SINGAPORE - A clutch of freshly restored historical landmarks and icons such as the gleaming Jurong Town Hall, The Great Madras boutique hotel in Little India and the colourful headquarters of home-grown biscuit brand Khong Guan have been gaining attention on social media over the past year.
On Friday (Nov 9), the heritage buildings were conferred awards for demonstrating the highest standards of restoration by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
The URA also launched a new category - award for New Design in Heritage Contexts to recognise new buildings with outstanding design that complements and enriches their heritage setting. This award went to two new contemporary structures - the Kwek Hong Png and Riverfront wings- which were added to the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), where the awards ceremony was held.
The URA said the additions to the ACM, a 19th century neo-Palladian-styled national monument, were done subtly. This resulted in "new vistas, vantage points and physical connections between the museum and the historic surroundings, and enhanced public interaction with the building".
The two wings were built over a former service yard and carpark.
Second Minister for National Development, Mr Desmond Lee, who officiated the ceremony, said the winners tell the Singapore story collectively.
"They are enduring and visible reminders of what we have been through as a young nation. So, it is inspiring to see the careful and painstaking work each of the teams has put into their projects to give these precious landmarks new leases of life," said Mr Lee, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development.
This is the 24th year of the annual award.
The awards were decided by a 12-member assessment committee made up of architectural experts and heritage practitioners appointed by the URA.
Jurong Town Hall - a national monument and the main venue of this year's Singapore Heritage Festival - was recognised for retaining the period appearance of its main entrance and its original atrium staircase, among other things.
The URA noted that the grandeur and airy character of the building, which once served as the headquarters of Jurong Town Corporation, known as JTC today, has been recovered. The authority added that the monument's original materials and finishes, including ceramic tiles and Volakas marble, have been meticulously cleaned to reveal their beauty.
Meanwhile, The Great Madras, a pre-war Singapore Improvement Trust apartment building which has been revamped into a 34-room boutique hotel, was acknowledged for embracing a consistent Art Deco-inspired design and and branding. This nod to the past has attracted a younger crowd to enliven the historic area of Little India, said the URA.
The 66-year-old Khong Guan Building - a three-storey wedge-shaped trapezoid structure - which sits between MacTaggart Road and Burn Road in the MacPherson-Paya Lebar area, was given an award for restoration and innovation.
Its main doorway, with its mosaic tiles, metal grille gate and three-dimensional red star were reinstated.
By the end of the year, the public will be able to step through this doorway which once served as the shopfront of the Khong Guan biscuit factory. A cafe operator has rented the first storey of the building and is slated to open by the end of the year, said Mr Daniel Chew, the executive director of Khong Guan Limited.
Blending the new and old seamlessly, an eight-storey extension meant for offices and light industrial use, was also added to the site.
Mr Chew said: "My family has retained the building and now we have revamped it and continue to operate out of it after 66 years. The award is an endorsement of the work the owners, consultants and builders have put into the space."
A special mention was also given to the Sophia Hills residential development which is home to three conserved structures: the former Trinity Theological College Chapel, the former Nan Hwa Girls' School and the former Methodist Girls' School's Olson Building.
The URA said the extensive research and careful restoration of the buildings were commendable.