Monday, April 28, 2008

Alexandra Brick Wall

Spotted this UNCOVERED wall of Alexandra bricks in the Tiong Bahru Estate on Saturday.

Heritage Revealed

The owner was grumbling that it cost him a lot more money and time to hack away the plaster.

It would have been cheaper to just put in some new bricks.

He ended off the conversation by saying that it was a labour of love.

I’m glad this owner took the time to uncover this home’s heritage.

If he had replaced the bricks, the wall wouldn’t be called the Alexandra Brick wall anymore.

Alexandra Brick Wall exposed!!!!

It could have become the Jurong Brick wall instead. Haha.

Saw this brick beneath a washing machine. It was used to raise the washing machine up so that the base will not get wet when the owner washed the kitchen floors.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cloud Spotting at Tiong Bahru

I was conducting an open house for one of the unit I’m marketing this afternoon. After the crowd thinned out, I found some time to read the newspapers.

As there were no furniture in this flat, I had to find the best place to sit down.
The view I had when I was seated on the floor of the balcony

And the place I sat was at the floor of the balcony. It was very breezy and bright day and my portable radio was humming away in the background.

My Open House Kit

Periodically there was a gush of wind and it messed up the papers.

At some point, I looked up and noticed the big blue sky....and there were hardly any buildings to interrupt the view.

I was tempted to lie down on the floor to check out if the view was indeed that fabulous.

Eventually I did and while I was at it, I was thinking’ “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just laze around here in a comfortable couch and enjoy a book and occasionally peeping out to see if there are any interesting cloud formation to spot”.

The next owner of this flat will be able indulge in this simple pleasure at will.

My stolen pleasure did not last too long coz my wife called to remind me to go straight home after the viewing as she needed me to mop the floors. Sigh.

Up for grabs!!! (TAKEN - SORRY)

One of the brand new Tiong Bahru Pre-War flat owner just gotten her keys to her place and she does not intend to keep these 1936s windows and DOOR!!!!!

As most of these doors are located in the balcony area, one would not be able to spot them at the street level. If you think the windows are rare, these doors are even rarer.

These relic may require some work to restore them to the former glory. The handles seemed broken too.

Too bad the green panes were replaced. Otherwise, it would have been a complete set.

The other things the owners will not keep is this:

I think there is only so much one would do when it comes to living in a conserved flat. The occupants needed to make it functional. The chimney system does get in the way as it has been placed in a rather awkward position in the kitchen.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tiong Bahru Post War Flats

The Straits Times
April 26, 2008

Industrial's strength

The beauty of this apartment's raw look is found in the exposed wiring and unfinished walls. CALL it a case of more of the same.

STARK APPEAL: The living room is lit using 3D energy-saving bulbs, which are divided into groups of five to ensure greater lighting control. It is separated from the kitchen by a mosaic-tiled bar counter. The raw look is balanced with a homely touch from items such as slippers and a birdcage from Egg3, and cushions from Pluck. PHOTOS: DARREN CHANG; ART DIRECTION: NONIE CHEN; TEXT: REBECKKA WONG

When media professional Fenfei moved from her first home, a private apartment in Tiong Bahru, to her second, her new place was just a stone's throw away.

'We are used to the area,' she says of the pre-war three-room HDB flat she and her husband bought.

At 947 sq ft, it is smaller than their previous 1,300 sq ft apartment and, therefore, easier for the couple to finance it - the reason for their move.

It is, however, no less a platform for the couple's favoured theme. In fact, with the benefit of hindsight, this new place not only retains the similar raw look of their first home, but it has also improved on the couple's earlier renovation decisions.

A REEL INSPIRATION: The custom-made iron grille divider replicates a pattern from a movie the home owner once saw. The design is also repeated on the grille at the flat's main entrance. Folding doors close up space for privacy when needed.

Instead of using one of the bedrooms as a storeroom, which was what they did at their first home, the couple combined it with the living space to make the living room bigger.

