Colouring (and discolouring) the Rail Corridor

11 03 2014

Take a walk down the Buona Vista stretch of the Rail Corridor, plans for which have not been announced as yet, and you can’t help but notice the graffiti like artwork that has recently come up on the two walls beneath the Commonwealth Avenue viaduct. It may surprise that the colourful renderings are works that are in fact sanctioned by the State and are the results of an initiative by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to inject life and colour to the Rail Corridor, which is supported by the National Arts Council (NAC) that was announced in December last year (see: New journeys on the Rail Corridor).

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The initiative does provide a much needed opportunity for street artists to develop their skills in producing artwork and is curated by RSCLS, an urban art collective and a recipient of the NAC Seed Grant. And besides the artworks, there will also be to Street Art jams to look forward to that will provide opportunities for first-hand experiences with street art.

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There have been several examples we have seen of  street art appearing in an indiscriminate around several structures of the rail corridor where graffiti has defaced several items of heritage value and paint and inks or their removal can potentially do long term damage to structures. One of the outcomes it is hoped that this initiative will result in, is to encourage the would be graffiti artists to channel their talents and energy in a positive and responsible way through collectives like the RSCLS.

A recent example of indiscriminate graffiti on a heritage structure along the rail corridor (on truss bridge close to The Rail Mall), which can potentially do long term damage to it.

A recent example of indiscriminate graffiti discolouring a heritage structure along the rail corridor (on truss bridge close to The Rail Mall), which can potentially do long term damage to it.

It does appear that the work, which defaces the heritage structure and can do damage to it, was done for a wedding shoot.

It does appear that the work, which defaces the heritage structure and can do damage to it, was done for a wedding shoot or similar.


More photographs

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The Rail Corridor leading up to the Commonwealth Avenue viaduct.

The Rail Corridor leading up to the Commonwealth Avenue viaduct.





Rediscovering the romance of Chap Goh Mei

19 02 2014

The fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year, Chap Goh Mei (Hokkien for 15th night) as it has been commonly referred to in Singapore, has traditionally been associated with romance. It was perhaps in the hope of rediscovering the romance of a festival that has been lost in the embrace of modernity that drew a healthy crowd of participants to a walk through the streets of Chinatown on the evening of the fifteenth day this year on what coincidentally was also the western day for the celebration of romance, St. Valentine’s Day that was organised by the Conservation Management Department of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

A romantic spot on the streets of Chinatown on Chap Goh Mei.

A romantic spot on the streets of Chinatown on Chap Goh Mei.

The fifteenth night of any Chinese lunar month is of course one that, weather conditions permitting, would be illuminated by the light of the full moon – a setting that certainly is ideal for romance. In the case of Chap Goh Mei, it is a night when Yuanxiao Jie (元宵节) is celebrated, providing an evening for romance to be found not only in the light of the moon, but also in the glow of colourful lanterns; it having been a tradition to have lanterns displayed outside homes and along five-foot-ways, as it was for children to take to the streets carrying lanterns in a fashion similar to the Mid-Autumn festival.

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The search for romance would take many eligible young men and women to the water’s edge – the waterfront along Esplanade was, I am told, a particularly popular spot, from which fruits would be aimed into the water. For the ladies, it would be oranges, representing good husbands, that would be thrown, and for men, good wives taking the form of apples – a practice that I actually did not know about until more recent times.

The lantern parade through the streets of Chinatown on what can be seen as a double Valentine's Day in search for a lost romance.

The search for romance.

While we did not get the chance to toss oranges or apples in the name of romance, we did however get an opportunity to rediscover the romance of Chap Goh Mei and of a Chinatown that would otherwise lie hidden behind the recoloured labyrinth of streets of what would once have been referred to as Tua Poh or the ‘Greater Town’.

The lantern parade.

The lantern parade.

The route we were to take, lanterns in hand, was one of many twists and turns, taking us through a complex of streets that in being referred to as Chinatown, belies the intra-ethnic divisions that did once exist within the greater Chinese immigrant community, divisions that would once have been apparent in moving across the area’s many streets.

Only a thin Ho may enter? The Thin Ho clan association on Ann Siang Road.

Only a thin Ho may enter? The Thin Ho clan association on Ann Siang Road.

The first pause we made was the Ann Siang Hill area where the Cantonese dialect group did have a strong presence. Besides the well known Yeung Ching School (now referred to in the Mandarin form of the name as Yangzheng School) that was perched on top of Ann Siang Hill, there were the many Cantonese clan associations – many of which are still present in the area. Amongst the school alumni are many well known names. This included one that is synonymous with the the lost art of story telling and Redifussion’s Cantonese broadcasts in the 1950s and 1960s, Lee Dai Soh. Another, perhaps lesser known in Singapore, is a certain Xian Xinghai, the composer of the Yellow River Cantata – a work which was to become used as a Chinese revolutionary song. The Yeung Ching foundation does still maintain a presence in the area as is evident from a signboard seen atop a building it owns along Club Street close to its junction with Ann Siang Hill.

The condo in the background would have been where the Yeung Ching school would have stood - atop a since levelled hill the base of which would have been at the condo's sixth floor.

The condo in the background would have been where the Yeung Ching school would have stood – atop a since levelled hill the base of which would have been at the condo’s sixth floor.

Ann Siang Road.

Ann Siang Road.

Club Street.

Club Street.

From Ann Siang Road and Club Street, the procession made its way up to Ann Siang Hill before continuing down to Amoy Street, once a predominantly a Hokkien street, as was Telok Ayer Street where the group was to make a stop in the glow of the beautifully restored Thian Hock Keng temple, a magnificent example of Hokkien temple architecture and a National Monument.

Up Ann Siang Hill.

Up Ann Siang Hill.

The view at the top.

The view at the top.

The pathway down.

The pathway down.

Down Ann Siang Hill.

Down Ann Siang Hill.

Lantern bearers during a pause in the search for romance.

Lantern bearers posing for a photograph outside the Thain Hock Keng temple in the search for romance.

The temple, which now stands across from the watchful eyes of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, is dedicated to the protector of seafarers, the Taoist goddess of the sea, Ma Zu, does point to the fact that the temple did once find itself by the sea, as did the street it is located at – Telok Ayer Street was in the early days of post-Raffles Singapore, a waterfront to which many immigrants would have come ashore at (it was also interesting to learn that the rebuilt Hokkien Huay Kuan, sitting on the site of the temple’s wayang or Chinese Opera stage built over the then shoreline, was designed with a wide through corridor on its ground floor to provide a symbolic passage from the temple to the now distant sea). This did provide the street with a flavour that went beyond the Hokkiens with several other houses of worship and immigrant reception point coming along the street that were put up by other groups of immigrants including a Hakka clan association, Ying Fo Fui Kuan (also a National Monument) and the former Hakka Fuk Tak Chi Temple which was also used by Cantonese immigrants.

The 'watchful eyes' of the Hokkien Huay Kuan.

The ‘watchful eyes’ of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.

The rather interesting walk ended at another magnificent work of temple architecture, the very recently restored Yueh Hai Ching or Wak Hai Cheng temple at Phillip Street. Set inside a within a walled compound accessible through a narrow doorway from which the sight of coils of incense would first greet the eye, the temple (actually two temples side-by-side), also a National Monument, is another wonderful example of temple architecture, -this time in Teochew style. 

The Yueh Hai Ching temple.

The Yueh Hai Ching temple.

Through the doorway to the newly restored Yueh Hai Ching.

Through the doorway to the newly restored Yueh Hai Ching.

Incense coils.

Incense coils.

The oldest Teochew temple in Singapore (its building dates back to the 1850s), the Yueh Hai Ching features a elaborately decorated roof and is dedicated to Ma Zu and Xuan Tian Shang Di. The temple besides catering to the Teochew community, does also attract worshipers from the Cantonese community – especially during the Chinese New Year – the Cantonese and Teochew communities having an affinity with both having originated from Guangdong (Canton) province. More on the temple can be found at the Ngee Ann Kongsi’s website.

Inside the temple.

Inside the temple.

Another view inside the temple.

Another view inside the temple.

While taking a walk in the company of strangers through now sanitised streets of an old world we in modern times may have seemed to have over-romanticised might not fit into everyone’s idea of how they would want to spend an evening businesses have turned into an excuse for money making, it was a walk in which I was rewarded with the rediscovery of the romance of a festival and of times I might not have otherwise been reminded of.

Smoke from large joss sticks in the compound.

Smoke from large joss sticks in the compound.





The celebrating of Spring in the greater town

27 01 2014

The arrival of spring, commemorated by the Chinese by the celebration of the new year, brings much colour and life to the streets of the “Greater Town”, tua poh, as it was known as to the local population. Besides the street market – long a popular source of goods necessary to welcome in the new year, the area since 1985, has also been livened up by the illuminations of an annual Chinese New Year light-up.

