Building's architect, experts hope unique structure can be retained

Architect Tan Cheng Siong said Pearl Bank's unique "C-shape" is meant to represent community.
Architect Tan Cheng Siong said Pearl Bank's unique "C-shape" is meant to represent community.

Although the iconic horseshoe-shaped Pearl Bank Apartments in Outram has been sold, the building's architect and other experts in the field are holding on to the slim chance that the striking structure will be retained by developer CapitaLand.

Its architect, Mr Tan Cheng Siong, 81, told The Straits Times yesterday it is his "hope and desire" that the new owner will take the initiative to conserve the tower.

He said: "The redevelopment formula does not have to comprise only tearing down a structure, especially if the original building has high architectural and heri-tage value."

In 2015, more than 90 per cent of residents backed a proposal that would conserve the building, while seeking the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) approval for new units to be built on top of the carpark. The deal fell through as this proposal would have affected the aggregate share value, resulting in a significant dilution of rights of the existing owners.

To be fair to all existing shareholders of the property, the authorities required a resolution by consensus.

Pearl Bank was completed in 1976 to provide homes for the middle class, as well as to rejuvenate and redevelop the city centre, said Mr Tan.

He said the building's unique "C-shape" is meant to represent community: "The layout was designed in such a way that the common corridor is exposed to everyone to mix and interact with each other. Good designnurtures the value of community."

The URA had said previously that there are merits for Pearl Bank's conservation. Among them, it set standards for later condominium developments on provision of communal amenities such as common areas, clubhouses and shops.

Architectural conservation specialist Yeo Kang Shua said the building appeals to the growing number of home owners who are looking to live in buildings with unique architecture and design, as well as a sense of history.

Chang Architects' principal architect Chang Yong Ter said: "Pearl Bank was ahead of its time; even today, it is just as modern, because it has a sense of timelessness."

A CapitaLand spokesman said the company has "successfully redeveloped" historically significant sites such as Clarke Quay, and RiverGate at Robertson Quay.

He added that CapitaLand is confident it is in a good position to "reinvigorate this plum site into a gleaming icon for Singapore".

He said: "We look forward to creating another landmark in Singapore, capturing the heritage elements and blending it with modern aesthetics to reflect the rich, multifaceted culture of Chinatown."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2018, with the headline Building's architect, experts hope unique structure can be retained. Subscribe