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Keeping the past alive
A brighter shade of gold
3 Muscat Street
SHARP-EYED Singaporeans may notice that the domes of the Sultan Mosque now look shinier, and they are right.
The mosque, with a history dating back to the early years after Singapore's founding in 1819, underwent a much-needed S$4 million refurbishment. The last time the mosque had a makeover was after it was gazetted as a national monument in 1975.
Timothy Wong, associate director at Interconsultants, the architecture firm that worked on the restoration, says getting the right shade of gold was important as it would affect the overall look of the mosque.
"After several tries with a few paint types, four coats of paint was applied. The dome cracks were repaired and the final outcome was a good shine," explains Mr Wong.
Other restoration works done included salvaging and repairing the original timber doors and windows. Weathered external walls were cleaned and repainted, and the interiors were given a fresh coat of green paint to highlight the impressive arches of the prayer hall.
While restoring the mosque to its former glory was important, ensuring that the building could keep pace with today's demands was just as crucial. "The way a building is restored for its new use gives it a new lifespan for years to come," points out Mr Wong.
A new requirement from the mosque was barrier-free access to the prayer hall. A translucent glass lift was also added to help the elderly get up to the higher floors of the mosque. The lift is on the south side of the mosque, so as not to affect the building's original character.
Sultan Mosque's face-lift was completed within the scheduled 12 months, an amazing feat considering that the mosque was still in operation while works were going on.
Back to its Gothic-style glory
Church of Saints Peter and Paul
225A Queen Street
THE Church of Saints Peter and Paul is the little church that won big this year. Not only did it pick up an Architectural Heritage Award (AHA), it can also add a win from the Singapore Institute of Architects Design Awards.
Gazetted a national monument in 2003, the church was first completed in 1870. Over the years, with enough funds being raised, it grew in size. A major renovation was carried out in 1969 prior to its 100th year celebrations. In 2014, the church appointed RDC Architects to restore the main building. RDC Architects' managing director Rita Soh recalls how, during an initial meeting, she couldeven see chips of plaster falling from the roof.
To get an idea of how the church looked like in its original state, church-goers donated old photos, mainly of weddings held there. "The look of the church prior to this restoration was pretty, but I felt it was devoid of any meaning," says Ms Soh. She felt it needed to be restored to its original Gothic-style glory, the period prior to the major modernisation works done in 1969.
Original fixtures such as the ironmongery and memorial plaques were retained. Existing stained-glass windows were cleaned and restored by Italian artisans. The church's terrazzo marble floor was ripped out and replaced with Peranakan-inspired cement tiles. "The church's original tiles were also Peranakan style, but more colourful. This 2016 version is more understated," notes Ms Soh.
A corrugated metal roof was chosen in order to retain the original century-old roof structure. "The walls of the church would not be able to bear the weight of clay roof tiles," says Ms Soh. Changing of the roof had to be done in stages, which made it time-consuming and labour-intensive. What's new in the church are new amenities such as improved sound systems and floor-mounted air-conditioners and specially designed lanterns in place of the hideous fluorescent lights used previously. On the outside, strategically placed LED lights light up the church at night, giving it a warm glow.
For contractor Er Kian Hoo, who is also the director of Towner Construction, this is his fifth time winning the AHA. "It is always a good feeling when the project is complete; receiving the award is about the whole team getting recognition for our work."
Restoring its Old World charm
Goh Loo Club
72 Club Street
YOU may have heard of popular joints such as Nutmeg and Clove and Bird Bird in the Ann Siang Hill/Club Street area, but what about Goh Loo Club? Probably not. Located on the quieter stretch of Club Street, the Goh Loo Club was once the place to be for the local Chinese community and societal dignitaries.
It was established in 1905 by two resident-consuls of the Qing government and its name was inspired by characters from an ancient Chinese poem. Goh Loo Club or My Abode was a place for members to chill out away from the city bustle.
Among its key members were the late Lim Boon Keng, Tan Lark Sye and Lee Kong Chian. Despite its glorious past, the club space lost its shine and fell into a state of disrepair within the last decade.
Stephanie Lee, a fourth-generation owner, says that the Club is a symbol of past glory - an era of Chinese success in commercial enterprise in everything from rubber to shipping and banking.
Architect Chua Soo Hoon, founder of Artprentice, says that the Club looked very old and unkempt. The windows were no long the traditional timber French windows found in typical shophouses, but were instead aluminium sliding windows, with air-conditioning units randomly placed, and plants growing out of the walls.
Restoration works were done over 15 months, which included salvaging old bricks, reusing original green glazed balustrades, timber joints and floorboards. Old handmade glass panes were retained together with the basketball player-patterned metal window grilles from the 1950s - a reflection of the Club's history as a centre to promote basketball in the Chinese community.
Some of the new additions that Ms Chua put in included a new link to the historic Ann Siang Hill Park, to connect the building to the neighbourhood. A new feature on the outside is a mural on the side wall which shows a cross-section illustration of the building's interiors and past activities.
Ms Lee plans to lease the first and second levels out as restaurant spaces to reinforce the leisure and entertainment aspects of the Ann Siang/Club Street district. The third level will cater to the Club's members for their cultural, leisure, and charitable activities. The Club currently has about 20 members, aged 45 to 55. Ms Lee plans to recruit new and younger members with the spruced up premises. "The new Club can no longer replicate the socio-cultural norm of that generation of traditional old-school Chinese businessmen prevailing in pre-1965 era," she explains.
"While we still want to offer them that platform, we will still need to create relevant ideas to pave the way for the younger generation. There is no point developing a Club without it being meaningful and preserving its legacy."
Sensitive restoration for icons
13, 15, 17 Stamford Road
WHEN it came to restoring some of Singapore's most familiar icons - Capitol Theatre, Capitol Building and Stamford House - the team at Architects 61 had to make sure they lived up to expectations.
"We were mindful of the rich heritage of the landmark historical buildings and that many have fond memories of catching a movie at the Capitol," says Tah Kong Han, director of projects. "Having done similar restoration work to well-known buildings, we are aware of the need for sensitive restoration."
The three historic buildings were in poor condition when the team took on the project. For example, parts of the Capitol Theatre ceiling mouldings were deemed unsafe. Over at Stamford House, the brick walls were found to be damp and soft, and at Capitol Building, the floor slabs were not horizontal but tilted from one end of the building to the other.
Restoration works done included the reinstatement of architectural motifs and elements, after they were repaired in-situ or copied by prefabrication. At Capitol Building, its facade was restored, and original ground-level shopping was reintroduced. For Stamford House, ornate plaster decorations on the facade were restored by hand, and the building has been returned to its original use as a hotel, called The Patina.
Architects 61 is most proud of what they did for Capitol Theatre. No efforts were spared to retain and restore the Art Deco character and architectural features, from the zodiac ceiling mural to the Pegasus reliefs on the sides of the stage. And who can miss the revival of the Capitol Theatre Art Deco neon sign? New flexible seating - Asia's first floor rotation system - allows theatre chairs to be turned over and tucked under the floor to cater to different seating requirements.
According to senior associate Un Wai Kay, conservation should not just be a cosmetic restoration of the old. "The use of the Theatre has to be relevant to meet the present and future lifestyles of the people, so that it will continue to create new memories for current and future generations."
- There will be an exhibition showcasing the four 2016 URA Architectural Heritage Award winners from Oct 7 to Nov 30, at The URA Centre, 45 Maxwell Road. There will also be talks and visits to selected award winners. For details, see http://ura.sg/AHAsg