Black and white Burkill Hall in Botanic Gardens to return to its original white palette

Burkill Hall, a black-and-white colonial bungalow within the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Burkill Hall, a black-and-white colonial bungalow within the Singapore Botanic Gardens.PHOTO: NPARKS

SINGAPORE - Mistaken for a black-and-white bungalow for more than 50 years, the historic 1868 Burkill Hall at the Singapore Botanic Gardens will soon be returned to its original white palette.

The two-storey bungalow, now a popular wedding venue, will be repainted in January.

This follows Gardens' director Nigel Taylor's discovery two years ago that the structure is actually an Anglo-Malayan plantation-style house. It is the last one standing in the region, and possibly the world.

While doing research on the Gardens' structures in 2013, in the midst of the site's bid for Unesco World Heritage status, he discovered that Burkill Hall pre-dates the black-and-white style. The first black-and-white bungalow in Singapore was built only in 1898.

Photos of Burkill Hall from the late 1800s up till 1959 also showed it clad in white paint.

Dr Taylor said that this was a result of a mistake in 1960 by the Public Works Department which "didn't know as much about the building's history" and painted it in black and white.

Designed like a farmhouse, Burkill Hall was built to function without electricity. For instance, it has verandahs on both ends of its second floor to create a wind tunnel effect for occupants.

The repainting project, which will also include giving the Gardens' iconic 1930 bandstand a fresh coat of paint, is part of an overall effort to reinstate the 156-year-old site's original structures and features. Work is expected to be completed in February.

Dr Taylor said the repainting project "relates very much to the Unesco accolade because one of the things that Unesco looks for is authenticity".

The effort will be undertaken and sponsored by painting and coatings company AkzoNobel. The company declined to provide the cost of the sponsorship.

Burkill Hall served as the residence of the Gardens' superintendents and directors for more than a hundred years, including its first superintendent Lawrence Niven. It was built by Chinese builders at a cost of $4,000.