fine prints as well as the details of every step can be observed on the fabric itself.

SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSCAt Kiah’s Gallery, the owners have prepared many fashion wear based on the batik fabric. Styles similar to Chinese, Arabic, African and modern wear can be found in Kiah’s Gallery. Each batik fabric can be bought from $35 onwards, while each fashion artwear can be had from $100 onwards.

If you are interested to find out more, you can visit Kiah’s Gallery @ 71B Sultan Gate in Kampong Glam. 71 sultan gate

Possible conservation for old Singapore Poly home

A 1958 modernist building in Tanjong Pagar that used to house Singapore’s first school of architecture could be safe from the wrecking ball.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) told The Straits Times that the Bestway Building near Shenton Way – the former site of Singapore Polytechnic – is “being studied for conservation”.

Their response comes after design professional Liu Zhenghao, who works in the building, wrote to the ST Forum this week expressing concern that it would be demolished. Mr Liu, 32, said his office was served an eviction notice, and that he had seen workers conducting soil tests nearby.

The URA and SLA said Bestway Properties, the building’s master tenant, was informed last year that its lease will not be extended after it expires on Nov 30 this year.

The building, which will be returned to the State, sits on land zoned as a reserve site under the URA’s Master Plan 2014. That means that the land parcel’s specific use has yet to be determined.

Architects and heritage experts have been calling for the building, designed by colonial architecture firm Swan and Maclaren, to be conserved for some time now.

Meanwhile, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be working in the area from the first quarter of next year to relocate the existing Shenton Way Bus Terminal along Keppel Road to a plot of land near the Bestway Building.

The new bus terminal will be ready in 2017, and have additional facilities such as a canteen and passenger service centre.

An LTA spokesman said a single- storey structure within the Bestway compound will be demolished “to facilitate the relocation”. But the building will not be affected by the relocation of the bus terminal.

Immediate past president of the Singapore Institute of Architects Theodore Chan said the Bestway Building represents a key milestone in Singapore’s education history. “It was Singapore’s first architecture school and also an outstanding piece of architecture. It can easily be adapted and assimilated into new developments in the area.”

The heritage community has also called for the authorities to provide more certainty on the fate of other nearby historic structures.

These include the Keramat Habib Noh shrine and Haji Mohd Salleh Mosque; the Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple – one of the oldest Hakka institutions in Singapore; the remnants of a Parsi burial site from 1828; and part of a former fort on Mount Palmer.

The shipping terminals nearby will be developed into the Greater Southern Waterfront in future.

Singapore Heritage Society’s honorary secretary Yeo Kang Shua believes there should be “transparent consultations on what the plans are for the area”.

He said: “Impact assessments should be conducted to be clear on the heritage significance of the site, to establish the sort of heritage mitigation that will need to be carried out. Nobody seems to know the future of the building and the site.”

Oh, my Old SIngapore

As the nation celebrates its jubilee year, Nabilah Said & Deborah Lee speak to 10 local personalities about places that remind them of the Singapore of the past

1 JANICE WONG, 32, pastry chef and owner of 2am: dessertbar

Favourite spot: Chinatown

I lived in an apartment just above the Hong Lim Market and Food Centre till I was three years old and my grandmother continued to live there till I was nine.

In fact, the staircase I would take up to my house was just next to the popular Heng Kee Curry Chicken Noodles.

There used to be street buskers who would play music while we ate.

These days, I come here once every two months and the owners of Heng Kee still remember me.

Sometimes, they automatically serve me a glass of my favourite sugarcane juice when I am here.

It’s like coming back to family.

These hawker stalls that have been here for years are the ones that should be celebrated.

The owners of Heng Kee are here from as early as 3am to prepare the curry noodles and the queues are always snaking long.

I may be in the pastry business, but I love the flavours of food like this.

I take my friends from overseas to Chinatown often.

Even though some parts have been modernised, I think there’s still a lot of heritage to be found here.

One thing is for sure – the crowd has not changed. There’s a certain generation of older Singaporeans who are still here.

Nabilah Said

2 CAROLYN KAN, 42, founder- designer of Singapore artisan jewellery label Carrie K.

Favourite spot: Lazarus Island

Going to Lazarus Island (below) always feels like an adventure to jewellery designer Carolyn Kan (above). ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN, ASHLEIGH SIM

Lazarus Island, off the south-west coast of Singapore, is the only place here where I feel like I am on an adventure.

It is an uninhabited island to which one does not have direct access – you have to take a ferry to St John’s Island and cross a link bridge to Lazarus.

One memorable incident there was when I found a set of train tracks that led nowhere. I wish I could remember exactly when.

Nowadays, whenever I visit the island with my husband, we make it a point to look for them after taking a boat ride to the island and after a swim.