SAME TILE STORY: The new, bigger bathroom is the result of combining the original two back-to-back bathrooms, and it features the same mosiac tiles used for the bar counter in the living room.

Ms Fenfei adds: 'Before, we had things that weren't practical, such as white mosaic floors that were difficult to maintain. Now, our entire living space is covered with dark homogenous tiles, which are a breeze to upkeep.'

It also helped that the couple got the same interior designer, Kelvin Giam of Intent, who did their first home. He not only enhanced the original raw, industrial theme, but also came up with new ideas, one of which involved a support beam in the dining area.

He says: 'If we followed the line of the beam, the living space would be pretty small, so I used it as a support for the dining table instead.'

He also drew on the surrounds and architecture of Tiong Bahru, an area rich with heritage, for the home.

As a result, exposed wiring and bulbs on bare wires hang from the ceiling - recalling the austere times of the 1960s and 1970s - while cement walls have been deliberately left unfinished for a raw feel.

The three portholes in the newly built master bedroom wall also echo the motif along the stairwells of the apartment block's structure.

That's not all. A false ceiling clad with white aluminium strips - a look commonly seen in old shop fittings - hides the overhead beam above the bed while giving a retro feel to the master bedroom.
CEILING THE LOOK: White aluminium strips, reminiscent of old-school shop fittings, hide the overhead beam in the master bedroom and add texture to the space's industrial feel.

Yet, despite the use of materials such as cement screed and metal, the home feels far from cold, thanks to the couple's collection of posters, kitschy movie memorabilia and colourful accessories bought overseas.

Also adding character and warmth are some treasures they salvaged from the trash, such as a two-seater sofa, which has since been reupholstered, and an old television set from the 1980s.

ALL HOLED UP: Cubbyholes in the study display the couple's vintage collection.

All of which goes to show, having more of the same can be a good thing after all.

This spread first appeared in April's issue of Home & Decor, published by SPH Magazines.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Part of Tiong Bahru

Photo taken from my nokia E90
(I'm not impressed with the photo quality but that was the only image capturing device I have with me all the time)

This is a part of the Tiong Bahru Estate landscape which most people would have missed as it is located in some obscure corner in Tiong Bahru.

If you took the trouble to explore Eng Hoon Street and walked all the way to the entrance of St Matthew Church (1K Eng Hoon Street), you would have found this building.

This building is located beside the main gate of that church.

I wonder who the owner of this building is.

The place looks so abandoned and some contractors even had the audacity to use the entrance of that building to store their excess goods.

Why do some property owners just let their property die and rot?
This, I cannot comprehend.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Insider News

“I've got insider news”. “Someone I know works inside”. “This place is gonna en-bloced in 6 years time”.

These words were uttered smugly by a bespectacled man with a cigarette in his hand.

I had to walk away upon hearing these words as the resentment welling up within me was too intense to handle.

Maybe I'm just too obsessed with this estate.

As a real estate agent, I had to be professional about such remarks and not let my emotions get the better of me.
(By the way, that guy is not my customer. He just bought a place in the HDB section of Tiong Bahru and is currently renovating his place and I happen to overhear his conversation with a buyer who just viewed a unit I was selling.)

Perhaps this frustration stemmed from the seemingly indifferent attitude I witness and felt amongst some Tiong Bahru residents.

Maybe no one really cares if this place would be en-bloced or conserved. What seems to matters most would be how much the en-bloced compensation would be and would the allocated flats be near a MRT station.

Seriously, you do not need HDB to en-bloced your home to get a windfall! There are many other ways to make money.

My family has never benefitted from whatsoever handouts HDB has given out.

When I purchased my 1st flat*, it was a total disaster for my wife and me.

We bought our flat impulsively at $495,000 and plonked in another $80,000 to renovate and furnished it.

HDB gave us a $40,000 CPF grant but that did more harm than help.

We later sold the flat off at $425,000.

Our losses come up to about $125,000 (inclusive of accrued CPF interest). To me, that was a financial disaster.