No horse run - this year's light-up is perhaps light years ahead ...

No horse run – this year’s light-up is perhaps light years ahead …

Crowds thronging the street market.

Crowds thronging the street market this year.

I managed to take in the festive atmosphere on the streets, packed with crowds that the weekend before  the new year brings, but not before I attended a rather interesting sharing session on the celebration of Chinese New Year held at the URA Centre. Entitled “Cakap Heritage: All About Chinese New Year in Kreta Ayer / Chinatown” and jointly organised by the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the session provided a view not just of how the festival in years past would have been celebrated in the area, but also of the many ways in which Chinese New Year was observed all across Singapore through the recollections of several of the session’s participants.

A bus passenger The an gazes out at the festive light-up. The annual light-up is now a spectacle not to be missed.

A bus passenger The an gazes out at the festive light-up. The annual light-up is now a spectacle not to be missed.

One topic that was discussed at length during the session was shopping. Besides shopping for festive goodies, cards and decorations, Chinese New Year is also when new clothes and shoes – a must for every Chinese, are bought. For some it would be the only occasion to splurge on a new outfit and while many had theirs tailored, clothes for children were often bought from the Tua Poh street market – although as one former Changi Village resident did testify, shopping wasn’t necessarily confined to the streets of Chinatown.

Festive goodies on offer at the street market.

Festive goodies on offer at the street market.

A seemingly popular shop to buy shoes from, was the Phoenix Shoes Company, located in a shophouse along South Bridge Road. Although the shop wasn’t one I was familiar with, it did bring back memories of another shoe shop – further east along South Bridge Road, from which my parents got their shoes from. That shop, the Crane Shoe Store, is one I well remember for how a light green box in which the pair of shoes in the size desired, would come rushing down a chute from the store room above – almost without delay whenever the shop assistant shouted an order out.

The streets come alive in the lead-up to Chinese New Year.

The streets of the greater town come alive in the lead-up to Chinese New Year.

Other experiences ranged from the buying gold jewellery (On Choeng – a goldsmith on South Bridge Road, seemed a popular choice), to waxed products and ducks eggs. A name synonymous with the prelude to Chinese New Year these days, Lim Chee Guan – known for the long queues for what is today a must-have Chinese New Year treat, bak kwa or long yuk (sometimes translated to pork jerky or barbecued dried pork), did also get a mention. A participant did make the observation that queues would have been non-existent back in the 1950s – when it would be difficult for many. Another luxury mentioned was feasting on bats – something that a restaurant by the name of Oriental in the 1950s, was along with monkeys and squirrels, apparently quite well known for.

Shoppers at the street market.

Shoppers at the street market.

One the subject of luxuries, mention was also made of how for some of the less well-off folks – such as the Samsui women, Chinese New Year would be one of the rare, if not only occasion on which they would put meat, in the form of chicken, on the table, saving through the year to do so.  The mention of chicken does take me back to the Chinese New Years of my early childhood, when the second day involved visiting a family friend who helped on a chicken farm in old Punggol – besides the squealing of pigs for their supper and perhaps an unfortunate incident in which I swallowed a loose teeth biting into an ang ku kueh, a memory that does linger from those visits is the sight of a headless chicken bound for the pot, scampering around on the sandy ground. 

The colour of gold.

The colour of gold.

A consequence of the decades of social engineering in Singapore, is perhaps the loss of the use of the Chinese dialects, along with dialect group specific cultural practices such as was observed in the celebrations of yesteryear. Besides dialect group specific such as the Hokkien practice of Bai Ti Gong (honouring the Jade Emperor) still seen today, there are dialect group specific practices that have been adopted by the wider community such as the tossing of raw fish salad, yu sheng - a widely practiced Chinese New Year custom now in Singapore. This was confined initially to the Cantonese –  a gentleman recalled his first experience of it that went back to 1955. Other dialect group specific practices included taboos associated with Chinese New Year such as not sweeping the floor, and not throwing rubbish out of the house on the first days of the new year. 

A young shopper.

A young shopper.

One practice that was common across the community was letting-off firecrackers. The thunderous burst of noise, the acrid smell of gunpowder that lingered in the air and the sea of red paper that littered the streets, would not be something the younger folks would of course remember. Firecrackers which were banned after 1972 in Singapore – the first modern version of the Chingay parade organised in 1973 was offered as to compensate for that. These were however very much an integral part of the celebration before the ban and several of the participants did share experiences from the 1950s and 1960s, before the ban kicked in, such as how as girls they would not dare venture out on their own out of fear of mischievous boys would would lie in wait to scare the girls by throwing lighted crackers at them.

Scenes from Chinese New Years of days gone by ... the smell of gun powder and smoke that filled the air, and the sea of red left behind .... (source: National Archives, www.picas.nhb.gov.sg).

Scenes from Chinese New Years of days gone by … the smell of gun powder and smoke that filled the air, and the sea of red left behind …. (source: National Archives, http://www.archivesonline.nas,sg).

Still on the subject of firecrackers, a Danish couple shared how it was also common practice to let off crackers for the new year. Firecrackers are known there as “Chinese” – the smaller ones “one-cent Chinese” and the larger ones “two-cent Chinese” – a reference possibly to the origins of firecrackers.

Preserved fruits on offer,

Preserved fruits on offer.

Without the sound of firecrackers going off through the night, and perhaps with the distractions of the modern world and the dilution of cultural practices, Chinese New Year does seem a quieter affair these days. Chinese New Year, is however, very much still an occasion for the family to gather – the family reunion dinner is still very much an important part of the celebration for many families. And if one does brave the crowds on the streets of the Greater Town, streets that while perhaps are over sanitised and modernised, are where one does discover that the spirit of Chinese New Years past is one that is very much alive in the present. 

A view over the sanitised Chinatown and the modern city that has grown around it.

A view over the sanitised Chinatown and the modern city that has grown around it.

A view of the busy New Bridge Road with the galloping horses of the light-up.

A view of the busy New Bridge Road with the galloping horses of the light-up.





New journeys on the Rail Corridor

23 12 2013

It has been over two years since we saw the last train make its journey through the 26 kilometres of the Rail Corridor from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands. While we do know that the corridor will be preserved as a continuous and green corridor in its entirety, detailed plans have not as yet been developed on its future usage. Much of the corridor is today opened up as a space for the public to enjoy leisure and recreational activities and it is nice to see the corridor being used for events such as mass participation runs along stretches of it. One further use it will see in the interim is as an art space – the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in partnership with the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the National Arts Council (NAC) has announced that an interim art space will be made available underneath the Commonwealth Avenue viaduct structure along the Rail Corridor from Jan to Dec 2014.

The (former) rail corridor embarks on a different journey.

The (former) rail corridor embarks on a different journey.

The sheltered space – two walls beneath the viaduct structure, is to be transformed into a canvas that will provide an opportunity for street artists to develop their skills in producing artwork and perhaps bring life to a part of the Rail Corridor. RSCLS, an urban art collective and a recipient of the NAC Seed Grant, has been engaged by the NAC to curate the art work at space from February 2014 onwards and we can look forward to Street Art jams that will provide opportunities for first-hand experiences with street art. 


More on the Rail Corridor, it as a Green Corridor and the public effort to preserve it:






A sunrise where the sun may soon set

21 11 2013

7.01 am on 21 Nov 2013. The rising of the sun seen through storm clouds at one of the last natural stretches of beaches in Singapore. The beach, is off the area of Sembawang which was once Kampong Wak Hassan, along a coastline which hosted several coastal villages. Based on the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Draft Master Plan 2013 which we got to have a first glimpse of yesterday, the coastline is due to be altered through land reclamation (see graphic) – no change from the more recent Master Plans which the URA releases once every five years, including the 2003 Master Plan which invited Ms Margie Hall, a member of the Nature Society (Singapore) and a long time resident of Sembawang, to write to the URA on (see Feedback to URA by Margie Hall, 8 May 2003). While land reclamation in the area appears to have been put on hold and the beach area at Sembawang Park adjacent to Kampong Wak Hassan has been given a recent makeover, it does seem that the intention to reclaim land from the sea off the beach is very much still there.

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The temporary building which stood for 35 years

26 06 2013

A rather uninteresting and unremarkable building which was recently demolished was the Capitol Centre. Built b the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) as the Capitol Shopping Centre in 1976 on the site of the former National Showroom along North Bridge Road – well known as a landmark due to its towering neon advertisement tower (which came down in 1974), it was a meant as a structure intended to temporarily house the businesses and food stalls from the Hock Lam Street area which were displaced by urban renewal while they awaited resettlement.

Capitol Centre located across from the iconic Capitol Theatre was demolished at the end of 2011 to make way for a new development which will incorporate the Capitol, the Capitol Building and Stamford House.

Capitol Centre located across from the iconic Capitol Theatre was demolished at the end of 2011 to make way for a new development which will incorporate the Capitol, the Capitol Building and Stamford House.

