Don't turn former SCGS campus into another cookie-cutter development

Valiant attempts by some SCGS old girls to save their school's former campus on Emerald Hill from the wrecking ball deserves a huge shot in the arm (SCGS old girls launch campaign to conserve former 37 Emerald Hill campus; Sept 21).

The original Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS) building was and should always be an institution of the precinct.

It captures the elan and contributions of the progressive overseas Chinese-Peranakan community in emancipating women through education in colonial Singapore, and during the Victorian age no less.

Emerald Hill was once a thriving Peranakan enclave - one of three on our island, along with the Duxton-Neil-Blair roads precinct in vibrant Tanjong Pagar, and Joo Chiat-Katong in the east.

This rich and eclectic multicultural heritage can be the basis on which the building is transformed into a lifestyle facility with panache, which could include a boutique hotel and a small theatre that shows the acclaimed play Emily Of Emerald Hill by Singaporean writer Stella Kon on a regular basis, along with a programming slate geared towards boosting local theatre, literature and stand-up comedy from a female perspective.

The whole development could be managed by a Singaporean lifestyle or hospitality group like Como Hotels and Resorts - best known for its stylish Metropolitan and Uma boutique hotel brands, with the former being most suitable for the Emerald Hill locale due to the contemporary urban vibe that it exudes.

The refurbished building ought to dovetail with Design Orchard - the upcoming facility to showcase Singaporean design, situated just a stone's throw away.

The former SCGS campus' charming low-rise architecture and its setting hark back to a more elegant and romantic era, and provide an aesthetically pleasing respite from the bustle of Orchard Road.

A sensitive, contemporary re-adaptation of the premises can play a catalytic role in steering Singapore's leading shopping district away from the many faceless "me-too" mixed developments and malls that occupy it today.

We most certainly do not need another cookie-cutter private condominium disrupting the former SCGS campus' potential to be transformed into a seductive lifestyle attraction that can help lift Orchard Road to heights that it has never seen and experienced before.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2018, with the headline 'Don't turn former SCGS campus into another cookie-cutter development'. Print Edition | Subscribe