To add insult to injury, if I ever buy a direct flat from HDB, I would have to pay a levy of $107,000. And that amount does not include the interest incurred from the time I sold my SUBSIDIZED flat till the time I purchase my next one. (I wonder who was subsidizing who)

My wife and I never whine about that. We took it in our stride and recovered from it.

We stayed focused in our plans to become financially educated.

I also put in effort to improve my knowledge in real estate so that I can be a better investor and at the same time provide better advice to my clients.

We are still learning as learning is a journey with no destination.

We kept reading relevant books and tried to put what we have read into action.

I am also fortunate enough to meet many people along the way who could offer good advice and directions.

We have developed some kind of AWARENESS and this is a good start.

We have since made back what we lost from our 1st HDB flat through our real estate investment. (By the way, my wife is not in the real estate business but she took the time to understand how it works…..actually she does not have a choice, I have verbal diarrhoea and I demanded total attention when I am exploring my theories or analysis with her)

I strongly agree with Robert Kiyosaki that all of us should stop having this ENTITLEMENT mentality and instead steer our own future.

As the saying goes, give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for life.

But BEWARE of the person who does neither but wants to sell you the fish. (They have a SELFISH reason for doing so and real estate agents** are classified by Robert as a fish seller in his book, “Why we want you to be RICH!”)

I was sold a fish when I bought my 1st HDB flat. I am now learning how to fish.

So for whatever reasons you might have about buying into Tiong Bahru and one of them happens to be about some en-bloc windfall, I urge you to explore other options which has a more certain outcome.

Betting on some insider news is akin to gambling.

One of my wise clients recently said this to me: "Wiseman PLANs, Poor man HOPEs". There is much wisdom in that statement.

But if you already living here in the Tiong Bahru Estate and you cannot really tolerate living in these walk-ups anymore, give me a call and I will help you explore possibilities on how you can be happily moved to a place where there are ELEVATORS and extra toilets to serve you.

That way, we can still keep Tiong Bahru low density.

Being collectively INDIFFERENT to the fate of this estate would be the greatest tragedy.

So the song goes, Coz we are living in a material world and I’m a material……..,

If everyone is consumed by that song, the GREED will eventually come and Tiong Bahru’s low density existence will be threatened.

*Note: I was not yet a real estate agent when I purchased my 1st HDB property.

** When real estate agents cajole you into buying a property, do not become too emotional and overstretch your budget. Remember, you are the one who is going to service that mortgage loan over a long period of time and that agent would not be around to help you service that loan after the sale. You need to know your own financial numbers so that no one can pull wool over your eyes.

*** Stumbled upon this site and I would like you to check it out too: I am glad there are some people at Clementi Park who cared enough to speak out.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Steel Trunk

I had a meeting with my client in one of the flats within the Tiong Bahru Estate this afternoon.

It was supposed to be routine where I basically pop in and then pop out.

I was expecting to find an empty flat as the unit was recently sold and the owner had the obligation to move everything out of the premise for my client.

So I was surprised to be greeted by my client’s domestic helper at the door, struggling with a folded table.

When I walked in, my heart sank. The previous owner did not even bother to come and clear out the place before the legal completion.

To diffuse the situation, I jokingly told my client if there were any treasures he had found.

Right after I said that, something caught my eye. It was an old rusted casing hidden within a mountain of old clothing.

I immediately pulled the steel trunk out to have a good look. Next question to my client was....”DO YOU WANT THIS?”

Frankly, I never would have expected this to be lying around in this flat.

This flat has not been renovated for a very long time and as far as I know, it has always been rented out.

The last group were 6 Vietnamese students who chained smokes in the flat and probably did this low cost activity for leisure very often:

(I found this pasted onto one of the bedroom doors)

I will provide some more pictures just to let you see how messy the place was

In the evening, I showed the picture of the steel trunk to my mother in law and she said such steel trunks were often used to contain wedding dowries in the early days.

The clothing in the chest was all neatly folded and I’m very sure it belonged to the previous owner’s mum.

If he is reading this post, he may be kicking himself for not making the trip down to take a last look at the flat.

