Saturday 5 October 2013

Three historic buildings in Queenstown to be conserved

By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 4 Oct 2013

QUEENSTOWN library, a former wet market at Commonwealth Avenue and Alexandra Hospital will be gazetted for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in its upcoming Master Plan.

The news was cheered by civic group My Community, which had lobbied for the conservation of these buildings in a paper submitted to the URA in July. The authority said it had also been looking at these sites.

Their status was announced by Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin at the URA's Architectural Heritage Awards presentation ceremony yesterday evening.

"All three buildings are important representations of what conservation can do to reinforce a community's identity and preserve its 'flavour' for past, present and future residents," said Mr Tan.

The buildings are both historically and architecturally significant, said the URA. The former wet market, for instance, is the only one left that was built by the Singapore Improvement Trust. It features design elements like a honeycomb screen wall suitable for the tropics.

Alexandra Hospital was selected for its "stripped-down hybrid of modern and classical styles" and historical significance - it was built by the British Armed Forces in 1938.

Their inclusion brings the number of conserved buildings in Queenstown to six. The others are Princess House, the Church of the Blessed Sacrament and Archipelago Brewery Company.

My Community has pushed to conserve much of Queenstown as a showcase of the evolution of public housing and residential town centres in Singapore.

Its paper, four years in the making and bearing the signatures of 1,000 residents, marks out 15 other Queenstown sites it wants conserved.

A number of landmarks, such as the Queenstown Remand Prison and the Margaret Drive hawker centre, are now gone. In June, the Queenstown cinema and bowling centre were also demolished.

Residents welcomed the move to conserve the community facilities, especially the library, which was opened by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1970.
"It's an iconic landmark worthy of preservation. A lot of our childhood memories are also tied to this place," said Mr James Tan, 52, a resident who still frequents the library with his family.

Civic group founder Kwek Li Yong, 24, said he was pleased and hopes the other sites on the group's list will eventually bear the conservation stamp.

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