It was a diverse group of winners at this year’s Architectural Heritage Awards: a former clubhouse for Chinese businessmen, the iconic Sultan Mosque, a 146-year-old Roman Catholic Church and luxury integrated development Capitol Singapore.
They were chosen from nine submissions. Given out by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the annual awards, which began in 1995, recognise owners, architects, engineers, conservation specialists and contractors who have restored monuments and conservation buildings well.
Considered by many as Singapore’s unofficial national mosque, the Sultan Mosque was gazetted as a national monument in 1975. But it didn’t always look the way it does now.
The domes were painted green in 1950, while the minarets were pink at one point.
Today, after a 15-month renovation that was completed last October, the domes are a gleaming gold – an homage to the mosque’s royal links in its early years.
The mosque was built in a time when a king existed, thus the aim to reinstate that feeling of royalty and make it grand.
The mosque was erected in 1824 and completed two years later for Sultan Hussein Shah, Singapore’s first sultan. It was a single-storey building with a double-tiered roof.
But almost a century later, the mosque had to be repaired and expanded to accommodate more worshippers.
Over the years, it underwent repairs and renovations when needed.
Work for the latest spruce-up began in 2014.
Painting the domes required much work as they were discoloured and had surface bubbles. They had to be sanded down and the bubbles removed for a smooth finish.
Several shades of gold paint were tested to get the right one. Then, four coats of the chosen tone were used to get it to the right sheen such that it shimmered in the sun.
Inside the prayer hall, the dramatic arches were highlighted in green so that they now stand out.
The mimbar, the pulpit from where sermons are delivered, also got a fresh look – the layers of old paint were scraped down to its metal structure and repainted.
Most of the old timber windows and doors were refurbished, while those that were badly damaged were replaced.
NEXT: Capitol Singapore →
Capitol Singapore in Stamford Road is a mixed-use development that includes a collection of three beloved conservation buildings: the iconic 87-year-old Capitol Theatre; Capitol Building, which was built in 1933; and Stamford House, which was completed in 1904.
The conservation buildings were in poor shape when the architects were appointed. For example, they were built on soil, without any proper foundation, which did not comply with modern building codes.
The Capitol Theatre, in particular, needed a lot of work, having been left vacant for more than 10 years. Plaster was falling, ornaments missing and water seeped into its floors.
This grand dame was given a majestic makeover, recreated in the likes of the original Persian Zodiac ceiling mural – a familiar icon to patrons of the cinema.
The architects also had to modernise it. Their solution was to install an automated seating system in the theatre that would turn it into a multi- purpose venue. The theatre, which hosted live performances before it became a cinema in 1946, can now host a variety of events. The Capitol Building also houses new shops and restaurants, while the six-star hotel, The Patina Capitol, is yet to open.
The entire project cost about $750 million!
NEXT: Goh Loo Club →
The mural painting on the side of a shophouse in Club Street is a poignant reminder of the colourful history of the Goh Loo Club.
In the artwork, a samsui woman wearing her iconic red headgear peels away the facade to reveal the activity in the shophouse: businessmen gather on the second level; Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen holds court below; and a Japanese soldier stands guard at the door.
The 111-year-old club, whose name means My Abode in Hokkien, was formed as a place for the local Chinese community and dignitaries to gather.
Many of Singapore’s founding fathers such as Dr Lim Boon Keng, who was also a writer, and prominent businessman and philanthropist Lee Kong Chian were members.
Today, the shophouse looks new. But it was not always this way.
Renovation work, which cost about $4 million, started in January last year and was completed in April this year.
Major works included changing the roof, which was made of asbestos, and creating a new roof mezzanine level – the original shophouse has three storeys – for an office.
There were also surprising discoveries during the renovation. Two stone slabs with carvings were found and the owners decided to place them in a wall at the end of the club’s five-foot way.
Round decorative columns were found concealed by timber panels. Ms Chua says: “You don’t see columns in a shophouse, so these werefeatures we wanted to highlight.”
Efforts were made to reuse materials. For example, old bricks that were no longer needed to support the building were used for feature walls.
At the back of the premises, a courtyard was put in and decorative features such as old-school green glazed porcelain balustrades line the side of the walls.
NEXT: Church Of St Peter And Paul →
Originally completed in a tropical Gothic style in 1870, the church in Queen Street underwent numerous extension and renovations over time.
A massive overhaul in 1969 – a year before its centennial celebration – saw the church do away with key features of the old architecture and opt for a modern look.
The terracotta roof tiles were replaced with metal sheets, while the floor was hacked and terrazzo slates put in instead. A cast-iron spiral staircase was removed so that a timber loft with a new staircase could be built for the choir.
However, over the years, wear and tear got to the facade.
Most recent work was done to restore the building to its pre-1969 look.
The terrazzo floor slabs were replaced by Peranakan-inspired tiles that mirrored the original look.
The five lance-shaped panels and rosette windows were treated by Italian craftsmen, who fixed cracks and cleaned the glass. A protective glass panel was also installed on the exterior to prevent warping.
The choir loft was taken down, but the architect kept the two timber columns used to support the structure as they were in good condition. The columns became the base for two marble angel sculptures, which now stand among the pews.
The piece de resistance is a stunning 200-year-old white carrara marble altar from New York that features a carving of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper at its base. It was made by craftsmen from the Vatican in Rome.
NEXT: Sultan Mosque →
By Natasha Ann Zachariah, The Straits Times, 8 October 2016