But then again, what may seem valuable and interesting to some people may look like trash to some others.

If I may digress, let me prove my point.

About nine years ago, my mum dumped this set of chairs in my uncle's home.

Back then, I did not like it as well and I had no qualms about her throwing that away.

These pair of chairs sat in my uncle’s home for the past nine years.

Recently retired and with more time in his hands, he decided to do some spring cleaning.

This chair was one of things he had decided to rationalise.

By some stroke of good luck, he told my mum about his intention to discard that and I happened to talk to mum about my blog posting about the old stove. She immediately asked if I wanted a pair of armchairs.

Luckily my uncle thought the chairs were trash and he was elated to part with it.

Hurray for me.

But as for the steel chest, no such luck for me.

My client wants to keep it. In life, you win some and you lose some.

By the way, I will replace the “OBIANG” red seats to some nicer colours.

OK, back to the steel trunk.....

The interior of the chest is still in very good condition.

I tried to find out about the P.M. Sultan & Company from the Internet but yielded no results.

Anyone out there who might have any information on this?

The steel trunk looks like it was from the British administration era.

Besides the discovery of the steel trunk, I also spotted this baby sized "diamond brand" clock in the kitchen.

It looks very aged but is still faithfully ticking away. It was LUST at 1st sight.

So I asked my client if he was gonna keep that clock and I got the same response....”No, I’m gonna keep it”. Damn.

My wife thinks I am slowly evolving into a KARANG GUNI man.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Unwanted child of S'pore conservation?

I hope the relevant authorities would come up with a more long term plan for Tiong Bahru Estate as well. Everyone is left wondering what's next. Will they let the lease run out and turn this place into some commercial place or they will keep tossing this project around until it lands on someone's lap. Shudders......

The Straits Times
April 20, 2008

By Warren Fernandez

Will recent reports of fresh plans for the Capitol Theatre finally happen - after almost two decades? I'm not holding my breath...

For too long, the once-lovely Capitol Theatre has stood forlorn and forgotten, the unwanted child of Singapore conservation.

Newspaper reports once held out hope of it being transformed into a performing arts centre for musicals, plays and ballets.

That, alas, was in January 1996.

Even then, the report quoted government officials as saying that the plans were 'still being studied'.

Never mind that the site had been earmarked for development in 1984, and acquired by the state in 1987, nearly a decade earlier.

More delays followed. In 1998, Capitol screened its last movie and the cinema was shut down amid much sadness and hopeful talk of plans to put it to better use.

The project was handed over to the Singapore Tourism Board to pursue in 2000. But in 2006, it decided not to proceed and handed it back to the Singapore Land Authority. Last year, it was finally declared a conservation area.

Sadly, over the years, nobody seemed either to own the project or to care all that much about it.

So, pardon me, but I could not help being more than a little sceptical when I read a report earlier this month which talked of fresh plans for the Capitol Theatre and the structures around it - Capitol Building, Capitol Centre and Stamford House.

The report raised as many questions as it answered: Just what do the authorities now envisage for the site, which they say will be sold as an 'integrated one' next year? So far, officials have said only that the area has not been 'fully maximised to its development potential' - indeed! - and the 'timing and details' of their plans 'are being finalised'.

Why has it taken decades for any progress to be made on conserving this area? What is the cost of leaving Capitol idle all these years, allowing it to crumble away to a dusty death? And just who will ensure that the plans are realised this time?

These are legitimate questions, not least since the buildings concerned are very much part of Singapore's architectural heritage.

Capitol Theatre turns 80 next year. The neo-classical style building was built in 1929 by M.A. Namazie, an early Singapore pioneer of Persian origin. The accompanying four-storey building, where the popular Magnolia Snack Bar once stood, was completed in 1933 and called the Namazie Mansions back then.

The cinema was Singapore's very first, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks performed to promote their silent movies. In the 1960s, the Capitol hosted variety shows featuring performers like Sakura Teng and Rita Chao.

