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Thread: Awards for 8 restoration projects

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    Published October 6, 2009

    Awards for 8 restoration projects

    Govt announces four new areas for conservation

    THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday unveiled eight winners of this year's Architectural Heritage Awards (AHAs) and announced four new areas that will be conserved.

    The restoration projects that took home prizes are: Ascott Singapore Raffles Place at 2 Finlayson Green; Capella Singapore at Sentosa; Bukit Timah Guild House at 1F Cluny Road; Beulah House at 10 Gilstead Road; the former Victoria School at 9 King George's Avenue; the Indian High Commissioner's bungalow at 2 Peirce Road; a townhouse at 128D Cairnhill Road and shophouses at 92-102 Joo Chiat Place.

    The AHAs recognise owners, architects, engineers and contractors who have sensitively restored heritage buildings for present-day use.

    The awards aim to promote the restoration of monuments and buildings. Since they were launched in 1995, 92 projects have been recognised.

    'We worked closely with the URA to earmark several key aspects of the building for conservation,' said Ascott chief development officer Wong Hooe Wai. Ascott acquired the former Asia Insurance Building in 2006 and carried out restoration works worth $60 million to preserve the tower.

    'The original Art Deco architecture and distinctive interior features have been retained to recapture the former glory of the building,' Mr Wong said.

    In a speech yesterday, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Education Grace Fu also announced the conservation of four new areas.

    They are: four shophouses along North Bridge Road at the junction of Liang Seah Street; the Church of St Bernardette at Zion Road; the cowshed and farmhouse at Dairy Farm Road; and 30 pre-war army bungalows in Rochester Park and 13 bungalows in neighbouring Nepal Park.

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    October 6, 2009 Tuesday

    Standing tall

    Eight conserved buildings have been singled out for URA's Architectural Heritage Awards

    By cheryl tan

    View photos

    It was once the tallest building in South-east Asia. Now, dwarfed by modern skyscrapers that twist towards the heavens, the 20-storey Ascott Singapore Raffles Place hardly qualifies as a skyscraper.

    But what the building, located in Finlayson Road in the Central Business District, lacks in height by current standards, it certainly makes up for in history.

    The 54-year-old building was one of eight honoured at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Architectural Heritage Awards last night.

    Senior Minister of State for National Development and Education, Ms Grace Fu, announced the winners at the People's Association Headquarters, which was among the recipients of the annual award for conservation.

    The People's Association building is the former Victoria School, which has produced many famous students including President S R Nathan and past presidents Yusof Ishak and Devan Nair. The building in King George's Avenue was built in 1933.

    At the ceremony, Ms Fu also announced four new areas and buildings that have been gazetted for conservation. They include five shophouses in North Bridge Road; 30 pre-war army bungalows at Rochester Park and 13 bungalows in Nepal Park; the Church of

    St Bernadette in Zion Road; and a farmhouse and cow shed in Dairy Farm Road.

    Buildings that have been conserved should follow guidelines set by the URA. This maintains the history of the buildings.

    This is the 15th year of the architectural awards, which honour wellrestored monuments and conservation buildings in Singapore. They are given to the buildings' owners, architects, engineers and principal contractors. There is no prize money involved.

    A total of 92 projects have received the Architectural Heritage Awards since its launch in 1995.

    There are two categories. Category A is for national monuments and fully conserved buildings and these are judged on how well they have adhered to the restoration guidelines.

    Category B is for buildings that have added new developments to the old conserved building and these are judged on how well the old and new features have been integrated.

    URA's conservation and development services director, Mrs Teh Lai Yip, said this year's projects 'show how the innate potential of conserved buildings can be creatively tapped for today's use'.

    Mr Richard Ho, principal architect of RichardHo Architects, said conservation preserves Singapore's history and gives the public a chance to learn about British colonial architecture, which utilised a lot of natural ventilation and lighting.

    The lead architect for the Bukit Timah Guild House along Cluny Road said: 'Too many modern buildings are designed to be air-conditioned. Such designs are not green or energy-saving.'

    On this and the facing page, Life! looks at four of this year's winners: a once-prominent skyscraper, the Indian high commissioner's residence in Singapore, a clinic-turned-church and the old Victoria School, which now houses the People's Association Headquarters.

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    2 PEIRCE ROAD Category B winner

    What: Bharat Bhavan or India House. Built in 1911, it has been the residence of the Indian High Commissioner since 1948

    Size: 7,000 sq ft

    Architect: Steven Siow of Shing Design Atelier

    Owner: High Commission of India

    In 1995, a tree fell on the original India House bungalow, damaging it beyond repair.