The National Tower on North Bridge Road (source: Derek Tait)

The National Tower on North Bridge Road (source: Derek Tait)

Over the years the building was to see several transformations which did prolong its useful life. The first was in 1985. With the last of the building’s occupants moving to Hill Street Centre and Funan Centre in January of that year, the Capitol Shopping Centre was available for conversion into a car park to help solve the city’s parking woes. The conversion was completed in August 1985 and the centre became the Capitol Car Park Station which had a capacity of some 300 car park lots and 150 motorcycle lots.

A more significant transformation took place in 1992. That saw it become The Design Centre, an initiative by the Trade Development Board (TDB) to promote local product design capabilities. The Design Centre  included an exhibition space to showcase both local and international designs and a shop on the lower level, as well as a design library. The building also housed several offices of the TDB and the TDB run Export Institute of Singapore. The centre was opened in April 1992 by then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry, Lee Hsien Loong. The Design Centre played a part in organising overseas trade mission to promote local design as well as the International Design Forum.

A large part of the building after its conversion back to a commercial building was still used as a parking space.

A large part of the building after its conversion back to a commercial building was still used as a parking space.

A car park information board with parking charges listed seen just before the centre's closure.

A car park information board with parking charges listed seen just before the centre’s closure.

The Hock Lam Street area (in the foreground) in 1976 from which businesses were moved temporarily to the Capitol Shopping Centre - the flat roofed building seen at the top of the picture (image source: http://a2o.nas.sg/picas/).

The Hock Lam Street area (in the foreground) in 1976 from which businesses were moved temporarily to the Capitol Shopping Centre – the flat roofed building seen at the top of the picture (image source: http://a2o.nas.sg/picas/). Funan centre (Hock Lam is Hokkien for Funan) sits on top of the area today.

The Design Centre seen in 1993 (image source: http://a2o.nas.sg/picas/).

The Design Centre seen in 1993 (image source: http://a2o.nas.sg/picas/).

Despite the heavy investment in developing the building as The Design Centre, the centre closed not long after in 1995. The building then became the Capitol Centre which had the likes of bargain shops and private educational institutions using the space until it more recent closure to allow for its demolition to allow work on a redevelopment project which includes both the Capitol Building (and Theatre) and Stamford House to be carried out.

A notice of the closure of the road leading to the car park prior to work starting on the Capitol project.

A notice of the closure of the road leading to the car park prior to work starting on the Capitol project.

Capitol Centre just before its demolition.

Capitol Centre just before its demolition.

The front portion of of the upper level that was more recently used by a private education provider.

The front portion of of the upper level that was more recently used by a private education provider.

An air well in the building.

An air well in the building.

Even with its conversion for commercial use, The Design Centre and later the Capitol Centre, did feature quite a large car park with on the front area of it used by the tenants of the building. In its latter years, the spaces around the car park which being well shaded and airy, served as a popular hangout for the Myanmarese migrant community – with Peninsula Plaza next to it being where many businesses and eateries catering to the community were found.

Myanmarese migrants found the car park a cool and convenient space to hang out in.

Myanmarese migrants found the car park a cool and convenient space to hang out in.

The well shaded ground level of the car park.

The well shaded ground level of the car park.

Another view of the ground level - I often used the car park as a short cut.

Another view of the ground level – I often used the car park as a short cut.

An Auto Pay Station seen after the closure provides an indication of when the car park would last have been used.

An Auto Pay Station seen after the closure provides an indication of when the car park would last have been used.

Parts of the building provided wonderful perspectives of the buildings around, including of the Capitol Theatre.

Parts of the building provided wonderful perspectives of the buildings around, including of the Capitol Theatre.

Another perspective - the steeple of St. Andrew's across North Bridge Road seen over one of the airwells .

Another perspective – the steeple of St. Andrew’s across North Bridge Road seen over one of the airwells .

A view through a grilled opening of a staircase.

A view through a grilled opening of a staircase.

With the redevelopment, the place of Capitol Centre, and before it the National Showroom with its towering neon advertisement which featured prominently in the city skyline for much of the 1960s and early 1970s, will be taken by a 15 storey luxury residential tower sitting on a four storey shopping mall and a public plaza between in part of the space which will stretch across from the mall to the Capitol Building and Theatre. Judging from impressions of the redevelopment released by the developers, the tower will rise rather prominently above the iconic Capitol Building and dominate the development in the same way the National Tower before the Capitol Centre took its place had once dominated the area.

An artist impression of the Capitol Redevelopment on the Channnel NewsAsia website.

With the Capitol Redevelopment, Capitol Theatre will be restored as a theatre / cinema and the Capitol (former Shaws Building) will be converted into part of a luxury hotel.

With the Capitol Redevelopment, Capitol Theatre will be restored as a theatre / cinema and the Capitol (former Shaws Building) will be converted into part of a luxury hotel.





The making of Marina Bay

8 11 2012

The decades that followed Singapore’s somewhat reluctant independence from Malaysia were ones of enormous growth and development which has led to an amazing transformation of a city state, with a burgeoning population, the threat of unemployment and facing much uncertainty into the modern city that it is today. One place where that transformation is very apparent is in and around the city centre, particularly in the Marina Bay area which has seen it morph from the old harbour on which Singapore’s wealth was built into the city of the future built around what has become Singapore’s 15th fresh water reservoir that it is today.

The dawn of a new Singapore at Marina Bay.

View of Clifford Pier, the Inner Roads and the Breakwater in the 1950s from an old postcard (courtesy of Mr. Low Kam Hoong).

Map of Singapore Harbour in the 1950s showing the Detached Mole, Inner Roads and Outer Roads.

The transformation that took place was a story that began in the years that followed independence. Singapore embarked on the State and City Planning Project (SCP) in 1967, assisted by the United Nations under the UN Development Programme’s special assistance scheme for urban renewal and development for emerging nations. The SCP which was completed in 1971, Singapore’s first Concept Plan, identified the need to build an adequate road transportation network. This included a coastal highway to divert traffic that would otherwise have to go through the city. For this land was to be reclaimed, with the construction of what is today Benjamin Sheares Bridge providing a vital link. Initial thoughts were that a green belt could be created on the reclaimed land with space created providing for a future expansion of the city. What did become of the plan and further developments over the years was to give us not just the highway which is the East Coast Parkway (ECP), but in addition to that a city of the future, a city in a garden, and certainly what is a truly amazing new part of Singapore we celebrate today.

Singapore’s City in a Garden concept is very much evident in the transformation of Marina Bay.

The last decade has seen the many developments which were the result of decades of planning take shape around Marina Bay.

You can find out more about this transformation and how it took place by participating in a guided walk this weekend or the next, ‘The Making of Marina Bay‘ which be conducted by Zinkie Aw, held as part of a month long ‘Loving Marina Bay‘ event organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Details of the walk (and also one more that I will be conducting on 25 Nov 2012 entitled ‘A Walk Around the Old Harbour’) can be found at The Loving Marina Bay site. To sign up for the walks, do visit the Eventbrite signup page. The month long event will also feature a street museum exhibition at Clifford Square (in between Clifford Pier and One Fullerton) in which photographs of the old have been superimposed on the new to provide an appreciation of the changes around the bay through which you can also discover where places such as the Satay Club once were.

A ‘Street Museum’ panel at Clifford Square.

Discover where places such as the Satay Club were through the street museum.


About Loving Marina Bay

See the story of Marina Bay through our AmBAYssadors

Located at the heart of Singapore’s city centre, Marina Bay is the centrepiece of Singapore set to be a thriving 24/7 destination with endless exciting events and a necklace of attractions where people from all walks of life come together to live, work and play.

This photography exhibition showcases the different facets of the Marina Bay precinct through over 100 enthralling photos taken by 20 of our beloved AmBAYssadors made up of Singapore’s popular bloggers and photographers.

Heritage is very much part of the precinct’s foundation, captured in key historical landmarks such as Merlion Park and Collyer Quay.

An interesting Street Museum section chronicles Marina Bay’s story over its first few decades since the 1960s, telling a story of strategic, far-sighted and meticulous planning and committed engagement to reach its present state through archive photos superimposed on its modern-day context.

Join us during the month-long event where every weekend is full of exciting activities such as heritage walks and photography workshops led by our very own AmBAYssadors. We want you to be part of Loving Marina Bay too – submit a photo taken at Marina Bay anywhere, anytime to win prizes; or simply pen a Love Note to your family/friends, drop it into the red pillar post boxes at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore and we will send it anywhere in the world for you! Visit www.marina-bay.sg/lovingmb for more details.






A walk down Neil Road

30 10 2012

Tucked away in a rather quiet but no less interesting corner of a district of Singapore that has come to be called Chinatown is an area which is often overlooked. The area, in Chinatown’s south-western corner incorporates the Bukit Pasoh Conservation Area, part of the Tanjong Pagar Conservation Area and boasts several architectural gems, which have unfortunately been cast in the shadow of a towering 50 storey public housing development, The Pinnacle@Duxton at nearby Duxton Plain.

