Alkaff Upper Serangoon Mosque among 4 winners of URA Architectural Heritage Awards

SINGAPORE - The one-storey Alkaff Upper Serangoon Mosque stands out with its distinctive horseshoe archways and Ottoman-style minaret.

A sanctuary for Muslims since 1930, it was restored over 22 months on a tight $3.1 million budget. Its restoration was so successful that it picked up the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)'s Architectural Heritage Award on Monday (Oct 19).

It is only the second mosque to win the award in the programme's 21-year history.

Among the reasons it won: It stayed true to the vision of the original architects, colonial firm Swan and Maclaren, by voluntarily reinstating its pyramidal roof, fixing its decorative archways and reinstalling its original decorative cast-iron grilles and balustrades.

"The mosque did all this on a modest budget. It's like stepping into Morocco. It is both airy and beautiful," said URA's director of conservation management Kelvin Ang.

The mosque at 66 Pheng Geck Avenue won under the award's category B, which recognises developments that integrate the old with the new.

The other winners were Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, the National Gallery Singapore, and three 1950s bungalows - 12, 13, and 17 Rochester Park. They fall under category A of the award, which is for national monuments and fully conserved buildings.

A total of 12 projects were submitted for judging to the URA's panel of 13 experts from the government, professional and academic institutions, and the Singapore Heritage Society.

The award ceremony was held at Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall and was officiated by Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong.

Mr Wong said the award recognises those who have gone the "extra mile" in restoring Singapore's heritage buildings.

"For our conservation efforts to be successful, the Government cannot do it alone. We need the cooperation of our building owners, our architects, our engineers and our contractors," he said.

The restoration of 12, 13 and 17 Rochester Park was lauded for the "holistic approach" in retaining the nostalgic charm of what was once a colonial homestead for British military offices in the late 1930s.

Now a corporate training venue run by BASF Learning Campus, judges noted that Forum Architects retained the buildings' original open-air verandahs, outhouses such as servants quarters, and the compound's lush mature landscape.

The judges said the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall were "elegantly rejuvenated with great skill". Among other things, it was recognised for its efforts in restoring the original central courtyard and clock tower.

They also applauded the National Gallery of Singapore, which comprises the former Supreme Court and City Hall, for an impressive and complex restoration which connected the two buildings seamlessly.

URA's senior director of conservation, Mrs Teh Lai Yip, said this year's winners include both public and community projects "where users and visitors can re-discover narratives of the past and form new memories of the present and future".

She said: "The awards acknowledge the concerted, thoughtful and inventive efforts which updated these heritage treasures and, at the same time, kept the patina of history."

melodyz@sph.com.sg