Oxley Mansion, on Orchard Road. Now an Irish Pub.
What distinguishes Singapore from everywhere else in Southeast Asia, is that here, one still feels keenly, the sense of the colonial. In fact, the colonial is pervasive in Singapore, not just in terms of the way of life here; but also in terms of the actual physical architecture of the place.
The Gallery presents just over three dozen views of Colonial Contemporary Singapore, where, ironically, the sense of history and the past is strong, despite a sense of style and general tendency towards the contemporary. In fact, the city doggedly re-presents its colonial heritage for contemporary tastes, and in so doing, ensures that the former remains relevant, to the extent of being desirable.
Whatever the naysayers say, I believe that Singapore has the most progressive heritage policies in all of Asia; one that eschews objectification for something more pragmatic, motivated by a recognition that heritage must be “living,” in order that it may be preserved. It’s just that what “living” means changes with the times, and so what preservation entails, must similarly adapt.
The tour takes in major colonial precincts in downtown Singapore, starting off at Boat Quay and the Civic District, along the banks of the Singapore River, where modern Singapore itself was born; winding its way up Fort Canning, ancient residence of the British Governor; heading northwards up Orchard Road, once home to fabulous colonial bungalows housing the island’s turn-of-the-century rich and famous; and culminating in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, established by the British and kept in a remarkable state of preservation even today.
Boat Quay – the towering UOB plaza, alongside colonial-era godowns.
Cavenagh Bridge, spanning the Singapore River
The Fullerton Hotel, once the General Post Office
The Asian Civilisations Museum, once the Empress Place Government Offices
The Arts House, once the Old Parliament House
The Dalhousie Obelisk
The Victoria Memorial Concert Hall, currently being renovated.
The former Parliament Building
The former City Hall, currently being transformed into the National Art Gallery of Singapore
The Singapore Cricket Club, with the Padang in the foreground, and Boat Quay in the background
The towering spire of St Andrew’s Cathedral
The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd
The Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, today a bar and restaurant venue
View towards Raffles City
The Raffles Hotel Arcade
Capitol Building, once the city’s foremost dinner theatre and cabaret venue.
Stamford House (1904)
Stamford Court – completely contemporary, but colonial in essence
Malayan Publishing House (MPH) Building.
The former Tao Nan School, now The Peranakan Museum
Colonial juxtaposed against contemporary
The Singapore Philatelic Museum, once the St Joseph’s Institution
The Masonic Building.
The Armenian Church of St Gregory the Illuminator (1835) – the oldest church in Singapore
Central Fire Station, Hill Street
The former Raffles Museum and Library, now the National Museum of Singapore
Gates to the Christian Cemetary on Fort Canning Hill
Fort Canning Centre, today’s Fort Canning Hotel
The Rendezvous Grand Hotel.
The MacDonald House.
The former Cathay Cinema.
The Goodwood Park Hotel (1932)
Black and white bungalow on Scotts Road.
Another black and white, further down Scotts Road
Colonial-era mansion on Gilstead Road
Another instance of a colonial-era mansion, Gilstead Road
Intrepid latter-day botanist and child, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Colonial black and white, Singapore Botanic Gardens
The iconic Bandstand, Singapore Botanic Gardens