Several conservation gems can be found along Neil Road, including what would have been the houses of the very wealthy (judging from the enclosed front yards these units at No. 56 – 60) were provided with.

Units 56 – 60 Neil Road seen in 1983 (from the Lee Kip Lin Collection. All rights reserved. Lee Kip Lin and National Library Board, Singapore 2009).

The area is certainly one that is worth exploring, not just for the notable clan associations and clubs – one is the Ee Hoe Hean Club, a millionaires’ club dating back to 1895 that is associated with many luminaries including the illustrious Tan Kah Kee, set amongst the many rows of beautifully conserved shophouses. Running partly along the area’s southern boundary is Neil Road which can perhaps be said to lie at the heart of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) conservation efforts – the pilot shophouse conservation project undertaken by the URA stands at No. 9 Neil Road.

The Bukit Pasoh Conservation Area boasts many architectural conservation gems and is also one that has been cast in the shadow of a towering public housing development at nearby Duxton Plain.

The Ee Hoe Hean Club, a millionaires’ club dating back to 1895 that is associated with many of Singapore’s luminaries.

Neil Road starts off where South Bridge Road ends at its junction with Maxwell and Tanjong Pagar Roads, rising up towards the Bukit Pasoh area. It is at this point that a gorgeous and very recognisable piece of architecture, the Jinrikisha Station, greets one’s eye. Built in 1903 in the Edwardian style on a triangular plan with a fairfaced brickwork exterior, the building is one that certainly needs no introduction and is now owned by Hong Kong Jackie Chan. It is just up the road from the Jinrikisha Station that No. 9, which now serves as a home to a Chinese tea shop Tea Chapter, lies.

The Jinrikisha Station at the start of Neil Road – built as a registration centre for rickshaws is now owned by Jackie Chan.

The conservation of No. 9 Neil Road was undertaken as part of a pilot URA shophouse restoration project that took place from 1987 to 1988 that involved a total of 32 shophouses built at the end of the 19th century, with No. 9 selected as a demonstration unit. The restored unit at No. 9 was where HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip had tea at during a visit in 1989. The successful conservation project involving the 32 houses was the first phase of a larger effort to conserve a total of 220 government owned shophouses in the Tanjong Pagar area and intended to demonstrate the technical and commercial viability of shophouse conservation. The effort was one that was welcomed by conservationists as it had come at a time when large parts of the city had already been cleared of the pre-war shophouses which once dominated the cityscape.

No. 9 Neil Road – the very first conservation shophouse.

The 220 shophouses are on a 4.1 hectare site that was acquired from 1981 to 1984 by the Housing and Development Board (HDB). The units had contained a mix of businesses and residents including many traditional businesses – one was Chan Pui Kee, an antique dealer and antique furniture restorer which had operated at No. 7 since 1913 (and has since moved to a restored shophouse at Lorong 24A Geylang). The residents of the houses had lived mainly on the upper floors, some at the point of acquisition, having lived there for much of their lives. Many were trishaw riders, craftsmen, and even prostitutes who worked in the area, living in very crowded spaces, renting rooms or cubicles for as little as $4 a month. The acquired houses, many of which had once been in the hands of Arab property owners, were to be demolished to make way for public housing, but a shift in thinking of our urban planners on high density public housing in the city centre saved them from that fate.

Conserved three storey shophouses along Neil Road.

Walking up the incline of the road, there are further examples of the conservation efforts that eventually was to involve a greater part of Chinatown, including several voluntary conservation initiatives. One such initiative is the conservation of the former Eng Aun Tong factory building at 89 Neil Road. As many familiar with the area would be aware of, Eng Aun Tong was a name used by the Haw Par brothers and the factory was where the most famous of their products, Tiger Balm, was once made. Based on information on the URA conservation of built heritage site, the building was built in 1924 in the Neoclassical Style. The starting up of the factory coincided with the Aw family’s move to Singapore from Rangoon (Yangon) in the 1920s. The factory operated until 1971 when production operations were contracted out and production of the famous ointment was moved to the Jack Chia group’s factories in Jurong.

The conserved former Eng Aun Tong factory building – where Tiger Balm had once been made.

The Eng Aun Tong factory building as seen depicted in a 1920s advertisement for Tiger Balm (source: National Archives of Singapore).

Walking past the former Eng Aun Tong factory, one will notice the blue balustrades of a concrete bridge. The bridge is one that passes over what is technically the first rail corridor conservation project. The corridor – now a linear park named Duxton Plain Park was where an extension to the original rail line (pre-1932 Deviation) had been constructed in 1907 to connect the terminal at Tank Road to connect with the waterfront, extending to Pasir Panjang. Operations on the extension were short-lived and the line was dismantled in between 1912 to 1914. A stretch from Yan Kit Road to New Bridge Road was retained as a public park. The park is one that is associated with one of the clubs in the area, a martial arts association – the Chin Woo Athletic Association (精武體育會or 精武体育会), as is evident from a steel sign erected on one of the bridge’s balustrades which reads “精武體育會操場” – the park had long served as a training ground for the association which has had a presence in the area since its formation here in 1922. It has been reported that our first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew had often watched the association practice lion and dragon dances at the park in his younger days (he had lived as a boy in his paternal grandfather’s residence at nearby 147 Neil Road).

The bridge over the first rail corridor conservation project – now Duxton Plain Park. A sign tells us that it had served as a training ground for the Chin Woo Athletic Association. Living at nearby 147 Neil Road, Mr Lee Kuan Yew had as a young boy often caught many of the associations lion and dragon dance practice sessions at the park.

From this point, Neil Road soon crosses Cantonment Road and takes one west out of the Chinatown district towards another quiet and delightful conservation area, the Blair Plain Conservation Area. Crossing Cantonment Road, I am reminded of the many horror stories I have heard in my younger days that was associated with balancing the clutch on the slope at the junction during driving tests. Those were days when tests were conducted out of the former Maxwell Road driving test centre when the Traffic Police had its headquarters at the building which is today the Red Dot Design Museum. These days, it is across Cantonment Road that we notice a huge police presence – that of a towering new law enforcement complex named the Police Cantonment Complex.

A look into the compound of a conserved row of three shophouses at 56 – 60 Neil Road.

It might be a little hard to notice a little Victorian building that stands beneath the towering complex along Neil Road – especially now with its covered up for restoration work. The very pretty building, despite being very compact, once housed a school, and was where the Fairfield Girls’ School (which later became Fairfield Methodist School and is now Fairfield Methodist School) had operated at from 1912 to 1983. The building, built with the donation of a Mr Fairfield (hence the name of the school) is now part of the Police complex, although intended originally as a childcare centre for staff at the Police complex, the building will now house a Police recruitment centre.

The former Fairfield Methodist Girls’ School (photo on the URA website).

It is beyond the former Fairfield Methodist Girls’ School on the opposite side of the road that we come to the cluster of terrace houses which contains the unit that Mr Lee had spent some of his boyhood years at. Just down from that unit at No. 147, is No. 157 which is probably the jewel in the crown of the conservation efforts along Neil Road. That painted blue in an attempt to restore it to its original colour isn’t only a house which has seen it exterior restored but also one which has had much its fittings and furniture retained and restored and is possibly the best example of a Peranakan or Straits-born Chinese house from the turn of the 20th Century that exists today. The house, thought to have been built in the 1890s, had once belonged to shipping magnate Wee Bin and his descendants, has its interior retained through the conservation efforts of the National University of Singapore (NUS) (which owns the house having purchased it for the historical value of it and its contents) and the URA. Among the wonderfully preserved fittings is a very ornate carved wooden screen which separates the main hall from the interior of the house. The Baba House as it is called now, has some of its original furniture and flooring is well worth a visit. Visits are strictly by appointment only and advance arrangements for heritage tours are required. More information can be found at the NUS website. Do note that photography is not permitted inside the Baba House.

Baba House at 157 Neil Road – now owned by NUS and managed by NUS Museum was beautifully restored from 2006 to 2008.

Units 157 Neil Road (Baba House) seen in 1982 (from the Lee Kip Lin Collection. All rights reserved. Lee Kip Lin and National Library Board, Singapore 2009).


The walk along Neil Road was part of a guided walk “Neil Road/NUS Baba House Walking Tour“, one in a series of tours conducted by the URA in conjunction with the URA Architectural Heritage Awards 2012. While registration for two of the remaining tours are closed, there is an ongoing exhibition at the URA Centre Atrium until 10 November 2012 which showcases the five award winners. The exhibition is open Mondays to Fridays from 8.30am to 7pm and on Saturdays from 8.30am to 5pm. It is closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.