Deborah Lee

3 KENNY CHAN, 63, store and merchandising director of Books Kinokuniya

Favourite spot: Former MPH Building in Stamford Road, now known as Vanguard Building. The Urban Redevelopment Authority awarded it conservation status in 2003.

A good experience at the old MPH bookstore in Stamford Road (below) inspired Mr Kenny Chan (above) to join the book industry. PHOTOS: ST FILE

I love books. The MPH Building was one of my favourite places because it was right next to the old National Library. It was at the now-defunct MPH bookstore there that I was awarded the store’s book voucher, as a literature prize in school.

Inspired by the service there, I vowed to become the store manager and I eventually did it in the late 1980s.

Deborah Lee


4 BOO JUNFENG, 32, film-maker

Favourite spot: Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

Film-maker Boo Junfeng (right) shooting his film, Parting, at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. PHOTO: PEANUT PICTURES

When I was in primary school, my parents took me on a train ride to Johor Baru. I still remember being on the noisy train, chugging through lush greenery and old HDB estates.

Tanjong Pagar was relatively quiet when it was still functioning.

I guess that was because it was the terminus of the KTM line. We used to say that when you came to the station, you were kind of already in Malaysia. We don’t get to say that anymore.

In its later years, I often went there with my friends for supper. The mee rebus at the cafeteria was very good.

It isn’t easy gaining access to the station now that it’s closed, but I’m glad the authorities have decided to open it to the public on public holidays.

I shot a key scene in my short film, Parting, which is part of the anthology 7 Letters, there. The scene is set in the 1960s.

For a brief moment, I tried to bring the station back to life again.

I’m glad I got to put it on film.

Nabilah Said

5 SAMANTHA SCOTT-BLACKHALL, 36, theatre director and artistic director of Blank Space Theatre

Favourite spot: Colonial-style cafe Colbar, Wessex Estate

Theatre director Samantha Scott-Blackhall likes Colbar cafe for its laid-back feel and quiet surroundings. ST PHOTO: NABILAH SAID

In the 1990s, I had just entered the theatre scene and a lot of the new friends I made then happened to live in the Portsdown Road area.

It was not unusual for us to clear their living rooms to rehearse for shows.

Colbar, nestled among the foliage of Portsdown Road, was a cool place to hang out at after rehearsals.

It was a very peaceful place to be at. All our attention was on one another and our stories.

The cafe is located away from the main road so there are no cars whizzing by – it is just the gentle hum of fans and pockets of laughter competing with the army of crickets all hanging out at Portsdown.

Actually, I didn’t realise it till now, but Colbar moved from Jalan Hang Jebat to its present location in Whitchurch Road in 2004.

I had some trouble finding it as I didn’t know it had moved, but then I saw the recognisable blue exterior and I knew that was it.

It has retained a lot of the old architecture, such as the timbre panels and clay roof tiles.

The laid-back atmosphere is still the same – and the insects are still there.

Nabilah Said

6 SANTHA BHASKAR, 76, Indian dance pioneer and artistic director of Bhaskar’s Arts Academy

Favourite spot: Victoria Theatre

Dancer Santha Bhaskar performed her first solo at the Victoria Theatre in 1955. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

I associate Victoria Theatre with my performances and my life.

I have performed there many times. In 1955, that was where I had my first solo performance. I was 15 or 16 years old and had to perform in front of a big audience.

I was from India and had only performed in temples or small theatres before.

The theatre was huge, like a palace, and the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles by the river made it seem even more majestic.

I remember the curtains and the lights, and the general impression of floating through space.

I wasn’t nervous, but I was filled with positive energy.

The theatre has been renovated since and its interior has shrunk in size. But I feel the same emotions when I step inside it. The spirit of the place remains the same.

Home is home.

Nabilah Said

7 SANDRA RILEY TANG, 25, musician from pop-folk band The Sam Willows

Favourite spot: Old-school HDB playgrounds

Musician Sandra Riley Tan (above) has happy childhood memories of playing at old-schoool playgrounds (below). PHOTOS: ERIC CHEN, STEPHANIE YEOW

There used to be a playground in the shape of a dragon near my school, Yuhua Primary School, in Jurong. I have fond memories of going there every day after school with my friends. We’d play catching and hide and seek, running up and down the spine of the dragon.

I would feel very excited, but also scared because I was supposed to be home. We’d spend one to two hours there before heading home.

It’s a bittersweet memory because I won’t be able to show my future kids that playground. Nonetheless, I still can’t resist a good playground. You can always find me on the swings. The higher the swing can go, the better.

