Two possible sites identified for Founders' Memorial

Bay East Garden at Gardens by the Bay (left) provides greater flexibility in design, said the committee, while PAP.SG has said Fort Canning Park (right) is in a site with historic significance.
Bay East Garden at Gardens by the Bay (above) provides greater flexibility in design, said the committee, while PAP.SG has said Fort Canning Park is in a site with historic significance.ST PHOTO: LIM YONG TECK
Bay East Garden at Gardens by the Bay (left) provides greater flexibility in design, said the committee, while PAP.SG has said Fort Canning Park (right) is in a site with historic significance.
Bay East Garden at Gardens by the Bay provides greater flexibility in design, said the committee, while PAP.SG has said Fort Canning Park (above) is in a site with historic significance.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The committee in charge of conceptualising a memorial to honour Singapore's founders has made recommendations on two possible sites: Fort Canning Park and Bay East Garden at Gardens by the Bay.

The 15-member Founders' Memorial Committee, formed in June last year, also shared its findings yesterday after four months of public engagement about the concept.

Of the two sites that it identified in consultation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the committee had a "clear preference" for the Gardens by the Bay site, which sits on reclaimed land and is adjacent to the Marina Bay Golf Course.

 

"The Bay East Garden reflects a forward-looking nature that we feel is important for the memorial," said committee head and Esplanade chairman Lee Tzu Yang. "Secondly, it is a practical issue: it is a less mature site, and therefore affords more freedom, more flexibility in terms of design and in terms of integration with the surrounding context."

Fort Canning Park is the site preferred by the PAP Seniors' Group (PAP.SG), an advocacy group under the ruling People's Action Party. In its proposal to the committee last September, PAP.SG cited Fort Canning's long and rich history and noted it "once served as the seat of power in Singapore, even pre-dating the colonial period".

Mr Lee agreed Fort Canning benefits from being within walking distance to museums and monuments in the historic Civic District. It is also the start point of the 8km-long Jubilee Walk heritage trail.

But Bay East Garden would better meet the objective of offering a quiet, contemplative space, and room to hold civic programmes.

"Fort Canning Park has certain limitations... because it is quite congested and is already built up, whereas at Bay East Garden, we can achieve both a reflective space and a programming space."

With the current end-point of the Jubilee Walk "only a short hop" away at the Marina Barrage, the trail can be extended to take in Bay East Garden, said Mr Lee.

Ambassador-at-large and committee member Gopinath Pillai agreed. He said concepts such as multiracialism and resilience that the memorial should espouse "need space to be properly reflected".

Heritage experts contacted by The Straits Times said both sites are equally suitable, with Fort Canning having greater historic significance but Bay East Garden being newer and able to attract greater traffic.

"A memorial will look much more grand and inspiring if you can see it from afar, if in some way, it punctuates the landscape. Both sites allow for that," said International Council on Monuments and Sites Singapore president Kevin Tan. "But you also have to bear in mind other considerations such as accessibility, and whether it can embody the spirit of what you are trying to portray."

Yesterday, Mr Lee shared key findings the committee gleaned since October last year from nearly 2,000 people it engaged at public dialogues, through online responses and a door-to-door survey.

More than 80 per cent of Singaporeans surveyed supported a memorial that commemorates the values and ideals on which Singapore is built, and that such values include multiracialism, determination and unity.

A majority also felt the memorial should inspire future generations, and should recognise founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his team - which includes Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaratnam, Mr Othman Wok and Mr Lim Kim San.

Mr Lee said the committee is looking at a memorial that encompasses this "pantheon of characters, rather than a specific individual", and that the ultimate focus is on the principles they stood for.

"Clearly, these values and ideals only become real when we look at examples, and the examples are to do with people. So the people will be in the memorial, but the focus will be on the values and ideals."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2016, with the headline 'Two possible sites identified for Founders' Memorial'. Print Edition | Subscribe