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NParks should rethink plan for Bukit Timah Guild House

A recent gathering of University of Singapore alumni at the Bukit Timah Guild House was a bittersweet one.

On the one hand, it was the happy meeting of a group of people who had been friends for decades. On the other, it was, sadly, the last time we could meet at the Guild House because on Feb 28, the site reverted to the landlord, the National Parks Board (NParks).

Many of the buildings which formed the university campus at Bukit Timah are now under NParks and used by the Botanic Gardens.

These include the old Raffles Hall and Eusoff College (which housed foreign students studying at the university), Students' Union House and the philosophy and social studies buildings.

Now, the Guild House will also be taken over.

The University of Singapore alumni understand and appreciate the role and status of the Botanic Gardens. However, we would like to retain a small base or presence at the Bukit Timah campus too.

As it stands, the National University of Singapore - the successor to the University of Singapore - has only its law faculty and a few institutes left there.

The question is whether competing needs can be accommodated.

Why can't the Guild House be retained by the University of Singapore alumni under the National University of Singapore Society?

The Botanic Gardens, as a World Heritage Site, should recognise that the Guild House is very much part of the history of the campus.

The former students who studied there from the 1950s to 1970s, and who still gather and reminisce in the building, are a living museum and reflect the true heritage of the place.

NParks needs to rethink its plan for the Guild House and let the alumni retain the place as a quiet clubhouse.

Mano Sabnani

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 05, 2017, with the headline 'NParks should rethink plan for Bukit Timah Guild House'. Print Edition | Subscribe