Former Traffic Police HQ to house heritage exhibition

A re-created table-top map with toy cars showing how driving theory tests were held at the former Traffic Police headquarters.
A re-created table-top map with toy cars showing how driving theory tests were held at the former Traffic Police headquarters.PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Long before driving theory tests were computerised or conducted on paper, they were done orally using a table-top map and toy cars.

"I would ask the testee what the procedure is as the 'car' approaches the 'T-junction'," said Mr Tan Kwong Moh, 71, who used to conduct these tests at the former Traffic Police (TP) headquarters at 28 Maxwell Road. "So he must tell me that he has to slow down, stop, look left and right, and turn on the signal, to get the question right."

At the ground-floor courtyards, or "air-wells", of the 89-year-old building, traffic police officers would play badminton during their breaks, while suspects were also said to have been lined up there, said Ms Cassandra Tan, 21.

She is one of six Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) students conducting in- depth interviews with officers who worked in the building, to conserve its heritage. Their memories will be shared in a permanent exhibition housed in the public area of the building, when it reopens in 2019 as an extension of Maxwell Chambers.

For 72 years until 1999, the neo-classical building was the TP headquarters until it moved to Ubi. Built in 1928 by the British colonial government, the Frank Dorrington Ward-designed building also served as barracks for the police.

It is the people who give the building its character, through their stories and memories, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah told about 50 TP officers, past and present, yesterday.

"That is why the Ministry of Law worked with the Traffic Police and students from SUTD to launch the Heritage@Maxwell programme - to keep your memories of 28 Maxwell Road alive, and to share them with younger Singaporeans," she said.

From the second half of the year, the 161m-long building will undergo restoration work as part of Maxwell Chambers' $25 million expansion project. The international arbitration centre was established in 2010, and will triple in size following the expansion.

Apart from the heritage exhibit, the refurbished building will include a 24-hour public thoroughfare, connecting pedestrians from Tanjong Pagar MRT station to the new Maxwell station, open-to-sky courtyards, and several food and beverage outlets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2017, with the headline 'Former Traffic Police HQ to house heritage exhibition'. Subscribe