Uphold history of heritage shophouses

Our conservation of shophouses in the various parts of Singapore has formed a cityscape of old world charm that we can all be proud of.

A few of these shophouses have been deemed national heritage sites, in recognition of their special history.

Beyond restoring the facades, we must ensure that the activities carried out at these heritage shophouses do not diminish their historical provenance and social value, but rather, enhance it.

In Amoy Street stands such a shophouse, known as the ACS House. It was the location of the original Anglo-Chinese School, and retains the school's emblematic crest on its facade.

Unfortunately, the building is now used as a KTV lounge, whose neon sign burns suggestively in the night.

We should take steps to ensure such heritage buildings house activities whose values resonate with those that made these places unique in the first place.

I applaud the authorities for transforming the former Thong Chai Medical Institution from a nightclub into a venue open during the day for public visits ("Old medical hall retains traditional oriental charm"; Sept 15, 2016).

The building is occupied by an aloe vera marketer, thereby continuing the narrative of the building's past, as a medical hall.

Such sensitive and exemplary treatment should be applied to the ACS House.

It is in visiting the premises and partaking in activities there that history becomes most alive, and social capital most meaningful.

Let us turn the ACS House into a place parents can take their children to for inspiration.

Chng Nai Wee (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2017, with the headline 'Uphold history of heritage shophouses'. Print Edition | Subscribe