The adjacent Stamford House has an even longer history. It was designed for commercial use in 1904 by R.A.J. Bidwell, the man behind other outstanding buildings such as the Raffles Hotel and Goodwood Park Hotel.

Few seem to recall the furious debate that broke out in 1991 over whether Stamford House should be saved instead of Eu Court, built in the 1930s, across the street.

Then National Development minister S. Dhanabalan declared that Stamford House would be preserved as it had a 'more outstanding architectural style'.

I was prepared then to give the minister the benefit of the doubt, and wait to see if the ramshackle Stamford House of those days would indeed be transformed into the conservation gem he envisioned.

So, when the Victorian facade of the building was unveiled three years and $13 million later, I had to concede that it did look splendid, as the minister had said.

But sadly, it never quite lived up to his promise of becoming 'an active and successful commercial centre', given its motley collection of furniture shops, galleries and eateries, several of which came and went.

The wider issue here is this: Just how does Singapore go about conserving its architectural heritage, saving grand old buildings and giving new life to them?

Of course, given the space constraints on this tiny island, I have never believed in keeping buildings as museum pieces, or standing in the way of development.

But, in these days of globalisation and rapid change, a sense of place and continuity is needed if Singaporeans are to remain rooted to this country.

Indeed, at the moment, Singapore is undergoing another spurt of redevelopment. Just as in the 1980s and 1990s, when familiar sites like the modest C.K. Tang store or the huge open field where Ngee Ann City now stands gave way to skyscrapers, the Ion Orchard and Orchard Central are rising rapidly from the ground in Orchard Road. These, and the redevelopment of the Asia Hotel site in Scotts Road, as well as the new St Regis Hotel in Tanglin Road are transforming the face of the downtown area as we know it.

So how to ensure continuity in the face of such change?

Well, to be fair, there have been quite a few success stories in conservation over the years, such as the Fullerton Hotel, Raffles Hotel, the National Museum, the old Parliament House, and the old St Joseph's Institution building.

In these cases, the buildings' structures were painstakingly conserved, even as their interiors were retrofitted to allow for new uses, commercial or otherwise. Sure, the purists moaned, but the conservation purpose was served.

There have been some bad misses too. Orchard cinema and the National Library were both razed to the ground despite fervent public protests.

Or ponder this: Just what is the difference between the ghastly named Orchard Cineleisure and the supposedly conserved Cathay building?

Precious little, actually. The former was built after tearing the old cinema down completely, while the latter was simply erected around a sliver of the facade of what was Singapore's first skyscraper, as a sop to the conservationist lobby.

Clearly, there are lessons to be learnt from these hits and misses over the decades to help ensure that the re-development of the Capitol area turns out right.

To do so, the authorities need to:
Spell out their Capitol conservation plans in much greater detail.

While they are at it, they should consider redeveloping the SMRT HQ building across the street. Why a public transport operator needs such a large prime site, all walled up and uninviting, has always been a mystery to me.

There is much potential to liven up the entire area on both sides of Stamford Road, with an array of streetwalk dining, retail and entertainment options.

Engage the public, both to get ideas and foster a sense of ownership of this historic district.

Surely, Singaporeans should not wait until plans are announced to demolish an old building before taking an interest? Nor should they be left to bemoan conservation efforts gone awry after the fact.

Announce a timeline to make clear how and when the authorities will ensure that the area's 'development potential is fully maximised', at long last.

It would be a pity if Singaporeans have to wait another decade to read the next report on new plans 'being studied' for Capitol.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Do more to end historical illiteracy

This title of this contribution in the Straits Time’s Online Forum hits the nail in the head about the need to do more about knowing our past. The relentless destruction of “old” things may be the reason why the young has a disconnection with the past. When we are unaware of our roots, calling anywhere home in any parts of the world will not make any difference.

The Straits Times
Online Forum

April 18, 2008

I WRITE in support of Dr Irving Chan Johnson's letter on Tuesday, 'Cemetery closure means loss of Singapore heritage'.

