2016 has been a year where the state of the present and fear for the future has taken centrestage. Yet in our ever-changing landscape, the constant need for change means that historical and heritage issues are always happening just around the corner. The nostalgia surrounding SG50 may have worn worn off, but 2016 has been filled with its own historical milestones in more ways than one.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Perhaps one of the historical buildings that got people talking more about our heritage, the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station finally bid adieu to the public on Christmas Day, nearly five years since the last train departed in 2011.
In relation, the entire stretch of the Rail Corridor where the trains used to run have also been closed for improvement works before it opens in phases beginning 2018. This marks the first time in nearly a century where there will be no public transport or public access to this historical trade route.
WHERE IS HOME (TRULY)?
Dakota Crescent and Rochor Centre. Two iconic housing estates that represent the unique architectural trademarks of both Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) and HDB, will finally have to make way come 31 Dec. Since the announcement, both residents and non-residents have raised numerous debates, documented the space, and even organised celebrations along the way.
Further out at sea, the last four residents of St John’s Island have also been told to move back to the mainland come 2017 as the current operator, Sentosa Development Corporation, hands the land back to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).
OUT WITH THE OLD (WELL, AT LEAST SOME IT)
While the decision to tear-down part of Ellison Building at Selegie Road has certainly raised the issue of what gazetting a structure in Singapore is all about, the private sale of the National Aerated Water Company and part of the Bestway Building (former Singapore Polytechnic) has also brought attention to the need to conserve iconic forms of architecture that are slowly disappearing from the nation.
On the bright side, two of Singapore’s most iconic churches received a much-needed facelift, proving the possibility of beauty when restoration is done tastefully.
Over at Queen’s Street, the towering neo-gothic inspired Church of Saints Peter and Paul re-opened after a one-year and eight million dollar facelift.
Just across the road, Singapore’s oldest church, The Cathedral of Good Shepard, now easily rivals the Basilicas in Rome after its three-year long restoration, a period that included the painstaking but awe-inspiring restoration of the 1,882 pipes that make up the 104-year old Bevington& Sons pipe organ.
THE RESIDENT TOURIST
While the most heated online vitrol was reserved for a single-day without Wifi (37k comments on Singtel’s Post), a good number of people shared their love for the authenticity of Little India after a forum writer suggested that the iconic enclave be spruced up like Chinatown to attract tourists.
Closer to our bellies, 52 eateries including Colbar Eating House, were given the Slow food heritage award. Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle became the first Michelin-Star hawker in Singapore, and Aung San Suu Kyi ate chee kweh at Ghim Moh Hawker Centre.
THE GREAT SINGAPORE SOLD
Former retail giant John Little will finally close its doors after 174-years in Singapore, the last of which being its Plaza Singapura branch that has been there since 1979.
For technocrats, the closure of Funan was also a hard one to swallow, with many gamers, anime fans and tech junkies having called it home for close to 30 years.
Together with Pearls Centre, the infamously iconic Yangtze cinema played its final film back in February this year, bringing an end to a space that once stood in regard to neighbouring buildings like People’s Park Complex and People’s Park Centre.
On the retail front, Nike’s decision to stop providing stock to independent outlets in fan-favourite spaces like Queensway Shopping Centre and Peninsula Plaza could prove detrimental to such spaces in time to come.
Other notable buildings that will close its shutters include Park Mall, Underwater World, Sungei Road Thieves Market and even Zouk at Jiak Kim Street.
MY WISH FOR 2017
Be a Resident Tourist.Go out and explore spaces, but don’t just snap a photo for Instagram. Talk to the people living there, or even learn more about the space through research or find ways to express your own views on what it means to you.
On a more serious note, I think it’s high that that we get more involved in discussion, debate, but also understanding.
Beyond tangible aspects like our religious buildings and unique shophouse architecture, I’d also like to see a more active role in preserving our intangible heritage beyond what the National Heritage Board has set out to do earlier this year, this could be anything from how we use corridor spaces in HDB flats, to even our obsession with late night suppers in the city.