Published 9 April 2011
The Business Times
By Uma Shankari
Announcement follows an online petition to save them from destruction
THE landmark railway station in Tanjong Pagar and its smaller counterpart in Bukit Timah will be conserved as physical reminders of Singapore’s rich heritage, the government said yesterday.
The announcement follows a citizens’ campaign to save the buildings from destruction. The stations, built in the early 1930s, are set to be handed over to Singapore by Malaysia.
The art deco-style Tanjong Pagar Railway Station will become a national monument while the smaller station in Bukit Timah will also be conserved, in recognition of their ‘deep historical significance’, government agencies said.
The two stations were built during British rule as part of a vital mode of transport for passengers and goods travelling between Singapore, Malaya and Thailand.
Malaysia retained ownership of the railway land and structures within Singapore after the two countries separated in 1965. But in a land swap agreement reached last year, Malaysia will give up six railway sites in Tanjong Pagar, Kranji, Woodlands and Bukit Timah in exchange for six land parcels in the Marina South and Ophir-Rochor areas.
Concerns soon emerged that the Singapore government would convert the buildings for commercial use, triggering an online petition to save them.
News that they will be conserved was welcomed by architects, historians and members of the public.
‘This is excellent news,’ said Ho Weng Hin, a partner at architectural restoration and research consultancy Studio Lapis.
‘Both buildings were built to serve the masses; ideally, they should remain as public spaces in whatever new incarnation they may take, in the original spirit in which they were conceived.’
Echoed Carolyn Seet, an information technology specialist who started the online petition: ‘Needless to say, I’m very happy. Hopefully, they will keep it (the Tanjong Pagar station) open to the public. My wish is basically it will be a transportation museum like the one in London,’ she told a news wire.
Mr Ho, likewise, said that the Tanjong Pagar station, with its soaring passenger hall, could become an exhibition gallery or a grand hall for a museum such as the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.
He added: ‘I hope that both buildings could be put to cultural or leisure uses, and not become another bland shopping mall, or exclusive entertainment nightspot.’
The Tanjong Pagar station has drawn international attention for its grand facade, which was influenced by both the neo-classical and art-deco schools of architecture. The station, which opened in 1932, will be gazetted as Singapore’s 64th National Monument.
The gazette recognises the uniqueness of the structure and its existence as the key operational railway station in Singapore, said Jean Wee, director of the Preservation of Monuments Board.
The Bukit Timah Railway Station, by contrast, is a simple brick building. It is the only remaining smaller station built to serve the suburban parts of Singapore. An endearing local landmark, the single storey building follows the style of the traditional small town stations that were common in the United Kingdom and Malaya in the 1930s.