Thursday, November 1, 2007

Tours down memory lane

The Straits Times - (Life Section)
Nov 1, 2007

Tours down memory lane
New tours to old buildings with architectural significance are part of an inaugural festival to bring architecture to the masses

By Tay Suan Chiang

EARLY FLATS: Tiong Bahru SIT flats, Singapore's first large-scale public housing project. They were designed by the Singapore Improvement Trust and adapted the shophouse typology through the planning of courtyards and back lanes between adjacent blocks.

BUSLOADS of visitors will be dropping by iconic buildings such as the Singapore Conference Hall, City Hall and the Gallery Hotel to marvel at their distinctive facades next month.

The buildings are among the attractions in a new tour of Singapore called ArchiTours organised by a group of third-year architecture students from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

There will be two day tours and one night tour every day from Dec 1 to 9. Participants will get to learn about the history of certain buildings and how they have played a part in shaping Singapore's architectural heritage.

'We realised that not many Singaporeans know about local buildings so we decided to run this tour,' says Mr Paul Yeo, 23, head of the organising committee.

Together with two other committee members, the trio picked about 20 locations for the tour based on their historical and architectural significance.

The tours will be guided by NUS architectural students who did their research by reading up on the history of the buildings and speaking to their professors.

The day tours, which last about 41/2 hours each, will take visitors to historical and modern buildings such as the Pearl Bank Apartments and the National Library.

They cost $40 for members of the public and $25 for students.

The night tours, which last seven hours, will travel to nightspots such as Zouk, St James Powerhouse and Muse Bar at the National Museum.

OLD AND NEW: Muse Bar at the National Museum is proof of how changing lifestyles can co-exist with old buildings. -- PHOTOS: ARCHITOURS

Mr Yeo says these locations share one common feature - they are old buildings providing nightlife entertainment.

'Even when they are out clubbing, we want participants to ponder how our changing lifestyles can co-exist with these old buildings,' he says.

The night tour costs $60 for the public and $40 for students.

Mr Bryan Koh, 23, a third-year NUS science student who went on a preview of the tour last Friday, found it educational and says he will recommend it to his friends.

Among the buildings he visited were People's Park Complex and Golden Mile Complex.

'I got to see the residential areas of these two buildings, which was more than what I would usually have,' he says of the two mixed-used developments.

The ArchiTours are part of the inaugural Singapore ArchiFest 07, organised by the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA).

The two-week-long festival is to celebrate Singapore's built environment and is a precursor to the Singapore Architectural Biennale to be held in 2010.

Mr Tai Lee Siang, 42, president of SIA, says he wants to take architecture to the streets with the $250,000 festival. It is sponsored by steel company Bluescope Steel and co-sponsored by the Architecture and Urban Design Excellence Promotion Programme of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

'We want to engage with the public to make architecture more relevant and meaningful,' he says.

He adds that the tours will be a good starting point for Singaporeans to get interested in local architecture.

The SIA is expecting about 50,000 visitors to the festival from Nov 27 to Dec 8. A highlight is a collection of exhibitions at the City Hall featuring award-winning works from various architectural competitions such as for the Marina South Residential District and the National Art Gallery.

There will also be a two-day forum with 12 local and international architects speaking on the challenges of urban architectural design.

Singapore ArchiFest 07 will be on from Nov 27 to Dec 8 at various locations. For more information and to buy tickets to ArchiTours and the forum, log on to

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