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Taking a broader view of heritage

Published on Jun 19, 2014 7:08 AM

Singapore's decision to conserve even warehouses deemed worthy attests to its confidence as a nation. Landscapes of the past reiterate Singapore's place in time by offering citizens evocative points of reference for a keener understanding of themselves as a people in the making. The landscape of the Padang area, for example, is a reminder of the historical depth of a city-state that today is dotted with shopping malls and other edifices of gilded modernity.

History, as what the present makes of the passage of time, can have certain leanings.

For example, there was once a tendency to celebrate the presentness of the past by preserving the architectural splendour of the island's colonial heritage. How-ever, while ancientness counts, collective memories are also important because of the sustaining role that they play in national life. Thus, there is a need to move beyond the colonial era, in spite of its admittedly grand architectural legacy, to more recent phases of Singapore's his-tory.

Much has been accomplished since independence. As Singapore's 50th anniversary approaches, it is gratifying to note that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has broadened its conservation net to include warehouses, public housing flats, a former market, health-care facilities and places of worship.

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