Archive for July, 2007

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Links to the past

July 31, 2007
LINK HOTEL
50 Tiong Bahru Road

By Tay Suan Chiang, DESIGN CORRESPONDENT, The Straits Times (29/07/07)

THE sound of birds singing at the famed Tiong Bahru bird corner may soon be heard once again.

Bird lovers clutching cages containing their chirpy feathered friends used to flock to the open-air corner at the former Block 53 in Tiong Bahru Road.

However, they stopped going there about four years ago when the block was slated for redevelopment. The area fell silent.

But, good news – the bird corner is to rise like a phoenix.

The housing block where the corner was located has been transformed into the 288-room, boutique Link Hotel, which opened two weeks ago.

And the hotel is encouraging the return of the bird enthusiasts to showcase the songs of their talented tweeters.

It may also hold an annual bird singing contest to recapture the former glory of the area, says a spokesman for the hotel.

The hotel is made up of two blocks which used to be flats under the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) – the predecessor of today’s Housing Board.

Over the past two years, these have been converted into the boutique hotel. The cost of this extensive renovation was $45 million, according to earlier reports. However, when Life! checked this week, the hotel said the figure had changed, but did not disclose details.

Conservation challenges
IT IS not just the bird corner that is staying. Even the facade of the housing blocks has been kept.

Turning the two residential blocks into commercial buildings came with its challenges. One of which is age. Each block is more than 50 years old and the hotel had to deal with wear and tear of the older building materials.

The facade and structure of the two blocks also had to be conserved according to government regulations. This meant the original window louvres had to be retained.
Each piece was painstakingly taken down and treated for water seepage and parasites before being reinstalled.

‘Retaining the facade and structure required extra effort during construction but we went ahead with it so the heritage of the building can be preserved,’ says Mr George Chen, 38, the hotel’s director and general manager.

The original balconies were retained, but guests no longer have access to them. Each room also comes with double-glazed windows to keep out noise.

Another challenge faced by the project’s architects, local firm Liu & Wo, is that an MRT tunnel runs below the two blocks. That meant the weight of the two buildings had to be carefully regulated to not affect the tunnel.

Besides reconfiguring the hotel rooms from former three- and four-room flats, sections of the second, third and fourth floors were removed to create an atrium in the lobby. This allows in natural light, making the hotel look more spacious.

The interior of the rooms reflect Singapore’s multicultural heritage – they are done up in Chinese, Indian, Malay and modern styles.

The hotel is the first project in Singapore for Macau-based Hang Huo Enterprise Group, which has businesses in property, construction, hotels and casinos.

The group won a tender put out by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to build the 62-year-lease property four years ago.

The hotel did not disclose the original tender bid when Life! asked this week. But judging by the buzz and number of visitors when Life! stopped by, the multi-million-dollar exercise has been worth it.

And with 288 rooms, Link Hotel is possibly Singapore’s largest boutique hotel. There are 150 rooms in its Lotus block (named after a flower symbolic of Macau) and 138 rooms in the Orchid block (named after Singapore’s national flower).

The two blocks are linked by a 38m-long air-conditioned bridge – a first for a hotel here.
Rooms in Lotus are open for bookings and cost from $260 to $600 a night. These cater more to business travellers.

The Orchid block is aimed at tourist groups – mainly Chinese – and will be ready in October.

LET THERE BE LIGHT: Parts of the second, third and fourth stories of the building were removed to create an atrium, but the original windows and louvres were retained. — ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO

COMFORT FOOD: In the Malay-themed room, the headboard was designed to recreate the weave found on ketupat. Other rooms are done up in Chinese, Indian and modern styles. Guests can buy the custom-made lamps and other furnishings.

TROPICAL TOUCHES: The dark wood of the hotel lounge gives it a modern, tropical look.

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A new lease of life

July 28, 2007
The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Front)
The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Back Facing)

Taken for granted and treated as USELESS, these building are now in the spotlight again! Though old, they can still be useful and can be called upon to help Singapore retain her economic competitiveness!

See the excerpts from the mainstream newspaper reports:

From the Straits Times :
THE Housing and Development Board (HDB) is taking steps to increase the supply of flats amid growing demand…..The HDB is also working on a pilot project to lease vacated flats under the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) to the public in the short term……Next month, the HDB will call a tender for a managing agent to lease out 120 vacated Sers flats in Blocks 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 at Tiong Bahru Road.

