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.





Kois swimming on the Fullerton’s façade

1 12 2011

Being fond of graphic light projections on our heritage buildings since seeing one at my old school building last year, I was delighted to be invited for one at the Fullerton Hotel last evening. The show of light during which the hotel’s iconic façade came alive with creepers growing, koi fishes swimming and fireflies fluttering – all part of a 3D animation and projection show, spectacularly brought to a close the year-long celebrations for the 10th Anniversary of The Fullerton Hotel Singapore.

The Fullerton's gift for its 10th Anniversary - a spectacular show of lights.

Projection techniques were employed for the show that were showcased for the first time in Asia. And for this, the hotel collaborated with CPG Productions, the Singapore firm which was behind the opening and closing ceremonies for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. The 10 minute show took two months of preparation and was inspired by the hotel’s transformation from the General Post Office Building to the heritage hotel it is today, involving a team which included an architect as well as experts in 3D modelling and animation, concluding with a holiday-themed finale to usher in the festive season.

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Seven years old and making dreams and wishes come true

4 11 2011

Drop by the Fullerton Hotel’s East Garden Foyer and the colourful acrylics on canvas on display would no doubt catch your attention. By themselves, the bold colours and playful patterns on canvas – the works of Gelyn Ong, would be sufficient attraction to draw any observer’s attention to them and marvel at the raw talent of the artist, but on the realisation that the artist is only seven, one can’t help but be awed at the immense talent and maturity that she possesses.

The raw talent of Gelyn Ong on display at the Fullerton Hotel's East Garden Foyer. Work entitled 'Rouge Meilove'.

The works on display at the Fullerton are 29 of Gelyn’s latest pieces in what is her first solo exhibition, ‘My Dreams, My Wishes’. The exhibition was opened on 2 November 2011 by Minister of Transport, Mr Lui Tuck Yew during which Gelyn and Mr Liu jointly unveiled ‘My Beautiful World’. In her speech (yes, she even gave a speech), Gelyn spoke, with an air of self-confidence and maturity that goes well beyond her tender age, of how much she enjoyed what she was doing, having progress from coloured pencils and crayons at the age of two, to starting art classes at the age of four and moving to where she is today.

Gelyn Ong speaking at the opening of her first solo exhibition, 'My Dreams, My Wishes'.

'My Beautiful World' being unveiled by Mr Lui and Gelyn Ong.

Gelyn with her mother Genii, and Minister Lui at the opening of her debut exhibition.

Besides trees and flowers, Gelyn has also started to paint animals which she finds beautiful - a close-up of 'Two Brothers'.

Gelyn and her family, who have to date, raised close to $100,000 in donating her the proceeds of the sales of her art work to charity, in this debut exhibition which is supported by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Singapore and Fullerton Heritage, hope to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a charity which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions through the sales of the 29 works on display. Another supporter of the project is EZ-Link Pte Ltd which with main sponsor PwC, is incorporating a ‘green’ element, and has printed 2,500 limited edition ez-link cards displaying one of Gelyn’s favourite paintings which PwC will be purchasing for all its staff as a New Year gift as part of its pro-environmental initiative to encourage the use of public transport.

Gelyn had the opportunity to explain the inspiration behind her colourful creations to Minister Lui, which included this peice entitled 'A New Awakening'.

A close-up of 'The Red Topiary'. Gelyn enjoys painting trees and flowers as is very evident from the works on display at the exhibition.

Close-up of 'Daisy'.

Another of Gelyn's work on display at the Fullerton Heritage Gallery.

Close-up of 'Eye-Catching'.

Close-up of 'Dance With Me'.

The work that I liked best - 'Beyond the Yellow Mellow Hills'.


About ‘My Dreams. My Wishes’
As part of its Art in the City Programme, The Fullerton Heritage is launching seven year-old prodigy, Gelyn Ong‘s debut solo art exhibition ‘My Dreams, My Wishes’, an exhibition featuring 29 of her latest art pieces. Through this exhibition, Gelyn and her family aim to raise funds for Make-A-Wish Foundation®, a charity which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. This exhibition will take place at The East Garden Foyer, as well as The Fullerton Heritage Gallery from 2 November to 22 November 2011.

About Gelyn Ong
A young aspiring artist, Gelyn’s whimsical, boldly patterned art work began as crayon scribbles on paper at the age of four. Since then, not only has she graduated to acrylics on canvas, her love for art has also gone towards helping the less fortunate. In the last year alone, Gelyn’s paintings have helped to raise over $90,000 for charity.






Exposing the lotus

30 09 2011

An exhibition worth visiting at the Fullerton Hotel’s East Garden Foyer is the Lotus Fantasia Photography Exhibition which features the work of a highly acclaimed photographer from Hong Kong, Dr. Leo K. K. Wong, which was launched on 28 September 2011 and will be on until 23 October 2011. What the exhibition promises the visitor is a captivating display of 20 masterpieces of Dr. Wong’s work in what is his first photography exhibition in Singapore.

The Lotus Fantasia exhibition is on at the Fullerton Hotel up until 23 October 2011.

Viewing the prints on display, one is certain to be taken by the diffusion of soft colours which lend a somewhat dramatic quality to each of the images of lotuses captured in a way where they reflect the essence of the season they were captured in. The images are taken using a multi-exposure technique and telephoto lenses, and are not post-processed in any way. Inspiration for the images is drawn from Chinese ink painting – in which Dr. Wong has a deep interest in (along with other forms of traditional Chinese art), the effect of the technique mimicking brush strokes of Chinese ink painting giving the photographs a ink paiting like quality. On the subject of lotuses, Dr. Wong feels that they “evoke different feelings with seasonal changes, but remain utterly beautiful all the same throughout the year”. He hopes that through the exhibition, the public’s appreciation of the lotus is enhanced.

Autumn Fantasy, 1983.

The exhibtion is held as part of the Fullerton Heritage’s Art in the City Programme. Dr Wong’s works are on sale and has pledged the proceeds of the sale to Beyond Social Services, an organisation which focuses on improving the lives of families and individuals from disadvantaged low-income backgrounds.

Dr Wong autographing his book at the opening.

Bliss, 2009.


Lotus Fantasia – Photography by Leo K. K. Wong

‘Lotus Fantasia’ features 20 works by veteran photographer Dr Leo KK Wong, who embraces the state-of-the-art multiple exposure and telephoto lens techniques. The works of Dr Wong are both poetic and modernistic with a sublime beauty drawn from Chinese ink painting. The fleeting moments of the lotus in different seasons are meticulously captured in this superb series of photographs.

29 September to 23 October 2011
10am to 7pm
The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, East Garden Foyer









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