Design of old Tanjong Katong Girls' School is inspired by the sea

1. Original Clay-Tile Roof
1. Original Clay-Tile RoofPHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
2. Reinforced Concrete Portal Frame
2. Reinforced Concrete Portal FramePHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
3. Porthole Windows
3. Porthole WindowsPHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The former Tanjong Katong Girls' School has nautical motifs

The former premises of the Tanjong Katong Girls' School is home to the Canadian International School, but it is still very much in the hearts of the school's old girls who had studied in the nautical-inspired building, which looks like a ship.

Take Madam Aishah Alkaff, who graduated in 1975.

For the past nine years, the 59-year-old has been conducting tours at the old Tanjong Katong Road premises every January as part of the school's Learning Journey for its Secondary 1 students.

"We were hoping the school could move back here," she says with a laugh.

The school moved to a bigger space in Dunman Lane in 1995 to accommodate a growing cohort.

There were broken windows and a big hole in the roof. When we took over, the requirement was to restore the hall to its original look and state.

MS ANGELA HENDERSON, principal of the Canadian International School, on restoring the hall of the old Tanjong Katong Girls' School. The Canadian International School is now using the premises

The 250,000 sq ft Tanjong Katong Road premises was built in 1953 and there were five buildings there.

After the school moved, the premises was occupied by various tenants before being left vacant for a number of years.

By the time the Canadian International School took over in 2007, its principal Angela Henderson said the school hall - where school assemblies, musicals and sporting activities used to take place - was in "disrepair".

She adds: "There were broken windows and a big hole in the roof. When we took over, the requirement was to restore the hall to its original look and state."

The four-storey building, where the school hall is located, is built in the modern architecture style and was gazetted for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 2003.

The Canadian International School management had the roof and windows patched up, the flooring refurbished and air-conditioning installed. The wooden stage was also given a fresh coat of paint.

The walls of building are now white, though Madam Aishah remembers they were light beige during her school days. It is not known when the walls were repainted.

Ms Yeo Su Fen, a senior architect with the URA, says: "The Canadian International School did a good job of restoring it."

•This is a monthly column on heritage buildings.


HIGHLIGHTS

1. ORIGINAL CLAY-TILE ROOF

Ms Yeo Su Fen, a senior architect with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, says the combination of the clay-tile roof and the modern, portal frame structure of the school hall is "a hybrid between the old and the new". "Clay-tile roofs represent a traditional type of architecture. Nowadays, you see mostly concrete or metal roofs."

2. REINFORCED CONCRETE PORTAL FRAME

Ms Yeo says the modular, portal frame - which forms the angular 7m-high structure of the school hall - reflects a "modern kind of construction" and is one of the early 1950s prototypes of reinforced concrete construction.

Because of its strength, the reinforced concrete allows for bigger and higher structures, as well as bigger windows. Such elements provide better ventilation - a practical need as the school hall was used for several activities and there was no air-conditioning then.

Ms Yeo says: "The portal frame also enables a large area to be enclosed using as little building material as possible, which helps keep construction costs low."

3. PORTHOLE WINDOWS

At the stairwell leading up to the school hall are porthole windows, which have original glass louvres restored by the Canadian International School. Porthole windows are commonly found on ships.

Ms Yeo says the design is rooted in modern architecture and takes inspiration from the ship, which was seen as the "ideal machine" during the second Industrial Revolution, because "it is a combination of aesthetics and functionality".


PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

4. NAUTICAL-INSPIRED GRILLES

The curvy cast-iron window grilles mimick ocean waves.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2016, with the headline 'A whiff of the sea'. Print Edition | Subscribe