Marina Bay in the pink

7 10 2012

Three landmarks, the ArtScience Museum, the Helix Bridge, and Marina Bay Sands Hotel, in the Marina Bay area, turned bright pink on Friday evening, coloured in a global effort that has seen some 200 well-known landmarks and monuments across the world such as the Taj Mahal, the Empire State Building and Harrods take on the same pink glow. All this is part of an initiative by Estée Lauder, the Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign, intended to promote breast health and early detection in an effort to defeat breast cancer through education and medical research.

The ArtScience Museum awash in pink for the Global Illumination Initiative.

In its 20th year, the BCA Campaign was initiated by the late Mrs. Evelyn H. Lauder of The Estée Lauder Companies in 1992. It aims at creating a global impact to motivate women all around the world to see doctors regularly, perform monthly breast self examinations, and get an annual mammogram if they’re over the age of 40. Together with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) as the official venue partner, the landmarks were illuminated at a ceremony at the ArtScience Museum which was graced by Guest-of-Honour Dr. Amy Khor, Minister of State for Ministry of Health and Manpower, Ms Grace Ban, Managing Director of The Estée Lauder Companies, and Mrs. Noor Quek, President of the Breast Cancer Foundation (Singapore).

The ever lovely Sharon Au was the host for the evening.

Ms Grace Ban, Dr Amy Khor, Mrs Noor Quek with host Sharon Au, launching the illumination.

Watching the illumination of the Helix Bridge.

A toast to the campaign.

Host Sharon Au was her usual animated self.

The ceremony with the ever beautiful Sharon Au as host had guests turning the area under the fingers of the ArtScience Museum into a sea of pink, and saw a fashion show segment in which ten breast cancer survivors including Singapore Woman of the Year 2012, Ms Theresa Tan, take to the catwalk. Also on hand was Japanese artist, Takeshi Sato, wowing the crowd by painting a likeness of Mrs. Evelyn H. Lauder on stage whilst moving in sync to music that was being played, as a tribute to her.

Takeshi Sato at work.

Ms Theresa Tan and daughter down the catwalk.

This year’s message, is Courage, Believe in a world without breast cancer. Know we’re here until its true. It highlights The Estée Lauder Companies’ 20-Year commitment to defeating breast cancer through education and medical research and celebrates the life and legacy of BCA Campaign Founder and Pink Ribbon co-creator, Mrs Evelyn H. Lauder.

The Helix Bridge lit up in pink.

The campaign this year also sees for the very first time, an online charity auction, which was launched on 26 September to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation, Singapore. For the auction, many local celebrities have donated personal items. One is Michelle Chong, who donated a dress her character wore in Already Famous. The items also includes those donated by Andrea de Cruz, socialite Leonika Kei, model Serena Adsit and popular mandarin radio DJ Lim Peifen. Bids for the items can be placed online via The Estēe Lauder Companies’ microsite at www.bca2012auction.com. Bidding will close on 31st October 2012. Apart from celebrity donated items, the auction will also feature various luxury items and services donated to raise more money for the charity.





President Tony Tan Keng Yam visits the Journey of Possibilities

2 05 2012

URA Press Release

URA establishes Rail Corridor Partnership to explore and promote community activities along Rail Corridor

2 May 2012 – The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced today the formation of a Rail Corridor Partnership to look into the programming and promotion of community activities along the Rail Corridor. The Partnership is an expansion of the Rail Corridor Consultation Group, which was formed last July to provide input to the government on charting the future development plans for the Rail Corridor.

With the re-opening of the Rail Corridor on 9 January 2012, the Partnership will look for opportunities to promote community use of the space that spans the entire width of the island from north to south. Representatives from agencies such as the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Singapore Sports Council, and People’s Association will join the Partnership to further foster public-people sector collaboration along the Rail Corridor.

Collaborative effort to promote activities on the Rail Corridor

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who visited the ‘Journey of Possibilities’ exhibition at the URA Centre, said, “I am very encouraged that many groups and individuals are taking a keen interest in the Rail Corridor and are actively contributing their ideas and suggestions on the development and uses of the Rail Corridor. I am also glad that URA is stepping up engagements with Singaporeans to develop the Rail Corridor into a unique feature of our urban landscape that can be enjoyed by all Singaporeans.”

Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who chairs the Partnership, highlighted the collaborative nature of the group. He said, “The expanded role of the Rail Corridor Partnership will see a stronger collaboration between public sector agencies, interest groups, and individuals to promote and support suitable activities and events along the Rail Corridor. I hope that our engagement will continue to be constructive and fruitful going forward.”

The URA will work closely with partner agencies to assess the range of possible community uses and events as well as the necessary infrastructural requirements needed to support these activities along the Rail Corridor. The Rail Corridor Partnership will also provide advice on the public engagement efforts and proposed activities for the Rail Corridor. Such activities could span from community level events to national events that utilise the entire Rail Corridor. The feedback gathered from these events would be used by URA to draw up the design specifications and requirements that will form part of the brief for the Rail Corridor Master Plan and Design Competition that is being considered at the moment.

President met with winners of Ideas Competition

During his visit to the ‘Journey of Possibilities’ exhibition, President Tony Tan met with some of the winners of the Ideas Competition who shared with him their ideas for the Rail Corridor. The President was also introduced to members of the Rail Corridor Partnership and jury members of the Ideas Competition.

The ‘Journey of Possibilities’ exhibition features about 80 entries comprising 18 winning ideas, 19 honourable mentions, as well as other innovative entries received for the Ideas Competition. The exhibition also showcases some of the interesting feedback and suggestions received on URA’s Rail Corridor website since its launch in July last year. The exhibition ends on 11 May 2012.

The URA launched the Ideas Competition on 30 November 2011 to draw innovative and fresh new ideas from the public in addressing some of the key challenges and issues in planning for the future use of the Rail Corridor. The Ideas Competition attracted more than 200 submissions from both local and overseas participants. The URA will study the ideas and concepts from all these entries and distil from them suitable design principles and parameters that can form part of the brief for the Rail Corridor Master Plan and Design Competition that may be held in the future.





75 feet above the harbour

30 03 2012

From a vantage point 75 feet (about 23 metres) over Singapore’s former harbour, officers with the Harbour Division of the Preventive Branch of the Department of Customs and Excise (which later became Singapore Customs), stood watch over the Inner Roads of the harbour for more than three decades. The vantage point, a panoramic lookout tower that we still today, was part of the Customs Harbour Branch Building built over an L-shaped pier along the waterfront at the end of Collyer Quay. The building and pier, built at a cost of S$1.8 million, was completed in October 1969. The complex housed the 300 strong force of the then Harbour Division, as well as provided berths and maintenance facilities (which included a slipway) for some 35 launches and speedboats of the Division when it first opened. The building also provided cargo examination facilities and its construction allowed the Division to move from its somewhat makeshift premises in a godown in Telok Ayer Basin.

What is today a posh dining destination, Customs House, with its very distinct 75 foot lookout tower, was formerly the Customs Harbour Branch Building. It was completed in October 1969 and housed the Harbour Division of the Customs Preventive Branch.

The Customs Harbour Branch Building in 2006 (source: URA site on Conservation Matters).

Collyer Quay in July 1974 seen beyond the Detached Mole, a breakwater that sheltered the Inner Roads from the opened Outer Roads. The Customs Harbour Branch Building and its distinct 75 foot tower is seen on the extreme left of the photograph (Photo courtesy of Peter Chan).

While 75 feet in the context of what now surrounds the former Customs complex, the tower allowed customs officers to keep a round-the-clock watch over the harbour for small boats attempting to sneak dutiable goods into Singapore. The octagonal shaped and fully air-conditioned watch tower which is supported by a cylindrical base provided a panoramic view which extended beyond the Inner Roads to the mouth of the Singapore River, the Geylang River and Tanjong Rhu. Officers spotting a suspicious boat could then alert their colleagues manning the speedboats which were on standby by the pier who would then head out to intercept the suspicious boat.

A side elevation of the former Customs Harbour Branch Building with its very distinct lookout tower (source: URA site on Conservation Matters).

At the bottom of the 75 feet climb up a spiral staircase to the lookout tower - reminiscent of climbs up several lighthouses I've visited.

In between heavy panting, I managed to appreciate the view halfway up.

At the end of the 75 feet climb - a view of the lookout tower's ceiling.

Looking down at the cause of my heavy breathing.

Use for the building and the pier in its intended role ended with the construction of the Marina Barrage which cut what were the Inner Roads of the old harbour off from the sea and the building then under the Maritime and Port Authority’s charge was passed over to the Singapore Land Authority in 2006. Customs House was given conservation status in 2007 and was reopened as a dining destination under the management of Fullerton Heritage, which also manages the former Clifford Pier and the Fullerton Hotel. The tower itself is however disused and remains inaccessible to the general public.

At the top of the lookout tower.

The lookout tower no longer commands a view of a harbour littered with bumboats, twakows and tongkangs, but of the new world that is Marina Bay.

