Tag: Singapore Architecture

30 Years of Conservation: Science of Restoration

To ensure historic buildings last, we need to pay closer attention to the science of restoration, suggests Dr Yeo Kang Shua, a conservation expert.

Exposing an old building’s brick walls has become trendy to show its historic value. But this could be doing more harm than good, says Dr Yeo Kang Shua.

Not all bricks are fired to withstand the elements openly, and the contemporary practice of applying an adhesive to create such designs often damages a building in the long run.

As adhesives are hard and the bricks are soft in comparison, such walls will typically cave in over time, says Kang Shua, the Associate Professor of architectural history, theory and criticism at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Focus on materials

Such “purely aesthetic” practices may cause Singapore to lose its built historic fabric. Thus, Kang Shua has been advocating for a more scientific focus for restoration work. He first got interested in this topic while interning at RSP Architects Planners & Engineers, which was then restoring the Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery and the House of Tan Yeok Nee.

Since attaining his PhD in architecture history and theory at the National University of Singapore, Kang Shua has taken up a variety of roles as an academic, advocate and even practitioner — all with an eye on improving the profession’s understanding of the materials that make up Singapore’s historic buildings

“When we say restore back to original, at the end of the day, a temple looks like a temple, a church looks like a church, you do not change the motifs,” he says. “The question is how do you do it? How do you make sure there is no change? There is a lot of very grey areas.”

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30 Years of Conservation: Every Community has a Story

The key for the past to stay relevant for the present and future is letting communities shape their identities and heritage, says Li Yong, co-founder of civic and heritage group My Community.

When My Community opened a heritage community museum in Queenstown in early 2019, it received a surprisingly strong reaction from the residents. They wanted to know the purpose of Museum @ My Queenstown and some even questioned its relevance to the community.

This reaction was a reminder to never take the community for granted. “Instead of speaking
to the residents (about the museum), we just assumed that the community would embrace its premise and curation right away,” says Li Yong who founded My Community with his friend Jasper Tan, in 2010. My Community is a civic and heritage group that originally offered guided tours in Queenstown, one of Singapore’s oldest housing estates.

The community museum is the first of its kind located within the Queenstown neighbourhood. “We had already incorporated artefacts and photographs in the museum from the residents but they did not just want them to be displayed, they wanted to be an active part of the planning and curation process.” Since then,

My Community has roped in residents to work with its volunteers and artists to co-curate exhibitions and programmes for the museum.

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30 Years of Conservation: Keeping the Past Relevant

Straits Times heritage correspondent Melody Zaccheus believes telling good heritage stories helps connect people and their relationships to places.

Melody’s foray into the heritage beat can be traced back to an article she wrote in 2012 on the National Heritage Board’s efforts to document Singapore’s eight remaining traditional bakeries known for producing conventionally prepared breads and buns. Learning first-hand about the struggles of these dying businesses, which once numbered up to 200 in the 1970s, inspired the then fresh journalism graduate to pursue more of such evocative stories.

Inspiring deeper conversations about Singapore’s heritage and giving a voice to forgotten historical figures and everyday people with stories to tell, are some of the reasons why The Straits Times has a reporter covering the heritage beat, says Melody. Since 2012, she has assumed this role in Singapore’s main English-language newspaper, carving out a niche in the newsdesk.

Beyond just the recounting of nostalgic events, much of Melody’s job is to figure out how to make a story relevant to readers today. Over the years, her coverage has ranged from reporting on new historical discoveries to overlooked heritage, and occasionally, even correcting misconceptions about the past.

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