Do more to protect conserved buildings

The decision to demolish and rebuild parts of the conserved Ellison Building to facilitate tunnelling work for the North-South Corridor raises three issues ("Tunnel works to affect heritage building", Aug 18; "Conserved buildings: Consult public before slicing and dicing", Sept 8).

First, there appears to be a loophole in our conservation of heritage sites. The current approach of conserving heritage structures appears to give little regard to protecting the buildings from surrounding land use.

Whenever area or road maintenance works are carried out nearby, the work site and the conserved building are treated as mutually exclusive entities.

For instance, when tunnelling work was carried out for the North East Line, Ee Hoe Hean Building - which falls within the Chinatown Conservation District -was found to have a dangerously slanted wall, despite efforts to mitigate damage to the conserved area. Later, the building had to be unnecessarily reconstructed, and there was some controversy over the authenticity of its new facade.

Second, Singapore does not seem to have an army of old-school masons and artisans with the skills to reconstruct traditional buildings authentically.

Also, it is unclear if studies were done on the techniques and materials that went into the original construction of heritage buildings in Singapore. To demolish and reconstruct buildings without fully understanding them is foolish.

Third, conserved sites are selectively gazetted by merit due to limited resources. To demolish and reconstruct a conserved building is an imprudent use of precious resources.

Jerome Teo Zhen Peng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'Do more to protect conserved buildings'. Print Edition | Subscribe