June 15, 2007


Heritage property lovers save part of 95-year-old bungalow

By Brian Higgs

PIECE OF HISTORY: The Neo-Renaissance style bungalow in Amber Road was designed by Regent Alfred John Bidwell in 1912. Its unusual crescent shape was meant to let as much fresh air into the building as possible. -- ST FILE PHOTO

A GROUP of heritage property lovers has saved part of a 95-year-old historical bungalow from the wrecking ball.

Instead, the entrance porch and stair hall of the unique, crescent-shaped building at 23 Amber Road will front a new high-rise building.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the governing body on land-use in Singapore, told The Straits Times yesterday that given the competing needs for development and conservation on tiny Singapore, this was a 'win-win solution'.

The Neo-Renaissance-style two-storey structure is the only house here designed by Regent Alfred John Bidwell, architect of the Victoria Memorial Hall, Goodwood Park Hotel and Raffles Hotel.

The bungalow was seen as unique because it was the only semi-circular colonial residence in existence here, said the group who fought to preserve it.

The site was bought by developer AG Capital last year for $8.9 million, and it had been free to tear the building down, as the house had not been included in URA's list of more than 6,000 heritage buildings selected for conservation.

That is when the Historic Architecture Rescue Plan (Harp) group stepped in. The group of 40 people from diverse professions rallied to save the building through online petitions and e-mail requests to the Government.

On its part, the URA sounded out the developers about reviewing their redevelopment plans.

'The developers were open to exploring alternatives instead of a complete redevelopment,' said the URA.

The authority and developers worked closely with the architect and various agencies to overcome the site constraints.

It was a bittersweet victory for Harp.

One member, media officer Terrence Hong, 26, said he was happy that a partial solution could be found, but was disappointed that the structure's crescent-shaped verandah would be demolished.

Mr Kevin Tan, 45, president of the Singapore Heritage Society, said: 'So much of our heritage is being destroyed, and all the things we are familiar or grew up with are gone. Thumbs up to the URA for responding to the public.'