    'Nobody was hurt, fortunately, but the house became unliveable,' said Mr Vasanthkumar, the first secretary and head of chancery at the High Commission of India.

    For 14 years, the Indian High Commissioner to Singapore had to vacate what had been his traditional residence since the government of India bought the tropical Tudor-bethan building and its surrounding 1.3ha grounds in 1948 for $140,000.

    During this time, the Indian high commissioner lived in a rented apartment. According to Mr Vasanthkumar, the delay in restoring the bungalow was due to a lengthy bureaucratic process.

    He said: 'We have two more properties in Singapore. So we were deliberating whether the conservation project should cover all three or only this.

    'Different people had different ideas. Ultimately, we decided to work on this bungalow only. The solid plan started only in 2007. Once construction began, it was very quick.'

    In April this year, Dr S. Jaishankar became the first Indian High Commissioner to live in the property in Peirce Road after architect Steven Siow had the building torn down completely and rebuilt from the ground up.

    As the bungalow was earmarked for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 1991, Mr Siow had to strictly follow the original plans of the two-storey, four-bedroom house. And he had to do it without the help of the original building blueprint, which is lost.

    Finally, he and his team accomplished the task by tearing down and rebuilding the house piece by piece. They made sure to include as much of the original materials as they could salvage, such as a ceiling-high mirror, indoor floor tiles which were re-used in the outdoor patio and original granite corbel and steps.

    'We put in our best efforts,' said Mr Siow of the restoration project which took 16 months to complete. 'Our objective was to make the conservation job good enough to win an award.'

    More than just restore the main house to its former glory, he also added an extension at the back of the property that consists of a living room, a drawing room for entertaining guests and a guest bedroom.

    He also built two more bungalows on the plot of land for two other high-ranking High Commission of India officials, one of which is occupied by Mr Vasanthkumar.

    The $12 million spent on the restoration, extension and two new bungalows is likely to be considered a bargain when compared to the value of the plot of land now.

    Mr Vasanthkumar said the High Commission has never bothered to find out the current value of the property as it 'has no intention of ever selling it'.

    The restored India House welcomed its latest high-ranking tenant on Sunday night, with the arrival of the new Indian High Commissioner to Singapore, Dr T. C. A. Raghavan. Mr Jaishankar was posted to China two months ago to become the new ambassador there.

    Eddino Abdul Hadi

    2 FINLAYSON GREEN Category A winner

    What: An 18-storey Art Deco office block built in 1955, now a 20-storey hotel of serviced apartment suites

    Size: 16,075 sq m floor area on 949 sq m of land

    Architect: Seah Chee Kien of RSP Architects Planners & Engineers

    Owner: Ascott Group

    With its exterior stone panel facade cracked and falling to pieces, the once prominent 1950s skyscraper had lost its lustre.

    In 2006, Ascott Group, which owns properties worldwide, bought the building from its original owner, the Asia Life Assurance Society, for $110 million to transform it into luxury serviced apartments.

    Despite the radical change from what had been an office building, the group volunteered to restore and conserve the Art Deco building, even though it was not gazetted for conservation until a year later.

    'For the longest time, it was the tallest building on the waterfront. We wanted the blend of old and new to be special for our guests,' said the group's chief development officer, Mr Wong Hooe Wai.

    He added that the interior of the building was also designed to exude a 1950s and 1960s feel, but with a contemporary twist.

    The group spent $60 million on the conservation effort. Features such as the original brass mail chute are still in use and have been retained to preserve the building's history as an office building.

    The most tedious part of the project was restoring the building's original travertine stone panel claddings, marble columns and Nero Portaro stone panel claddings along the ground floor walkway, said Mr Wong.

    Each loose panel had to be painstakingly fastened to the wall and polished to its original shining glory.

    But architect Seah Chee Kien, who was handling his first conservation project, said converting what had been an office space to one that was suitable for hotel luxury living with a gym and swimming pool was the most challenging part of the job. He had to fit the modern amenities into niche spaces in the building so that they would not look out of place.

    He and his team also had to replace more than 1,000 of the old windows as they were too thin and could not keep out the noise from the Central Business District. This had to be done without removing the quaint steel frames and brass handles. The new windows are made of high-performance glass to keep out noise and heat more effectively.

    The hard work has been worth it, said Mr Seah. The charming windows of the hotel, now known as Ascott Singapore Raffles Place, have become his favourite part of the building.

