During the 60's and 70's, in the frantic pace of building a new nation, we destroyed many vernacular buildings builtfrom the 19th century up to the pre-war period. Fortunately, in the mid-80's, through the collective efforts of urbanadvocates and the government, we preserved large tracts of the historic quarters - Chinatown, Little India, EmeraldHill, et al. This was well beyond the typical practice of conserving individual monuments.
The result is impressive. Today we can boast of one of the best conservation efforts in the region. In contrast with thehigh-rise, high-density urban form, the historic quarters provide an intimately scaled environment with attractivealternatives for living, working and play. It enhances the liveability of the city - an increasingly important factor indeveloping a cosmopolitan environment.
But our conservation efforts cannot stop at the pre-war period. The richness of the city fabric can only be fosteredthrough the continuous conservation of the signature landmarks and districts of each era, as time progresses. It iscrucial now to create a framework for conserving the post-war, early modern buildings. The government has startedthis process by conserving public buildings such as the Singapore Conference Hall and Queenstown Public Library.
However, many privately owned buildings remain unprotected.
In the recent en-bloc frenzy, two of the most important modern landmarks - Golden Mile Complex and People's ParkComplex - are in danger of being wiped out from our built environment. Forged as innovative responses to the briefof high-density, mixed-use developments, they stand tall in our city as distinctive markers of our post-independenceachievements.
Pritzker Prize recipient, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, praised the two buildings in his seminal book 'S,M,L,XL' as"masterpieces of experimental architecture/urbanism" and "ideologically and architecturally advanced" - remarkingon the distinctive form of Golden Mile Complex, with its stepped profile responding to the Kallang Basin, juxtaposedwith a series of atriums along the eponymous 'golden mile' of Beach Road.
History and architectural character strengthen a building's economic potential. The owners of conserved buildingsmay not get a windfall in en-bloc sales, but in the long run, they retain their value, and more. For example, theshophouse has become a unique and much sought-after property. There is also a trend of many groups displaying agreater appreciation for modernist architecture. This is evidenced in the popularity of the Barbican Centre andBrunswick Centre in the UK, and closer to home, Tiong Bahru estate.
The sale of Pearl Bank Apartments has already been confirmed, with its demolition almost certain. On 3 August2018, Golden Mile Complex formally garnered the requisite 80% consensus to initiate the sales process. It is alsoevident that People's Park Complex will launch a sales bid in the near future.
We are almost out of time, but it is not too late. It is vital that we enact the gazetting of these modern landmarksbefore the sales are finalised. With the gazette, the development model for the new owners will be one ofconservation, re-imagination and rejuvenation, rather than the traumatic process of demolition and new erection.
We believe ground support from members of our society from within, and beyond the building profession - from all walks of life - will strengthen the impetus to conserve the buildings. We ask you to join us in our appeal to URA to gazette GoldenMile Complex and People's Park Complex with conservation status.
Photo credits: Darren Soh