Show me the money! An interpretation perhaps of the new view - as seen in the reflection of a window of the lookout tower offered by one of the installations for i Light Marina Bay 2012 - Teddy Lo's MEGAPOV.

Seeing double - BIBI's Bibigloo and a reflection of it as viewed from the lookout tower.





Rediscovering a 40 year old icon in a new sea of light

12 03 2012

I’ve often wandered down Collyer Quay in the evening in the days when the smell of the sea filled the air to catch the evening’s breeze. Glancing out to where the sky met the sea, the view in the dark was one of the flicker of the sea of lights of the numerous ships that lay at anchor, interrupted by the sweep of the beam that shone from Fullerton Light – the lighthouse that stood atop the Fullerton Building – then the General Post Office (GPO). It was always a fascinating sight for me – one that I was always thrilled to take-in. That was years ago and the world as I had known it then, has been transformed to the glow of lights that seemed to have grown out of the seeds planted by of the lights of the old harbour. The glow is the new world that is Marina Bay, a world that glitters with the gold that the old harbour it grew out of has given. The new glow – brighter than the old, makes Marina Bay a world that is one to marvel at and one that for three weeks will glow even brighter with the colours and the lights that i Light Marina Bay 2012 brings to it.

Coming of age - one of the older icons in the brand new Marina Bay will be bathed in a sea of light during i Light Marina Bay 2012.

The highly anticipated festival, the second edition of i Light Marina Bay, was opened officially by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minster and Minster for Finance and Minister for Manpower on Friday. At the ceremony at the Promontory @ Marina Bay, Mr Shanmugaratnam spoke of his pleasure to be at Marina Bay, which he said attracted a record 23 million visitors last year, “to be immersed in the energy of a new downtown which has been evolving” and observed that the many developments in the area have transformed the skyline, and “imbued our city with more excitement, colour and vibrancy”. Mr Shanmugaratnam in his speech, spoke of the ‘software’ that was required to make and sustain a place – such as the festival, which serves to bring the community together to enjoy the place, and also help in defining an identity for the Bay. The Deputy Prime Minister also observed that “do so through a display of beautiful light art installations is creative, fun and delightful”.

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at the opening ceremony of i Light Marina Bay 2012.

Launching the festival.

After Light, an installation involving projections on shipping containers, is seen behind the stage at the opening.

Street performers - who were present at the opening, will also feature in the area during the period of the festival (top photo taken with LUMIX GF-3).

Fun and delightful the festival certainly has, in the first few days of the opening, proved to be. The festival’s 31 installations drew large crowds to the bay area over the weekend and judging from the number of visitors – one of the crowd favourites must be the Light of The Merlion – the brainchild of Nuno Maya and Carole Purnelle of OCUBO. OCUBO translates into “The Cube” in Portuguese, a name which reflects the geometric nature of the team’s projection work which for the work commissioned for i Light Marina Bay involves the projection of a combination of colours on the surface of the Merlion that are determined purely by members of the public through an interactive screen at the site. It is through this interactivity – a feature of all the group’s work, that the colours of the 40-year-old much-loved icon are changed through the evening – something which is designed to create a memorable experience with which the Merlion can be rediscovered with members of the public placed in the role of the creator. Based in Sintra, a delightful hilltop town in Portugal which boasts of the magical Sintra National Palace, OCUBO – an art and multimedia studio dedicated to light projects has presented light, multimedia and interactive art works in countries such as Japan, Australia, Singapore, Israel, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Poland and also conceived, produced and directs Portugal’s only light festival, the LUMINA Light Festival.

Light of The Merlion allows members of the public to play the role of the creator through an interactive panel which lets the public choose the colours to be projected on the much-loved 40-year-old icon (photo taken with LUMIX GF-3).

Nuno Maya (left), one half of OCUBO, at the opening ceremony (photo taken with LUMIX GF-3).

The many colours of the Light of The Merlion ... (photo taken with LUMIX GF-3)

After the opening ceremony, Mr Shanmugaratnam and guests were also able to take a tour of the bay by boat – a wonderful way of not just taking-in the sights around the bay, but also to have an excellent view of The Light of the Merlion and other installations that are around the bay’s waterfront including the festival’s largest projection Garden of Light, and the unmistakable red glow in the dark – BIBI’s Bibigloo at the Promontory @ Marina Bay. The eye-catching installation is an igloo made of 250 plastic jerry cans and is a replacement igloo intended to spread awareness of global warming and melting glaciers. BIBI has since 1992, attempted to explore man’s relationship to the environment, as well as the capacity to confront the contradictions with regard to waste production, through the use of everyday objects made from materials such as plastic using light to give life to his installations.

The eye-catching red glow in the dark - Bibigloo made out of 250 plastic jerry cans aims to raise awareness of rising temperatures and melting glaciers with a replacement plastic igloo (photo taken with LUMIX GF-3).

BIBI (right), the creator of Bibigloo.

The Festival Director, Ms Mary-Anne Kyriakou (centre) with artists present at the opening and Mr Mark Goh of URA.

The trial of light that I followed after the boat ride, somehow compelled me to take a walk towards the ArtScience Museum and onwards to the seating gallery at the Float @ Marina Bay, under which there are several other interesting installations. One – Sweet Home, which a mention of was made in my previous post, is an attempt by Swedish based Aleksandra Stratimirovic to make ugly places pretty. Ms Stratimirovic’s attempt to create a homely atmosphere through the use of lanterns must have been a very good one as the artists had used the installation to hold an opening night celebration late into the night.

Sweet Home an installation by Swedish based Aleksandra Stratimirovic under the seating gallery of the Float @ Marina Bay, aims to make an ugly place pretty - colourful forms of lanterns used in the installation are designed to spread warmth and homeliness in the urban environment (photo taken with LUMIX GF-3).

The artists certainly gave their thumbs-up! They found Sweet Home homely enough to spontaneously hold a party there on opening night (photo taken with LUMIX GF-3).

i Light Marina Bay 2012 is on until 1 April 2012 and several fringe activities and events will be held during the weekends – for a listing, do visit the events page on the i Light Marina Bay 2012 website. Information on Boat Taxis which provide an excellent way to see the installations on the waterfront also operate during the weekends, departing every 15 minutes between 7.30pm to 10.00pm from Fridays to Sundays from 10 March to 1 April and cost $4 per trip – more information is also available on the website’s events page.





The coming of light at Marina Bay

8 03 2012

Come Friday (9 March 2012), Marina Bay will be aglow, bathed in the colours of lights that will transform the area into a greater spectacle than it already is. Friday sees the opening of the sequel to the highly successful first edition of Asia’s only sustainable light art event of two years ago, i Light Marina Bay 2012, which on the evidence of a media preview of the event – Asia’s first and only sustainable Light Art Festival held last evening, is one that will be a feast for the senses.

i Light Marina Bay 2012 brings a spectacle of colour and light to the already spectacular Marina Bay.

Organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and with festival direction provided by Smart Light, this year’s edition will feature 22 works which will be by Asian based artists and designers. This is in line with the festival’s theme of “Light Meets Asia”. Beyond the theme, the festival aims to also promote sustainability and the use of energy-efficient technology – a message that the 31 works selected for the festival will carry. A total of 17 countries are represented in the 31 works, which were selected from some 100 submissions. 21 of the works are festival commissions.

Ms Mary-Anne Kyriakou, the Festival Director and Mr Mark Goh, Deputy Director of URA’s Place Management Department, speaking at the media preview.

As the area around which the 31 installations is large, the media preview, led by Festival Director Ms Mary-Anne Kyriakou, covered some of the highlights of the festival. One of the highlights Key Frames – a delightful installation set by the Float @ Marina Bay which has not just 30 light stick figures in various poses seemingly dancing in a routine choreographed to the music, it makes the viewer want to also dance with them. The installation is by French light artists, Groupe LAPS, which hails from the World’s largest light festival, Lyon’s Fête des Lumières.

Lighted stick figures are brought to life in a choreographed display by the Float @ Marina Bay. The light and sound show, Key Frames, is the work of Groupe LAPS from the World's largest light festival, the Fête des Lumières, Lyon.

A full exposure of Key Frames.

The highlights also included some of the more eye-catching installations – those that involved projections on two of the new icons of Singapore that are hard to miss. One is that of the interactive projection on the Merlion, Light of the Merlion – the work of Portuguese projection artists, OCUBO, which I did not have an opportunity yet to photograph. With Light of the Merlion, visitors are able to control light projections on the surface of the Merlion through an interactive touch-screen at Merlion Park. The other installation that certainly cannot be missed is the animated projection on three fingers of the ArtScience Museum, which uses 3D digital mapping technology – best viewed from The Helix (bridge), which is the work of local projection artists Hexogon Solution. The work, entitled Garden of Light, is also the largest projection at the festival. Hexogon Solution is one of eleven Singaporean artists whose works would be seen at the festival.

