URA to conserve 3 buildings at SCGS' former Orchard Rd site

The Main Block of the former Singapore Chinese Girls' School premises in Emerald Hill, which is one of three buildings to be conserved at the site. The two-storey block designed with neo-classical and Art Deco elements was meant to be one of the most
The Main Block of the former Singapore Chinese Girls' School premises in Emerald Hill, which is one of three buildings to be conserved at the site. The two-storey block designed with neo-classical and Art Deco elements was meant to be one of the most up-to-date school buildings of its time, the Urban Redevelopment Authority noted.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

It says they have high architectural and historical value, will be put to new uses

Plans are in the works to conserve three buildings at the site of the former Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS) in Orchard Road.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), in an update yesterday, said the buildings will be adapted to house new cultural and lifestyle uses, in line with the Government's plans to strengthen and differentiate Orchard Road with unique offerings.

URA, which carried out a study of the site, assessed three buildings there to be of high historical and architectural significance. These are the Main Block (built in 1925), Principal's House (built in 1930) and the Song Ong Siang Block (built in 1956).

Each of these buildings features an architectural style representative of its time, serving as a link to the school's history, said URA.

The news follows a campaign by former students that was launched last September to save their old campus of almost 70 years from potential redevelopment. They set up social media pages and started a petition that got about 11,500 supporters.

In May, the group submitted a 143-page report which, among other things, suggested that the site be repurposed to house a museum, Peranakan-themed cooking school and boutique hotel in a spice garden.

URA noted that SCGS is one of the oldest girls' schools in Singapore and that its founders were a group of Straits Chinese men who were against the conservative view then that being uneducated and confined to the home was a virtue for girls.

It further noted that the Main Block - a two-storey building designed with neo-classical and Art Deco elements - was meant to be one of the most up-to-date school buildings of its time, with details like moulded pilasters and high central windows to draw attention upwards to the triangular pediment capping the central bay of its facade.

Taking reference from the Main Block, the two-storey Principal's House was designed in the same style and features a pitched clay tiled roof, as well as timber louvre and latticed glass panel windows.

 

The three-storey modern-style Song Ong Siang Block features a regular pattern of strip windows, with the weight of the building visually resting on slender cylindrical columns at its first storey, it said.

URA added: "Collectively, these buildings are symbolic of the progressive founding spirit of the school. Together with the adjacent Emerald Hill conservation area, they contribute to the rich heritage and distinctive streetscape of the Orchard Road precinct."

Today, the state land is leased to Chatsworth International School. SCGS moved to Dunearn Road in 1994.

URA added that the decision on the three buildings was given further impetus by the alumnae's proposal to conserve them and put them to new uses that celebrate the history of the site and enliven the neighbourhood.

It said: "Through engagement with other SCGS alumnae, Emerald Hill stakeholders and the public through community workshops, the group also raised greater awareness and garnered support for their proposal. The buildings' heritage value and the strong support from stakeholders reinforced the decision to proceed with URA's conservation proposal."

Former SCGS student Daphne Yuan, 35, who oversaw the research component of the Keep 37 Emerald Hill campaign, said: "We are heartened that there is room for heritage in a prime district like Orchard Road, and glad that our school's oldest buildings will be retained as they serve as physical reminders of how SCGS came to be - when some men back then decided that girls should not be stuck in the back of a house."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2019, with the headline 'URA to conserve 3 buildings at SCGS' former Orchard Rd site'. Print Edition | Subscribe