Tag: Singapore Architecture

A Lifelong Commitment

Conservation is a lifelong commitment, says Dr Richard Helfer who still has a soft spot for his first conservation/restoration project – Raffles Hotel.

Walk past Raffles Hotel today and one is struck by its grand façade with a welcoming cast-iron portico that harks back to the early 20th century. But what completes this historic view along Beach Road are four vintage street lamps in front of the Grand Old Lady of Singapore.

“We specially brought them in from Charlottenburg, Berlin, as part of the conservation, restoration and redevelopment of Raffles Hotel and Arcade from 1989 to 1991,” says Dr Richard Helfer.

“We had these conceptual models (of the hotel) and we knew what the front would look like… yet we thought that something did not look right,” recalls Richard. He oversaw the project and Raffles Hotel for 14 years as Founding Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Raffles International Hotels & Resorts and Executive Director and Chairman of Raffles Hotel.

Typical modern street lights would not fit what he and his team expected to become “the most photographed view in Singapore”. Armed with an early photograph of the hotel showing the desired street lamps, Richard went hunting for lamps similar to those that once stood outside of the hotel at the turn of the century and located them in Berlin.

He had to convince the German city’s mayor to sell four of the lamps, which up to this time were restricted to his city and then seek approval from the Public Utilities Board in Singapore to make an exception.

The lamps were not required by the conservation guidelines for Raffles Hotel. However, Richard went through all the trouble because he was convinced that such details in the immediate streetscape were important in contributing to the aura and experience of Raffles Hotel.

“When you do proper conservation and restoration of a building, you need to have a clear vision,” he says. “Our goal was to create something that Singaporeans and visitors could experience as an important relevant component of the history of Singapore and a national icon for Singaporeans to be proud of.”

➜ Read the full story in 30 years of conservation in Singapore since 1989

Housing Singapore’s Smart Nation

As more data centres are built to power the city-state’s digital transformation, the design of these high-tech boxes become ever more important.

Former Credit Suisse Asia Pacific Regional Data Centre by AWP Architects. | PHOTO: DON WONG

What do “The Internet” and “The Cloud” look like to you? Even a Google search turns up nothing more than diagrams of seemingly invisible networks that connect the world’s computers, phones and devices. Well, stop looking up and start looking around, because the world wide web exists in plain sight across Singapore. Inside buildings known as “data centres” are the racks of computers that form part of the network which we increasingly depend on in our everyday lives.

They are alongside motorists as they travel down the Ayer-Rajah Expressway—between the flyovers at Buona Vista and Portsdown. One is a neighbour to residents living in the public housing blocks along Serangoon North Avenue 5. Another greets students across the road from Corporation Primary School. These data centres are where information is collected, stored, processed, distributed and accessed, and they are all part of a web of similar facilities connected around the world via fibre cable and satellite.

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East Coast Park: “The Singapore Way” to Recreation

Despite being touted as an “explosive book”, Socialism That Works… The Singapore Way has a surprisingly idyllic-looking cover.[1] Featuring an aerial photograph of a tree-lined lagoon and greenery that stretches into the horizon, the book could be mistaken for a tourism brochure. Instead, this picture of East Coast Park fronts a 268-page publication that refutes “the many half-truths perpetrated by hostile parties” about Singapore, including the government’s detention of communists without trial and its controls on trade unions and the press.

Over 10 chapters, the country’s top politicians and trade unionists refuted the allegations and made a case for how successful Singapore had become under the rule of the People’s Action Party (PAP). East Coast Park was just one picturesque outcome. As Singapore’s newest and largest public recreational centre when Socialism That Works was released in 1976, the park showcase how the PAP had literally reshaped the island for modern play.

[1] ‘Socialism That Works… the Singapore Way’, The Business Times, 1 February 1977.

➜ Read the full story in The Singapore Architect #15 (May-August 2019)