The sensitive restoration of a 91-year-old shophouse, near MacDonald House in Orchard Road, picked up a prestigious conservation award at the annual Architectural Heritage Awards yesterday.
Called Temasek Shophouse, the building, which used to be a townhouse with apartments and shops, was the sole winner of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) award for restoration.
URA, which has been administering the awards since 1995, said the building's original ornamentation and missing features were carefully restored, returning it as close as possible to its original form.
For instance, false ceilings at its five-foot-way were removed, drawing attention to its original double-height columns. Inside, a two-storey atrium now stands in the place of bulky escalators from the 1980s, introducing a new sense of spaciousness to the building, URA said.
The 18-month restoration of the state property was undertaken by lessee Temasek Trustees and architect Surbana Jurong Consultants.
The site is home to Temasek's philanthropy arm and has space for its co-working partners, as well as a public space on the ground level.
The award was announced by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, at an event which also marked URA's 30-year conservation journey.
Mr Lee spent much of his speech emphasising the importance of community partnerships and support in making the cityscape more diverse.
The rough number of buildings and structures that the Urban Redevelopment Authority has conserved islandwide since launching its conservation programme in the 1980s.
On the award, Ms Yvonne Tay, director of Temasek Shophouse, said: "To take over an old conserved building and reimagine it as something that can make an impact on Singapore's future is something we are happy to be doing."
In his speech, Mr Lee noted that the authorities have taken a more inclusive and consultative approach to co-create and sustain Singapore's built heritage landscape.
He said Singapore's conservation journey can be traced back to as early as the 1960s when pioneer planners saw the importance of selectively and pragmatically protecting the island's built heritage.
He paid tribute to individuals such as Mr Alan Choe, the first general manager of the Urban Renewal Unit in the 1960s; Mrs Koh-Lim Wen Gin, who as a young architect led an urban design team in the 1970s to conserve low-rise historic districts in the city centre and made conservation a priority; and Mr Khoo Teng Chye, former chief executive and chief planner of URA.
Mr Lee added that then Minister for National Development S. Dhanabalan, who was also at the event, had provided critical political support to make urban conservation a reality in 1989 when URA formalised its conservation programme and conserved more than 3,200 buildings in Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam, Boat Quay, Clarke Quay, Cairnhill and Emerald Hill.
Mrs Koh-Lim, who also addressed attendees at the event held at URA's building in Maxwell Road, noted the challenges ahead in Singapore's conservation journey, such as the future of now rundown post-independent, modern architectural landmarks.
She called for their retention and for them to be "reused and recycled" in the name of sustainability as they serve as markers of Singapore's progress. These buildings include Golden Mile Complex and People's Park Complex.
Mr Lee also recognised the efforts of URA's conservation partners such as tourism industry veteran Pamelia Lee, who used to be with the Singapore Tourism Board, and organisations such as the Singapore Heritage Society.
He said: "We will continue to engage and collaborate deeply with the industry, community and all Singaporeans to protect, sustain and enliven our built heritage for the next 30 years, and for many more generations to come."