Saturday, August 11, 2007

We are destroying what is uniquely Singaporean

The Straits Times
Aug 11, 2007

I AM neither an architect nor a history buff. However, a part of me died a little when I read the story, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (LifeStyle, Aug 5).

I am only in my mid-30s and I cannot show my young children the library and the live theatre I used to visit.

Growing up in Chinatown, I saw how the life and soul of the area were taken away and reduced to what many see today - a tourist trap.

I saw beautiful pre-war houses in Teo Hong Road and New Bridge Road - homes to average folk - being taken away, only to make way for carparks.

I do not deny that many buildings in Chinatown have been preserved, and elsewhere too, but for whom and to what extent? Were our pre-war houses painted in bright multi-colours like you see today? Did they house mostly bars, pubs and restaurants? Did the shopkeepers sell keychains, T-shirts and CDs? Is it not an irony that we spend money telling the world that we are 'Uniquely Singapore' yet we keep on destroying what is uniquely Singaporean?

We have replaced uniquely Singaporean architecture with 'iconic' modern buildings built by foreign talents.

While I understand that Singapore needs attractive man-made attractions like theme parks and casinos to attract tourists to stay economically healthy, I hope that the authorities would realise that it is the human geography of a country that touches the hearts of many visitors. It is what gives a place authenticity and culture, and which will win the hearts of people.

With Singapore-style architecture disappearing, our indigenous identity is on its way to a slow demise.

Singapore’s history is already young. With the architectural heritage weakening, the day will come when instead of showing my grandchildren the places I used to go or have fond memories of, they would be showing me their latest playgrounds instead.

Meanwhile, I will spend my next weekend visiting the horse-shoe Pearl Bank Apartments to show my daughters that this is the place where Mummy first earned her keep as a young student tutor.

Tan-Wee Yin Ping

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