Golden staircase out of step with town council laws

The "golden staircase" on the 20th floor of a block in Jalan Rajah.
The "golden staircase" on the 20th floor of a block in Jalan Rajah. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The "golden staircase" on the 20th floor of a block in Jalan Rajah.
The "golden staircase" on the 20th floor of a block in Jalan Rajah.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

A staircase paved with gold foil at a Housing Board block in Jalan Besar has earned an art student praise from netizens, but is reportedly being called an "unauthorised" deed by the town council.

Ms Priyageetha Dia, 25,  claimed responsibility on Facebook for the work, which took about five hours to complete, writing that the "intervention of the gold finally reverberated against the ever-lifeless and grey architecture on the 20th floor of my block".

Photos of the "golden staircase" in the Jalan Rajah block first surfaced on the online forum Reddit two days ago, and then citizen journalism website Stomp.

According to Ms Priyageetha's Facebook profile, she is a student at at the Lasalle College of the Arts.

Today newspaper reported the Jalan Besar Town Council as saying that while it appreciated her "desire to enhance her surrounding space", the act was unauthorised under the town council's by-laws.

But, it reportedly said it wants to explore ways in which it and Ms Priyageetha can work together.

When contacted by The Straits Times, the town council's property officer, who identified himself only as Mr Md Firdaus, said that the case was still under investigation.

The town council did not say if the gold foil would be removed from the staircase.

Ms Priyageetha said in her Facebook post that she had been thinking about decorating the staircase for a month and was apprehensive of the consequences.

"I consider this work as art and not vandalism," she wrote.

Despite the laws, she felt that she had not defaced anything, but had enhanced her space and surroundings.

"My work does not seek to obliterate a public space; vandalism in all sense has no respect for another individual," she added.

Ms Priyageetha declined comment when contacted by ST.

At least one of her neighbours has given the work the thumbs up.

Ms Raine Chong, 28, an architect, feels the town council should let the golden staircase remain.

Besides being the subject of a conversation starter among neighbours, Ms Chong said the artwork held a deeper meaning to her.

She noted that her late grandmother, together with 10 children, had been relocated to the Jalan Rajah block from the slums.

"It was their first proper home. This golden staircase, as you can put it, is the 'stairway to heaven."

This is not the first time that a work in a public space that claims to be art has fallen afoul of the law.

On March 2, ST reported that a pagoda-like tower of psychedelic toys, figurines and knick-knacks, erected late last year at a void deck in Yishun, had been described by some as an art installation worthy of a place in the Singapore Biennale.

But, it is gone now after the authorities, worried about fire safety, stepped in.