Against the backdrop of globalisation, industrialisation and modernisation, Singapore's continuous development and redevelopment of our landscapes have undeniably caused Singaporeans to be (what I shall term here as) 'self-culturally raped'. We have moved to a modern era whereby dollars and cents make sense more than anything else and that is a pity as humanised factors such as understanding of our ancestors has to take a back seat. While I understand that this is an inevitable process in a land-scarce country like Singapore, it is imperative for the state to be well aware of the adverse intangible effects of changing Singapore's landscape at such a rapid rate.

History entails the understanding of not just the past but also the present and gives a glimpse of our future. While the state has always been taking a very pragmatic approach of investing in science and technology, social sciences such as history has its inherent value. History cultivates analytical and critical thinking and serves as a nation-building tool to galvanise the fragmented present generation of Singaporeans of diverse ethnicity, religion, likes and tastes. An understanding of events and landscapes of the past will help Singaporeans of present and future generations to forge a sense of common identity and remain rooted in Singapore. Hence, I urge the Government to bring history beyond classrooms and to do more to end historical illiteracy in Singapore.

Jonathan Lim Wen Zhi

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cemetery closure means loss of Singapore heritage

I’m copying this Straits Times Contribution onto this blog in case SPH deletes the original post.

The Straits Times
April 15, 2008

I REFER to last Friday's article, 'Teochew cemetery's last Qing Ming'. It was about one of Singapore's oldest Teochew cemeteries which will be cleared in October to make way for the Downtown Line depot.

This is indeed sad and regrettable as, with the destruction of the cemetery, goes a slice of the nation's history. Since independence, Singapore and its people have been on a constant quest to define a national identity. An integral part of any national identity is historical awareness.

History is not merely about preservation of impressive buildings such as architecturally rich churches and temples. Rather, for most people, it emerges from everyday experiences - the jobs they do, the places they visit and the many rites and ceremonies that mark one's life and ultimately, death.

Unfortunately, in Singapore, many of these everyday histories are not well documented and are therefore forced to surrender to the consuming jaws of modernisation.

Hence, the historically rich and very beautiful Bidadari cemetery was cleared recently. With its regrettable destruction went not only the tombstones of generations of Singapore men and women but also the culture of a time past, and a small part of our national heritage.

Cemeteries provide a rich window on the past. By looking at the arrangement of tombstones, the aesthetics of headstone carvings and the people they envelop (both living and dead), we get a better picture of what Singapore society was like. Cemeteries also reflect religious and ritual life.

The old tombs at Kwong Hou Sua Teochew cemetery still attract a large number of families who come to pay their respects to the departed during Qing Ming every year. The cemetery is thus a living place. It tells an important story, not only of Singapore's Teochew community but also of changing concepts of family life, wealth, power and class.

Times have changed. It is undeniable that the past will have to surrender to the present in land- scarce Singapore. Yet, if Singapore hopes to instil in its citizens a sense of nationhood, it will need to consider the importance of everyday histories. I therefore urge the Land Transport Authority to reconsider the clearance of Kwong Hou Sua which, despite its age, is a treasure trove of Singapore's cultural and historical legacy.

Dr Irving Chan Johnson

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tourist Attraction???

Spotted this tour bus along Chay Yan Street at about 2:15pm today.

What caught my attention was there were so many people milling around block 76 Guan Chuan Street.

Initially I thought they were tourist but on a closer look, they don’t look like the part.

I wonder why this group of people are here today.

Could they be local tour guides who are on a familiarisation tour so that they can offer Tiong Bahru Estate as an alternative local tourist attraction?

Time will tell.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Almost Unchanged

Check this out!

If you are around the Tiong Bahru Estate, walk over to Block 37 Lim Liak Street to look at stack 45 & 47. These two stacks (or columns) have remained almost unchanged all these years.

It seems that no one has moved out before. (Just look at the ORIGINAL WINDOWS!) Even if the units did changed hands, the current occupants did not do much renovation to the units.

MediaCorp, if you need an authentic 1950’s backdrop, this place would be the one!