A close of the animated projection on the ArtScience Musuem.

Three interesting works can also be found in a rather unconventional space – under the seating gallery of seating gallery of The Float @ Marina Bay. The first, Sweet Home, is a site-specific work by Swedish based Serbian artist Aleksandra Stratimirovic is an adaptation of an original work created for Belgrade of Light 2011. The work aims to make ugly places pretty – the original work in Belgrade was an attempt to bring warmth and a homely atmosphere to one of the most polluted, busiest and exciting streets in Belgrade. For i Light Marina Bay 2012, Sweet Home, supported by Philips Lighting, attempts to use the colourful forms of the lanterns used in the installation to spread warmth and homeliness in the urban environment. The second installation here is American artist Dev Harlan’s Parmenides I. This is a large-scale geometric sculpture which incorporates a 360 degree projection mapped video which was previously exhibited at the New Museum’s New Ideas for the New City Festival in New York. The work features hypnotic 3D projections of swirling abstract patterns that gives a sense of movement, colour and form. The third, Crystallised by Andrew Daly and Katherine Fife from Australia, is one to look up to. The work which is an abstraction of the starry night sky, is an installation of five thousand hollowed-out and edge-lit acrylic rods which attempts to create a glowing internal landscape like a ceiling of a cave with glittering stalactites. It is under this that visitors walk and reflect on the impact of poorly considered lighting on city life.

Dev Harlan's Parmenides I.

The glowing internal landscape under which visitors walk and reflect on the impact of poorly considered lighting on city life - Crystallised by Andrew Daly and Katherine Fife.

Several installations are also located across the bay at the Promontory and the Waterfront Promenade. This includes After Light – which makes use of shipping containers the ends of which projections are made on which will examine the significance of light in New Zealand, from where the group behind the installation, StoryBox hails, and across cultures to Asia. The containers will also incorporate two site specific installations inside the containers that feature the work of budding talents from Singapore’s La Salle College of the Arts and School of the Arts. The area will also feature the glow of cocktail stirrers that have been transformed by French/Filipino artist Olivia d’Aboville into a glowing reef of coral-like sculptures that encourages visitors to interact with, much as a coral reef attracts life under the sea to do so, entitled Coral Garden. Other works in the area include Planting Shadows by Singapore’s Vertical Submarine; Thai sculptor Be Takerng Pattanopas’ Gap the Mind; the orange-red glow of France’s BIBI’s Bibigloo; Receptacle by Cambodia’s Marine Ky; Uh by the Propeller Group from Vietnam and one that is definitely should not be missed – Classification Pending by Craig Walsh from Australia which has 3D animated projections of artificial marine life forms on the waters of the bay.

Installation being carried out for After Light, by Story Box from New Zealand.

The coral garden at the Promontory - Coral Garden by French/Filipino artist Olivia d’Aboville.

Over the Marina Bay City Gallery, The Gate promises to be a huge attraction with its red beams of light. The work of Li Hui, which uses a powerful symbol of a portal which the red beams lead to – a passage perhaps to enlightenment, is one that we are not able to pass through. It suggests that enlightenment is a goal that cannot be attained.

The Festival Director Ms Mary-Anne Kyriakou speaks through the red beams of light of Li Hui's The Gate.

Li Hui, whose silhouette is seen at the right, speaking about his work.

An exit it is not. The Gate which can be seen to look at enlightenment as a goal that can never be achieved, is one that we are not able to go through.

Along the waterfront promenade leading to Marina Bay Sands and in front of Marina Bay Sands are a series of 9 other installations, which include two works by Singaporean artist we were introduced to – a squid like creature 5QU1D by Ryf Zaini and the work of Zulkifle Mahmod named Deck Journey. The series of 31 installations are spread around the bay and would definitely take much more than an evening to fully appreciate. One, the work of another Singaporean artist Angela Chong, Tree Stories, is found somewhat off the beaten track over at Esplanade Park. Tree Stories involves illuminated text on tree trunks which encourages interaction in the form of dialogue between the reader and the tree. Besides Tree Stories and Light on the Merlion, there are also several other installations that invite interaction – something that would appeal especially to the kids. These include several located in and around the seating gallery at The Float @ Marina Bay – White Rain by Japan’s Takahiro Matsuo, Urban Makyoh by UK based “lighting guerillas” Light Collective and Immersion by Martin Bevz and Kathryn Clifton from Australia. Several are also located over at the waterfront in front of Marina Bay Sands – The Light Dam by Taiwan’s Uno Lai, Illumination Disorders II by Singapore’s Tay Swee Siong and Bio Shell by Shinya Okuda of Japan. Installations can all be visited free of charge and will be on from 7.30pm to 11pm nightly.

Ryf Ziani and 5QU1D.

Zulkifle Mahmod's Deck Journey.

A series of activities and events has also been arranged during the festival which include free guided tours, workshops and also a photography competition in which participants will have a chance to win prizes worth up to $10,000 sponsored by LUMIX (who have also kindly lent LUMIX cameras for the Photo AmBayssadors and Official Bloggers to use during the period of the festival. More information can be found at the i Light Marina Bay 2012 website.


All photographs in this post have been taken with a LUMIX GF-3.





A new face to a once familiar place

24 11 2011

Some might remember a time when Punggol Point lay at the end of a somewhat long and winding road – the old Punggol Road that meandered through a countryside that we have since lost. The road, which started at its junction with Upper Serangoon Road where the St. Francis Xavier Minor Seminary served as a landmark, took one past some five miles of the many tracks of Punggol, villages and farms with attap and zinc roofed houses and a lot of which I don’t quite remember. What I did remember was the unmistakeable pong that hung in the air – one that was fed by the numerous poultry and pig farms that had thrived in the area, and perhaps the evening’s chorus of squeals – that of pigs calling for their dinner.

The beach at Punggol Point - now cleaned up and freed of the boatels and boats that added colour to the landscape.

The end of the road offered a lot to those who did brave the journey. There was first and foremost the cluster of seafood restaurants that drew many with the reward of reputedly some of the best and freshest seafood dishes on the menu in which service always seemed to begin with the customary basin in which one found the table’s utensils and teacups, cleansed in the water that the basin held. There was also the weekend crowd that came: those armed with rods to fish at the jetty, or board a boat to attempt to reel in a bigger catch offshore – which invariably included a lot of Ikan Sembilang; and those who sought to satisfy a need for speed planing over the water on waterskis – either off Punggol Point or at nearby Coney Island. For some, Punggol Point also offered a quiet escape from the fast moving concrete world that was taking over much of the rest of Singapore – the fishing village it hosted by the sea adding to the rustic charm that the area already held.

Punggol Point before the big change that took place at the end of the 1980s and in the early 1990s (source: http://picas.nhb.gov.sg).

The last I saw of that Punggol Point and of Punggol Road was at a time when I was still in my youth, and with the distractions of a decade when I made the transition from being a curious child to adulthood, a decade that probably saw the most significant change in Singapore’s rural landscape – the 1980s, the clearing of Punggol as it was at the end of the 1980s seemed to have passed me by. Some business at Punggol Point like the seafood restaurants and boatels did have an extended lease of life, but they too went in the early 1990s, and Punggol, as with much of Singapore, was to be changed forever.

Looking west today towards what was the area close to the mouth of Sungei Punggol.

I was to discover how much has changed as I made my way over the weekend for the first time in over two decades to Punggol Point for the official opening of Punggol Point Walk and Punggol Point Park. The journey was there of course now made a lot easier by the Tampines Expressway (TPE) which runs below an elevated stretch of Punggol Road, no longer was there a need to make one’s way over Upper Serangoon Road to the start of that long and narrow Punggol Road. There wasn’t much that I had expected to see that would have reminded me of the old Punggol Road and Punggol Point, as I tirelessly drove along what is now a wide dual carriageway, flanked not by attap and zince roofed houses and greenery, but by the new HDB estate that has risen out of the ashes of the old Punggol. A surprise awaited at the last stretch of the road – the dual carriageway merged, after a wide junction into a stretch on which for a moment, gave me a feeling that I was on my way to that old Punggol Point. Flanked by a line of trees which provided cover to the short but winding stretch of road, it did look as if I was heading down the old Punggol Road – which this stretch was a part of, kept almost as it might have been as a heritage road. Althought the ‘Tracks’ of Punggol Road were gone, there is still a couple of familar streets – one Ponggol Seventeenth Avenue brings with it memories I have of campfires and walks by a narrow beach that led to the mouth of Sungei Punggol. It is after the next familiar name, Ponggol Twenty-Fourth Avenue, that the realisation sinks in that it is not to that old Punggol Point that I was heading to, as the break in the cover of trees reveals the brand new world which will attempt to retain some of that rustic charm that the old Punggol Point had been known for.

The tree lined stretch of road that leads to the end - reminiscent of the Punggol Road of the days gone by.