From TODAY newspaper:

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) will lease 120 flats meant to be demolished under its en bloc scheme for public housing. HDB said the vacated flats in Tiong Bahru Road, part of the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) scheme, will be rented out to the public on a short-term basis……Mr Eugene Lim, assistant vice-president at ERA Singapore said, “The first batch is in Tiong Bahru Road. The location is quite central and would appeal to those looking for locations near the city. The Sers flats are in serviceable condition. As a short-term solution, it will work.”

The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Back Facing)

The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Back Facing)

The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Back Facing)

The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Back Facing)

The NEW Boon Tiong Flats.

(Most of the residents in those short blocks in front moved into these few brand new tall blocks after SERS)

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July 28, 2007

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Share my Grief.

July 27, 2007

Drop my kids off their kindergarten at Pearlbank this morning and was shocked to see that 80% of residents at Pearlbank has agreed to put their property up on sale.

I may not have lived in Pearlbank before but I still feel a deep sense of loss. Everyone who had lived in the Tiong Bahru Estate before could not have missed this Iconic building during their stay here.

This building was recently featured in URA’s SINGAPORE 1:1 City, A Gallery of Architects and Urban Design. But I guess that has done nothing to help protect this building from destruction. It will probably remain in URA“s Gallery and we will have nothing REAL to show the future generations except for pictures from flickr or videos from youtube.

I’m not sure if it is too late to help these Pearlbank Anti En-Bloc folks now.

I sincerely hope their resistance will not be futile.

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Same Same But Different

July 25, 2007
Blk 78 Yong Siak Street

Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace

Blk 78 Guan Chuan Street

Block 78 in the Tiong Bahru Estate is the only building in the Tiong Bahru Estate with 3 different street names.

It is also the longest and tallest building amongst the conserved flats in the Tiong Bahru Estate.

In past, people refer to this estate as the “GOR LAU CHU” (Hokkien for 5 storey house).

In fact, after these buildings were completed, people often pop by this area to gawk at the “tall” buildings as it was the only place in Singapore where they could see flats! (Remember, this was in the 1930s).

Okay, back to my story on block 78. Being Singaporeans, most of us would assume that all blocks in Singapore has only one block number and one street name…which is always the case.

But the rules are different here at Tiong Bahru! How often I have to walk back and forth to look for some lost “sheep” who insisted that they are waiting at the right block for me.

Yeah! The block number is right but the spot is wrong. Many generations before us had been confused. And many generations after us will continue to be confused.

If you have nothing to do, just walk around Block 78. Chances are, you will meet some brand new pizza hut delivery boys making their rounds…..looking hopelessly lost. And during the Chinese New Year period, the hamper uncles will be walking around looking quite frustrated as they struggle to find the right address.

I wonder if Santa would be confused too……..
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July 24, 2007

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July 24, 2007

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Leave kids something to remember

July 23, 2007

The Electric New Paper :
By Leong Ching
23 July 2007


HOW quickly we forget. For years, I have been driving to work, passing by a giant on the left, and on Monday, he was gone.

I almost didn’t notice it. A negative presence is like a ghost and we have no time for ghosts in our determinedly cheery island.

It was sad, too bad, but life goes on, with or without an 80-year-old Angsana tree.

We are stupid and cruel and ignorant, and after 20 years, when it is several degrees hotter, we will realise it, but it will be too late.

In the meantime, we have National Day Parades to watch and new property launches to view.

Our homes are all new, because the old ones have been torn down.

There is no room for old in this young country, because we are for peace and prosperity, don’t you know?

I once shed a tear for the National Library. It was the place of many memories and a reminder of a time of innocence.

But now it’s gone, like innocence lost. It was found to be – too small, too old, standing in the way of the new university. Today, it’s a nice big tunnel. Much better. It’s short, doesn’t save us much time, but every second counts, don’t you know? How many of you even remember the old National Library?

Can’t remember right? You won’t even notice it’s gone. Chipping away at memories doesn’t seem to matter.

It doesn’t show up in any national statistic, it doesn’t lead to Singapore slipping down any competitive index.

It is merely a negative presence in the hollow of our collective minds.

Recently, there appears to be a greater urgency for the older generation to tell their stories – before they are forgotten.

RECORDS FOR POSTERITY

The older MPs are writing books, former Deputy Prime Minister Goh Keng Swee, who ought to have written his own memoirs, had a biography released.

