Saturday, October 4, 2008

Twelve Iconic Structures

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 4, 2008

The URA has extended its conservation efforts to cover towers, bridges and structures other than buildings for the first time.

LONG-TIME Toa Payoh resident Kenny Leck has seen many changes in the housing estate where he has been living for 28 years.

Neighbours have moved away and old blocks of flats have been demolished to make way for skyscraper blocks.

The lookout tower at Seletar Reservoir Park, built by the Public Works Department in the late 1960s, has a striking angular geometry chracteristic of the period. -- PHOTO: URA/KEVIN LEONG

Yesterday, the 30-year-old bookseller was glad to hear that one landmark in his neighbourhood will be conserved: the 25m-tall Lookout Tower in Toa Payoh Town Park.

Built in 1972, it was at one time a very popular spot for photo taking. Mr Leck said that on public holidays, his family often went to the park to take photographs, posing with the tower looming in the background.

'The tower holds fond memories for residents and it is a good move to keep it,' he said.

He was responding to the announcement that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is extending its conservation programme beyond buildings, to include structures such as towers, pavilions and bridges.

The structures are: the Botanic Gardens' bandstand and the Swan Lake Gazebo; MacRitchie Reservoir's water intake tower and bridge and its pavilion and bridge; the water intake tower, bridge and weir at Lower Peirce Reservoir and the lookout towers in Toa Payoh Town Park and Seletar Reservoir Park.

The six historic bridges to be conserved are Anderson, Cavenagh, Elgin, Read, Ord and Crawford.

In announcing the extension of the URA conservation programme, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said that what makes a place distinctive and memorable are not just buildings.

'It could be an elegant tower, a historic bridge or a beautiful pavilion. There are many places and landmarks that we can identify with and feel for in Singapore - places where we spent quality time with our family and friends.'

He cited the Lookout Tower in Toa Payoh Town Park, which he called a landmark that many people identify with the estate.

He was speaking at the annual URA Architectural Heritage Award ceremony held at The Sea View Clubhouse at Amber Road. The clubhouse, built in the early 1900s, is a former seaside bungalow that has been restored and is a heritage award winner this year.

More than 6,800 buildings have been conserved under the URA programme since the programme started almost 30 years ago.

The National Parks Board also has its own conservation programme, under which some of the more scenic and significant tree-lined roads in Singapore are protected.

These include Arcadia Road, Mount Pleasant Road and Mandai Road. Mature trees along these roads cannot be cut down.

In June, the Land Transport Authority announced that it is saving the oldest bus stop in Singapore - a bus stop along Old Choa Chu Kang Road that was built in the 1970s.

Yesterday, Mr Mah also announced that four black-and-white houses at Bukit Chermin in Telok Blangah will also be conserved. These were built in the early 1900s by the then Singapore Harbour Board for its senior staff members.

The four houses, together with 25 pre-war colonial buildings that are already conserved at the Southern Ridges, can be developed for future use as hotels, restaurants, art galleries and the like.

Dr Kevin Tan, president of the Singapore Heritage Society, is pleased that the URA is now looking at individual structures for conservation. 'It is a welcome and long overdue move as these structures are important to our historical and cultural landscape,' he said.

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