Nabilah Said

8 JASON WONG, 51, board chairman of Focus On The Family and former Singapore Prisons Service deputy director and chief of staff

Favourite spot: Mount Faber

Mount Faber (below) was the playground of Mr Jason Wong (above) when he was growing up. PHOTOS: ST FILE

My father used to work for Keppel Shipyard, so my family lived in the shipyard’s staff quarters at the foot of Mount Faber until I was 12 years old.

I was still in lower primary school when a few families who were close friends started going on weekly pre-dawn walks. The walks usually took place on the weekends, when the fathers were not working.

We would set off after 5.30amto catch the sunrise on top of Mount Faber. I still remember the beautiful scenery at the peak.

On weekdays, the children would meet in the evening atop Mount Faber – where the cable car station is now located – or at a nearby park several flights of steps below Mount Faber’s peak, to play hide and seek, and catch butterflies. It was a playground in our backyard.

Deborah Lee

9 RANDY CHAN, 45, principal architect of architecture studio at Zarch Collaboratives

Favourite spot: Shophouse at 43 Blair Road

Mr Randy Chan’s grandmother once owned this shophouse in Blair Road. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

The shophouse belonged to my grandmother and was where the Chan clan gathered for monthly reunions or festive occasions.

The house looked huge when I was younger. I remember seeing huge spiders and cobwebs at every corner of the house.

Its architectural features, such as the fan-shaped windows, had an old-world charm. The aged Peranakan floor tiles, some cracked, were rich in texture.

When my grandmother’s funeral was held there, there was one memorable incident.

I was on night vigil with some of my relatives, but had fallen asleep near the coffin after offering incense. At around 2am, a loud knocking came from within the coffin. Everyone became scared and huddled together, except for me – sound asleep and oblivious.

The next morning, my uncles said that it was possibly my grandmother’s ghost.

Vigil-keepers for the remaining nights of the wake stayed awake.

We sold the shophouse after my grandmother died in the 1980s.

Deborah Lee

10 FANDI AHMAD, 53, former captain and current coach of Singapore’s national football team Lions XII

Favourite spot: Bussorah Street

Fandi Ahmad (above) hangs out at Bussorah Street (below) with his friends on Fridays. PHOTOS: ST FILE

This street is my favourite because I hang out with my friends there after Friday prayers at Sultan Mosque every week.

There are many interesting shops that sell things from books to trinkets to accessories.

I usually drive there. I get to chill with my friends, relax and take in the atmosphere. Sometimes, we even jam and play music there.

Streets become public spaces under new URA initiative

“As the streets get closed off, they come alive with activities: tables and chairs spilling onto the roads, diners enjoying a leisurely cuppa, youngsters hanging out at quirky boutiques, and tourists soaking up another aspect of Singapore. People stroll freely and safely. Closed to cars, the streets come alive.”

Photo by URA.

On Thursday, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan endorsed the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) newly-launched “Streets for People” programme on his blog.

“Car-free Circular Road, Haji Lane and Ann Siang Hill during weekends have been a great success,” Mr Khaw wrote. “We want to see more streets being turned into public spaces for community to enjoy.”

The “Streets for People” programme, launched on Thursday, will support new community-initiated car-free zones aimed at transforming streets and back lanes into temporary public spaces.

During the operational hours of a car-free zone, access to the street is restricted to pedestrians and emergency service vehicles, while all kerbside parking is suspended, the URA said on its website.

The programme offers varying levels of support, including providing road closure essentials such as safety barriers and signage, and up to S$5,000 of seed funding. The URA will also facilitate consultation with relevant government agencies.

Applicants of the URA’s “Streets for People” programme must operate or reside within the area where the project is proposed and demonstrate that their project is supported by the community.

In the last two years, the URA has been working with a range of stakeholders to implement car-free zones at various locations and have supported a number of external initiatives through its PubliCity programme. Launched in 2013, PubliCity aims to involve the community to celebrate good public spaces and to enliven public spaces through good design and programmes.

“The success of these projects is a reflection that the public appreciates an environment with fewer cars. We hope that through offering support to community-initiated projects, we will encourage more people to think about the trade-offs in land-scarce Singapore,” the URA said.

Streets that have already been transformed to public spaces include a back lane in Everton Park where a street festival was organised, car-free zones at Bussorah Street at Kampong Glam as well as Club Street.

Justin Frizelle, spokesman for the Club Street Association, told The Business Times that the pedestrianisation initiative has rejuvenated the area with increased vibrancy, along with a range of challenges.

“The increase in consumer traffic in the evenings naturally comes with the challenge of managing both litter and noise. Such large gatherings of pedestrians also comes with stricter enforcement of safety regulations to ensure that there are always passageways for safety vehicles.”

Rachel Liddington, a resident at Club Street, said that pedestrianisation has improved her personal safety, but added that the URA could further improve the programme by having clear signs explaining road systems and closures further away from the affected roads, giving drivers more time to respond accordingly.