Why do they bother? Because they think, as I do, that it is important to have a history.

Here is what former MP Chiang Hai Ding said about writing his memoirs and encouraging other MPs to do the same.

‘Our nation is just over 40 years old, or two generations. How did it come about? What did it take to make it up to here? What future awaits us?

‘How many younger Singaporeans, of 50 years and below, know these historical facts?’

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who has written his own memoirs, said that the stories by different MPs will ‘give a multi-dimensional view of past events and provide richness and texture to the story… When writing memoirs, you are talking to posterity.’

It is an urge which springs from something primordial in us, in any collection of people who have shared experiences. Somehow, having gone through something together – dengue outbreaks, Sars, financial crises, race riots – we become closer.

But it is one thing to tell a story. It is another to listen to it. You can’t get people to listen to a story if they feel it bears no relation to their lives.

We can’t feel part of the same country if it is like a dune of shifting sand, change from one day to the next, with no sense of permanence, no sense of history. We ought to be more judicious in what we are doing in the name of progress.

I like to tell my kids about the places I ate in when I grew up (Odeon beef noodles), the places I studied in (the kindergarten off Oxley Road where I lived), my favourite place for ice-cream (Cold Storage Creamery, opposite the present Centrepoint).

Most times, the stories hang in thin air – I can’t take them to look at any of the places because they were nearly always gone.

One day, I might wake up and see there isn’t really anything for me to remember.

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July 23, 2007

Fountaine Parry

An exciting new developement by OUB Centre Limited will spring where Parry Gardens now stand.

Parry Gardens is an abode set in a serene and tranquil residential estate amidst a community consisting of mainly landed housing and low-rise developments.

Soon you can live within 1 km of Roysth School, choice cuisines, countless amentities, naturescapes and swift access to the Central Expressway (CTE) and the future Kallang Expressway.

Everything you have ever dreamed and wished of a perfect home is about to come true.

To register your interest in Fountaine Parry, please contact Alvin Yeo @ 9100-0001 or email to alvinyeo@pacific.net.sg

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Where are the Privates and where are the HDBs?

July 21, 2007
There are 2 categories of flats in the Tiong Bahru Estate and these flats are
split up into 2 sections within the Tiong Bahru Estate.

On one side are the HDB regulated flats while on the other side are the privatised properties.

HDB SIT flat (Post War)

The HDB Post War flats are rather angular and the shapes are very standardised. Some people always refer to it as the ones with the round balconies. Actually, they are not balconies but the staircases for the residents to climb up to their unit. It is also what makes the building unique and charming.

These flats were built from the 1948 – 1951 period. It was built by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT). Some people refer these flats as the LIM YEW HOCK flats but I do not think they are built during his reign as Chief Minister of Singapore as he only took office in 1956. So to call these the LIM YEW HOCK’s flats is actually inaccurate. I usually call them the SIT flats but that still does not clear up the confusion as the PRE-WAR section are also built by SIT.

An easier way is to identify them by the block number. Blk 17 to Blk 50 are flats which requires the buyer to comply with the HDB’s eligibility scheme.

Originally, these flats were rented out and later, resident were “encouraged” to buy them in 1973, when HDB took over the responsibility of running the estate.

Blk 55 to Blk 82 are the Pre-War Conserved flats which were privatised in 1965 to 1967 under the Government’s pilot Home Ownership Scheme. The conservation status was only awarded in 2003.

PRE WAR CONSERVED FLATS

These flats were built in 1936 and most of them survived the bombing of World War II. Blk 78 Guan Chuan Street even has a bomb shelter beneath them.

The walls of these buildings are really tough. If you even need to hack away these “historical” wall, your contractor can get rather creative with his choice of words while hacking them.

Although these buildings look almost the same from the outside, the buildings actually contain apartments of various sizes. Even the building height is rather varied. Some buildings are a mixed 2 to 3 storey high while some are as tall as 5 storey. The “super senior” taxi drivers will always refer this place as the “GOR LAU CHU” (5 storey flats). (Do not attempt to utter this to the modern day taxi drivers…unless you have a lot of time or is dying to start a conversation.)

The Singapore Government started selling these flats to the residents from 1965 to 1967 under a Government’s pilot Home Ownership Scheme. Which explains the reason why the 99 lease starts from 1965 to 1967 and not from 1936.