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URA to conserve former Singapore Chinese Girls' School buildings at Emerald Hill

[SINGAPORE] Plans are in the works to conserve three buildings at the site of the former Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS) in Orchard Road, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Friday.

It said it has proposed their protection and that the buildings will be adapted to house new cultural and lifestyle uses, in line with the Government's plans to strengthen and differentiate Orchard Road with unique offerings.

The agency, which carried out a study of the site, assessed three buildings there to be of high historical and architectural significance.

The buildings are: the Main Block (built in 1925), Principal's House (built in 1930) and Song Ong Siang Block (built in 1956).

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Each of these buildings features an architectural style representative of its time, serving as a link to the school's history, added the URA.

The news follows a campaign by ex-students which was launched in September 2018 to save their old campus of almost 70 years from potential redevelopment. The group had among other things, proposed that the site be re-purposed to house a museum, a Peranakan-themed cooking school and boutique hotel in a spice garden.

The URA noted that SCGS is one of the oldest girls' schools in Singapore and that its founders were a group of Straits Chinese men who were against the conservative view then that being uneducated and confined to the home was a virtue for girls.

It further noted that the Main Block - a two-storey building designed with Neo-Classical and Art Deco elements - was meant to be one of the most up-to-date school buildings of its time with details such as moulded pilasters and high central windows to draw attention upwards to the triangular pediment capping the central bay of its façade. Taking reference from the Main Block, the two-storey Principal's House was designed in the same style, featuring a pitched clay tiled roof, as well as timber louvre and latticed glass panel windows.

Meanwhile, the three-storey modern style Song Ong Siang Block features a regular pattern of strip windows with the weight of the building visually resting on slender cylindrical columns at its first storey, it said.

The URA added: "Collectively, these buildings are symbolic of the progressive founding spirit of the school. Together with the adjacent Emerald Hill Conservation Area, they contribute to the rich heritage and distinctive streetscape of the Orchard Road precinct."

Today, the state land is leased to Chatsworth International School. SCGS moved to Dunearn Road in 1994.

URA added that the decision to conserve the three buildings was given further impetus by the alumnae's proposal to conserve and put the buildings to new uses that celebrate the history of the site and enliven the neighbourhood.

It added: "Through engagement with other SCGS alumnae, Emerald Hill stakeholders and the public through community workshops, the group also raised greater awareness and garnered support for their proposal. The buildings' heritage value and the strong support from stakeholders reinforced the decision to proceed with URA's conservation proposal."

URA also said it will be working with the relevant agencies to study the different possibilities, including the ideas proposed by the SCGS alumnae.

THE STRAITS TIMES