Better hurry before someone decided to renovate and you would have lost the opportunity FOREVER.

Here are some more past and present photos to ignite some nostalgia:

Block 37 Lim Liak Street in the 2008

Block 37 Lim Liak Street in the 1950s
Collection of Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

Friday, April 11, 2008

Can you spot the difference?

Location: Block 43 & 36 Moh Guan Terrace
2008 Moh Guan Terrace

1950s Moh Guan Terrace
Collection of Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

For the 1950's picture, the building on the left has open balconies whiles the 2008 ones are covered up with concrete.

It is the same for the buildings on the right. HDB put in the windows in 1973 when they sold the units to the tenants.

The substation is still there but a fence surrounds it now.

I bet you could spot more differences and I shan't rob you of the fun.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Window Restoration in Progress

I was having a chat with this guy from China yesterday.

Even though I was having trouble understanding his heavily accent Mandarin, I understood he was complaining about why this owner would not just replace the windows.

He kept saying the windows are old and it is dangerous to keep them as they risk falling off. He kept mumbling that it would be better to just change all of them.

Maybe he was trying to frighten the owners into changing the windows so that he need not spend so much time "processing" the windows.

From what he described to me, it does indeed sounded very time consuming. But then again, restoration work is never a breeze right?

Chipping away all the old putty that held the window panes to the frame

At the same time, he cannot damage the green window panes as I think these are irreplaceable. His boss has been scouting around for the glass but he just cannot find them.

After he takes out all the glass, he has to sandpaper the entire frame before rust-proofing it. Some of the window hinges are already quite badly damaged. This guy has to weld the hinges back.

I'm glad this home owner took the pain to restore the windows and not take the easy way out by replacing them.

Here're some tips on restoring and preserving old windows:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Could this happen to Tiong Bahru?

Straits Times
April 8, 2008
An ambitious plan to convert one of the few remaining colonial buildings in skyscraper-dominated Hong Kong has rekindled a fierce debate about how the former colony deals with its heritage. -- PHOTO: AFP
Spiky design sparks debate over Hong Kong's heritage

HONG KONG - AN AMBITIOUS plan to convert one of the few remaining colonial buildings in skyscraper-dominated Hong Kong has rekindled a fierce debate about how the former colony deals with its heritage.

In the past year, fierce protests over the removal of the city's Star Ferry terminal and the destruction of Queen's Pier, where Britain's royalty used to step onto the territory, has altered the city's laissez-faire attitude to development, activists say.

Now, a HK$1.8 billion (S$318 million) plan to convert the old police station, jail and magistrates court into a gleaming commercial, arts and public space has become a testing ground for the city's ability to reconcile historical and profit concerns.

The scheme, with a distinctive set of giant spikes in a prime residential and commercial area, has divided opinion.

'The proposal of building a 50-storey glass tower inside the complex is unbelievable. And to me, it definitely will dominate the whole heritage site and actually won't do any good to it,' said Ms Katty Law, an activist.

Mr William Yiu, executive director of charities at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, whose gambling monolopoly has allowed it to become both the city's biggest taxpayer and philanthropic giver, said their scheme is an attempt to do something new.

'We want this to set an example of conservation,' said Mr Yiu, who is running the scheme that sits on one of the few remains of the British colonial era to survive in the city's Central district dominated by gleaming office blocks.

'The idea is that we can do a new building at an historical site with facilities that we very much need in Hong Kong.'

The site was chosen by the British navy as the centre for law and order when it took over the island, then little more than an obscure rock, in 1841, and it flourished as the city expanded.

New design The new design - by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, who are behind the Birds Nest Olympic stadium in Beijing and the conversion of the Tate Modern in London - will put galleries, boutiques and restaurants within the shells of the existing listed buildings.

It will then create a new structure behind the buildings that will include a theatre, a cinema and two elevated public gardens, bordered by the collection of spikes which will have plants growing around them.