Past the Outward Bound School, I soon arrived at the end of the road. Desperate to see what Punggol Point has become, I quickly make my way up a viewing deck, which I was to find out later, shaped like a ship. The viewing deck offered a wonderful panorama of the Straits of Johor and Pasir Gudang beyond the jetty which it overlooked, where stakes used to moor boats and the boats tied to them would have once greeted the eye. On both sides, a beach that looked a lot cleaner than the one I remembered ran up and down the coastline, cleared of the boatels and the stilted houses of a Malay kampung that once stood close to the water’s edge. The beach, and perhaps the jetty are perhaps what can connect us with the past, and a reminder in the form of a National Heritage Board sign of an unfortunate and tragic episode in our history that took place on the beach – the Sook Ching Massacre.

The jetty today.

The lookout that I stepped on to, is part of what is a 1.2 km promenade and park, the Punggol Point Walk and Punggol Point Park, which is one of three thematic zones of the $16.7 million 4.9 km long Punggol Promenade project undertaken by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) that was officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on 20 Nov 2011. This is a component of its Parks and Waterbodies and Identities Plans which aims to open up and introduce new recreational activities and amenities to coastal areas, and also preserve the laid-back and village-like appeal that the areas are known for. Punggol Promenade will link up two recreational clusters at Punggol Point and Punggol East, as well as link to the park connectors along Punggol Reservoir and Serangoon Reservoir. This will form a continuous 17 km loop around the north-eastern part of Singapore. The two other thematic zones are the 1.3 km Riverside Walk which anchors a growing recreational cluster at Punggol East which opened in March this year and a 2.5 km Nature Walk, scheduled to be completed next year.

Punggol Point Walk and Punggol Point Walk was officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on 20 Nov 2011.

Ms Penny Low, Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, speaking at the opening.

Location Plan of Punggol Promenade and Punggol Point Walk and Punggol Point Park. © Urban Redevelopment Authority. All rights reserved.

A dragon who's eyes were painted by DPM Teo used in a dragon dance performance at the opening.

Dragon dance performance by Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC residents.

The Punggol Point Park offers a lot more besides the viewing deck and the beach, there are also the calm of Lily Ponds, a 81 metre by 10 metre Event Plaza and a Children’s Playground to draw families to enjoy the newly opened park. There is certainly more to look forward to – a reserve site has been released by the URA for sale by tender for food and beverage development – which will perhaps see the return of seafood to the area, and a horse-riding school will also soon open. The Promenade at Punggol Point Walk will feature both a 3 metre wide cycling track for use by cyclists and roller skaters and a parallel 3 metre wide footpath constructed of simulated timber. A sustainable approach is in fact adopted in the selection of materials for use in the project that also involves the use of permeable Tegula pavers on hard scaped area which eliminate the need for drainage systems, the use of bio-swales to filter surface run-offs and the use of Laterite earth.

The Lily Pond.

Besides the mobile ice-cream vendor - there is now a lot more to attract those with children to visit the park and promenade.

The Children's Playground. © Urban Redevelopment Authority. All rights reserved.

Footpaths and cycling paths at the waterfront promenade. © Urban Redevelopment Authority. All rights reserved.

I must say that although I didn’t really find much of the old Punggol Point that I might have hoped for, I am grateful to have taken the opportunity to visit the area. The drive through the heritage road did help trigger a few memories that I have stored away, as did my walk around the new park. While much of the old world rustic charm has inevitably been lost, there is still some of that charm that is left to draw vistors to the area and to also draw me back not just for the chance to escape from the urban world, but also for the opportunity it offers me to rediscover and reconnect with a part of Singapore I have might have almost forgotten about.






A gradual reopening of the Rail Corridor

2 09 2011

Members of the media and the Rail Corridor working group were provided with an update on the track removal works and plans to reopen parts of the Rail Corridor as work is being completed early this morning during a walkabout in the vicinity of Bukit Timah Railway Station with Minister of Law, Mr. K Shanmungam, the Minister of State (National Development) BG Tan Chuan-Jin, the Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Law, Ms Sim Ann, and officers from the SLA, MND, URA and Nparks.

Minister of Law, Mr Shanmugam briefed members of the media and the Rail Corridor Consultation Group on the progress of SLA's track removal work and the reopening of the Rail Corridor for use by the community.

Mr Shanmugam being briefed by a SLA officer near the truss bridge.

The Minister also responded to concerns raised by members of the public about damage to existing vegetation during track removal works in the vicinity of the station and explained that the SLA had been “aware of the need to preserve vegetation and no trees were removed”. He also stated that turfing works over the area of the removed tracks, which is now quite evident, was necessary to ensure that there was little risk of water ponding. The tracks, all ancilliary structures such as signal posts, kilometre markers and the ballast are being removed and returned as part of the agreement with Malaysia, with the exception of a stretches in way of the platforms of the two conserved stations and the three bridges that will be retained.

Turfing work south of Bukit Timah Railway Station.

A section of the tracks in way of the Bukit Timah Railway Station platform is being retained.

Another view of Bukit Timah Railway Station. Besides the tracks, one sign and several other structures are being kept.

A map at the station showing SLA's removal plans which identify the bridges that will be retained.

The truss bridge at Bukit Timah / Dunearn Roads with trufing work and the portion of tracks to be retained very much in evidence.

The SLA also announced the reopening of a 1.4 kilometre stretch of the Rail Corridor where track removal and turfing work is being completed from the 16th of September. The stretch is from the steel truss bridge over Bukit Timah / Dunearn Road southwards. This will allow members of the public to enjoy walks along the stretch. Work to remove the tracks is scheduled to be completed by 31st December this year and portions of the former railway land will be progressively opened to the public as the removal works are being completed.

Rather than the green SLA signs we are used to, signs welcoming the public are being put up along the stretches of the Rail Corridor that are bing reopened.

The portion of the track being retained at the truss bridge at Bukit Timah / Dunearn Roads. a 1.4 km stretch from the bridge southwards is being opened up to the public from 16th September.

Mr Shanmugam being interviewed by members of the media at Bukit Timah Railway Station.

Mr Shanmugam speaking to Mr Leong Kwok Peng of the Nature Society (Singapore).

The public will also have access to the former Bukit Timah Railway Station building. Members of the public are advised refrain from acts vandalism, which the bridges and the tracks have been subject to. The station as we see today, has been stripped of items belonging to the railway, including signalling equipment and signal levers (except for six that remain). The station sign on the north end has also been returned to Malaysia, with Singapore retaining the one on the south end. The longer term plans for Bukit Timah Railway Station will be part of the URA’s comprehensive review of development plans for the former railway land and their surrounding areas and as part of its review, the URA will study the possibility of marrying development and greenery, such as applying innovative strategies to maintain a continuous green link along the rail corridor without affecting the development potential of the lands.

The Station Master's room at Bukit Timah Station, stripped of the safe which sat on the yellow support structure next to the door.

Another view of the room where the key token signal equipment had once been placed.

All that are left are six signal levers.

Another view of the six signal levers.


Photographs proivided by SLA explaining the track removal process:






The Green Corridor has the PM’s support!

15 08 2011

In his speech during the National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made what appears to be an endorsement of the efforts of the Ministry of National Development (MND) and the Urban redevelopment Authority (URA) in engaging various interest groups and the public on the use of the former KTM rail corridor, and also for the idea to develop a green corridor through the land. He cited this as an encouraging example in which Singaporeans are engaging the Government and “going beyond giving views … and coming forward to work with one other and with the government on projects which matter to them”. PM Lee also mentioned creating of “a green corridor along the railway land” citing “many views outside encouraging the government to make this a beautiful green corridor to add to the amenities of living in Singapore” and said that the MND and URA and he are all very keen on this and URA is carrying out an extensive public consultation to look for “creative ways of preserving green spaces without affecting development potential of the land”.

The Green Corridor has received the PM's support ... a butterfly seen at the Clementi Woodland area near Holland Road as track clearing work is being carried out.

PM Lee also mentioned that there were many bright ideas from students, architects, design professionals to use sections as creative arts and performing spaces and to develop a leisure corridor, linked to the park connector network and highlighted a proposal which he mentioned was “creative and imaginative” from a recent graduate of the NUS Architecture Department, Ms Regina Koo who suggested building a “Velo-Park” with bikeways, bike rental stalls, bike club and bike café “where one can have a bite on a bike”, saying that the Government would be looking forward to other good ideas saying “don’t just tell us what to do, but help us to do it”.

A proposal by Regina Koo, a recent Architecture graduate from NUS involves a Velo-Park (MND image via Channel NewsAsia).


Recent images around the Clementi Woodland / Holland Road area:

Tracks have been cleared and beyond the stretch where work first started to remove the tracks, clearance work seems more contained.

Another view of the area - much of the vegetation here is intact.

The scene closer to Bukit Timah Station from the south - turfing work over where the tracks lay is very much in evidence.










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