    9 KING GEORGE'S AVENUE Category B winner

    What: The former Victoria School built in 1933, now the new headquarters for the People's Association with a new five-storey extension

    Size: 14,000 sq m

    Architect: Gieto Sugianto of Architects 61

    Owner: People's Association

    For five decades, this was a place filled with students' laughter and chatter punctuated by the periodic clanging of the school bell. Today, the former Victoria School is an office building with a sprawling field.

    The People's Association leased the property in 2005 after Victoria School relocated to Geylang Bahru and then to Siglap, and a few other schools took residence in the building temporarily.

    In order to restore the old school - whose alumni include Singapore's past presidents such as Yusof Ishak and Devan Nair and current President S R Nathan - the People's Association spent $47 million on the project, with $6.7 million of the budget allocated for conservation needs.

    Among other things, the project's architect, Mr Sugianto, had to repair the damaged grey Shanghai plaster along the old U-shaped building.

    To do it properly, he and his team engaged an expert to get the correct mix and colour so that the newly restored areas would not stick out like a sore thumb.

    The old classroom block now comprises offices and meeting rooms.

    Mr Sugianto, who also won the conservation award last year, breathed new life into the adjacent two-storey hall-cum-canteen that was built in 1967, converting it into a dance studio and storage space for Chingay and National Day props.

    He said of finding the right balance of old and new elements: 'You have to make sure they blend well together with a design that is not only what the owner wants but also one that fits conservation guidelines.'

    Thankfully, well-documented photographs of the classrooms and canteen along with the building's original blueprints were easily available for reference.

    The school's simple neo-classical and Art Deco design that was repeated along the building's facade also made conservation efforts easier.

    The new five-storey extension, which is located behind the old classrooms, houses an atrium space, auditoriums, offices and a roof terrace that overlooks the open field.

    The team replicated the low and long features of the old building by installing a big horizontal flat roof and sunshading features that run along the new facade.

    10 GILSTEAD ROAD Category A winner

    What: A two-storey Edwardian Baroque-inspired bungalow from the 1900s, now a church with a new five-storey extension

    Size: 568 sq m floor area on 2,697 sq m of land

    Architect: Heng Twa Kiat of APE.X Group

    Owner: Life Bible-Presbyterian Church

    After saving for 13 years to erect a modern 10- to 15-storey building in place of the bungalow, the Life Bible-Presbyterian Church management board had to scrap the idea.

    The board had bought the bungalow opposite the church in 1990 hoping to tear it down to accommodate its extension plan.

    In 2003, the Urban Redevelopment Authority gazetted the dilapidated bungalow with a dome zinc roof as a conservation site, which meant that it could not be torn down.

    'There were all these hopes and dreams of developing the plot. All these 13 years, we had no idea that we had to conserve the bungalow,' said Dr Sherman Ong, 49, an elder of the church.

    After paying $7.2 million to buy the bungalow from the widow of an eye doctor who had used the bungalow as a clinic, the church used it for meetings while they saved up enough money to develop it.

    In the end, it cost the church $6 million, 30 per cent more than their original budget, to conserve the bungalow and add a five-storey structure to it.

    The site, now used as a Bible centre with prayer, lecture and function rooms, is named Beulah House to signify the marriage value of the newly conserved space and their old church across the road. 'Beulah' means 'married' in Hebrew.

    The bungalow was part of a pair that used to sit side by side along Gilstead Road. Its sister building was demolished and converted into a condominium in the 1980s.

    Mr Heng, the architect of the project, said he and his team had a tough time looking for historical records of drawings, photographs and materials used when the house was first built.

    They even had to fly samples of the floral-patterned floor tile to Vietnam to get them duplicated.

    Their biggest challenge was restoring the conical turret roof, which required fish scale-like clay tiles that could be cut into smaller pieces to fit the top.

    But the roof is what makes the building unique and prominent, said Mr Heng.

    'The rich and famous of the period probably lived in bungalows of a similar design,' he added.

    Other winners

    Category A


    What: Four 1880s classical colonial military buildings converted into a modern six-star resort hotel

    Architect: Teoh Hai Pin of DP Architects

    Owner: Millenia Hotel


    What: Two-storey Art Deco bungalow built in the late 1920s converted into a clubhouse

    Architect: Richard Ho of RichardHO Architects

    Owner: National University of Singapore Society

    Category B


    What: Restored two-storey transitional-style townhouse with a rear extension

    Architect: Wong Mun Summ of Woha Architects

    Owner: Mark and Sabrina Trueman

    92-102 JOO CHIAT PLACE

    What: Restored row of six two-storey transitional shophouses with added staircases

    Architect: Maria F Arango of Ong & Ong

    Owner: Teo Siok Guan Pte Ltd

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