The spikes, inspired by the distinctive pattern of the bamboo scaffolding seen across the city, have drawn ire from residents nearby and also concern that it will upset the city's feng shui, or energy system, which is rumoured to have been a factor in several other major building designs in Hong Kong.

Mr Yiu said he is not expecting a repeat of the protests at Queen's Pier last summer, when conservationists tied themselves to the structure to try and stop its removal, as the buildings will be left in place.

He said the Jockey Club has been involved in a lengthy public consultation, despite being given pre-approval by Chief Executive Donald Tsang in his annual policy speech last year and that parts of the design, including the spikes, were being reconsidered as a result.

Public pressure Campaigners say that public pressure in recent years has transformed the government's attitude to conservation, where commercial considerations have steamrollered any concerns in the past.

'I think the government is now realising that there are opportunities and that it is nice to have some diversity,' said Mr Paul Zimmerman, founding member of pressure group Designing Hong Kong.

'(They see) it is wrong to have just a monotony of podium-style buildings with no street level interface and just big towers on top. I think that they're recognising that that is not necessarily good for building a community.'

Mr John Batten, whose campaigns have enjoyed success in stopping several developments - including on the site of the former residential quarters for married police officers where Mr Tsang grew up - said the change in attitude among authorities has been marked.

'Government has changed dramatically. They are now pointing the finger at the property developers. Before they would not have looked for the faults,' he said.

Mr Batten said the change has come about because of a series of strong targeted campaigns, ranging from the Queen's Pier demonstration to efforts to stop the destruction of traditional wet markets.

'I think these cases come down to a very grassroots approach. It is built on community support for the ideas,' he said.

However Mr Batten is frustrated at the way the new Jockey Club scheme was presented as a fait accompli before consultation.

'The way they have approached it is muddly and murky. They came up with a bright and breezy plan and they thought everyone would think it was great, but it is not very practical,' he said. -- AFP

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ignorance is bliss????

Tonight's posting was inspired by Belle who made a comment under the posting "A piece of HISTORY".

Belle's comment made me reflect about the countless of "extinct" stuff I had the opportunity to see during the course of my work within the Tiong Bahru Estate.

For example, I saw this interesting stove about 2 years ago.

I kinda knew the stove might be of some value to some but I just do not know where I might be able to find such a person.

The owner of the stove was so pre-occupied with packing up his stuff for the moving out, he did not have time to think about who might want this piece of "junk". So he did the easiest thing, pay someone to discard them.

Looking at Belle's comments tonight, this stove came back to haunt me and reminded me of my indifference towards rare things from the past.

I did some online searching for a similar looking stove and found that one exists in some UK museum. You may want to check it out here:
Science Museum.

The article on the similar stove could be found here: New World Gas Cooker

I now know that these types of stoves were designed in the 1930s and were in use till 1973.

If only I did some online searching earlier.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A piece of HISTORY

Saw a renovation in progress and amongst the rubbles,

I was pleasantly thrilled to be able to find an almost intact piece of brick from the 1930s.

These bricks were hacked down by the owner of this new flat as she wanted a bigger room and the sealed up chimneys system does not serve any purpose at all.

This protrusion, (Next to the refrigerator) is part of the chimney system used back in the 30s.

The chimney system, hacked away due to obsolescence.
Notice the 2 darkened black stripes. These are the soot covered area within the chimneys.

The outlets are still there but I guess it leads to nowhere now.

This is a picture of a chimney system that still exists in some of the homes within the Tiong Bahru Estate Pre-War flats. It is getting harder and harder to find these things now.

Anyway, these Alexandra bricks were the same bricks that were used to build the Old National Library. That old library was torn down to create a tunnel so that motorist could save a few precious minutes a day. What appears to be SAVINGS is in fact a permanent LOSS for generations to come.

Facing brick from the National Library at Stamford Road

At least 5000 bricks were retained from the old building in 2004 and now form part of a wall in the basement garden of the Library at Victoria Street. The bricks were baked at the Alexandra Brickworks factory, with clay from Jurong.

More articles on the Old National Library could be found at Wikipedia