Blending hues of heritage and urbanisation

The architecture of Singapore's historic residential houses must be preserved. Yet, Singaporeans must be aware that striking a balance with respect to the facade of such buildings represents a way forward for modernisation and culture ("Strange hues spoil views on Emerald Hill"; Monday).

While owners are rightly justified in wondering whether the striking neon colours of the Emerald Hill terrace houses blend in well with the history and character of the estate, these alterations in the outward appearance represent owners' individuality and personality, juxtaposed against decades-old buildings that have progressed with the times.

As much as Emerald Hill was an icon for residential living in times long past, the proliferation of retail and dining establishments in the area serves to remind us that redevelopment involves changing the purposes of such spaces; and with them, the resulting modern choice of colours.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority should consider each proposal for alterations to these building facades on its own merit and not apply a complete ban on the choice of paint or design that can be employed.

There ought to be a consultative process among the owners, conservation association and city planners on effective guidelines to be implemented for such alterations.

To avoid animosity, these guidelines should not be overly prescriptive or restrictive, to allow owners to express their character within the limits of reason.

Such guidelines could extend beyond Emerald Hill, and be applied in a collaborative manner across other conservation areas, such as Joo Chiat and Chinatown.

Ultimately, the preservation of such iconic Singapore buildings is essential.

Yet, the act of residents coming together to make decisions on their living environment affects not just themselves, but also visitors and tourists who have come to love and appreciate such beautiful architecture.

Bryan Chow Weng Keong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'Blending hues of heritage and urbanisation'. Print Edition | Subscribe