Colonial Contemporary Singapore

Oxley Mansion, on Orchard Road. Now an Irish Pub.

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.

Boat Quay – the towering UOB plaza, alongside colonial-era godowns.

Cavenagh Bridge, spanning the Singapore River

Cavenagh Bridge, spanning the Singapore River

The Fullerton Hotel, once the General Post Office

The Fullerton Hotel, once the General Post Office

The Asian Civilisations Museum, once the Empress Place Government Offices

The Asian Civilisations Museum, once the Empress Place Government Offices

The Arts House, once the Old Parliament House

The Arts House, once the Old Parliament House

The Dalhousie Obelisk

The Dalhousie Obelisk

The Victoria Memorial Concert Hall, currently being renovated.

The Victoria Memorial Concert Hall, currently being renovated.

The former Parliament Building

The former Parliament Building

The former City Hall, currently being transformed into the National Art Gallery of Singapore

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 Singapore Cricket Club, with the Padang in the foreground, and Boat Quay in the background

The towering spire of St Andrew's Cathedral

The towering spire of St Andrew’s Cathedral

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

The Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, today a bar and restaurant venue

The Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, today a bar and restaurant venue

View towards Raffles City

View towards Raffles City

The Raffles Hotel Arcade

The Raffles Hotel Arcade

Capitol Building, once the city's foremost dinner theatre and cabaret venue.

Capitol Building, once the city’s foremost dinner theatre and cabaret venue.

Stamford House (1904)

Stamford House (1904)

Stamford Court - completely contemporary, but colonial in essence

Stamford Court – completely contemporary, but colonial in essence

Malayan Publishing House (MPH) Building.

Malayan Publishing House (MPH) Building.

The former Tao Nan School, now The Peranakan Museum

The former Tao Nan School, now The Peranakan Museum

Colonial juxtaposed against contemporary

Colonial juxtaposed against contemporary

The Singapore Philatelic Museum, once the St Joseph's Institution

The Singapore Philatelic Museum, once the St Joseph’s Institution

The Masonic Building.

The Masonic Building.

The Armenian Church of St Gregory the Illuminator (1835) - the oldest church in Singapore

The Armenian Church of St Gregory the Illuminator (1835) – the oldest church in Singapore

Central Fire Station, Hill Street

Central Fire Station, Hill Street

The former Raffles Museum and Library, now the National Museum of Singapore

The former Raffles Museum and Library, now the National Museum of Singapore

Gates to the Christian Cemetary on Fort Canning Hill

Gates to the Christian Cemetary on Fort Canning Hill

Fort Canning Centre, today's Fort Canning Hotel

Fort Canning Centre, today’s Fort Canning Hotel

The Rendezvous Grand Hotel.

The Rendezvous Grand Hotel.

The MacDonald House.

The MacDonald House.

The former Cathay Cinema.

The former Cathay Cinema.

The Goodwood Park Hotel (1932)

The Goodwood Park Hotel (1932)

Black and white bungalow on Scotts Road.

Black and white bungalow on Scotts Road.

Another black and white, further down Scotts Road

Another black and white, further down Scotts Road

Colonial-era mansion on Gilstead Road

Colonial-era mansion on Gilstead Road

Another instance of a colonial-era mansion, Gilstead Road

Another instance of a colonial-era mansion, Gilstead Road

Intrepid latter-day botanist and child, Singapore Botanic Gardens

Intrepid latter-day botanist and child, Singapore Botanic Gardens

Colonial black and white, Singapore Botanic Gardens

Colonial black and white, Singapore Botanic Gardens

The iconic Bandstand, Singapore Botanic Gardens

The iconic Bandstand, Singapore Botanic Gardens

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Landmarks & History, Literature & Philosophy, Photography, Singapore, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s