Obsessing over New-ness

“What is it about Singapore’s obsession with the new? When I was reading the newspapers these 2 days it was a question that i kept asking.

In the papers, there were plans lined up to rejuvenate Chijmes, the heritage building complex that started as the Convent for Holy Infant Jesus. The plans outlined changing the surrounding exterior walls (knocking them down), opening more entrances, building a glass ceiling and (gasp!) changing the cobbled stone floor to granite. Yes it may well attract more people by the end of all its rejuvenation works but how much of its original heritage is still retained? An American visiting professor in school echoed the same view when she learnt about the rejuvenation works to be done on Capitol building, which she was lucky enough to catch before works began. she was horrified.

And it is true from a travelers’ perspective. Traveling to other countries, I admire the old buildings and architecture that has been there for years, maybe decades, some even centuries. In Europe, we marvel at the solid stone city halls, churches and monuments  which has stood the test of time… In the Asian region, homes and temples made of all wooden structure built centuries before amazes us. These places continue to attract hordes of tourists with their clicking shutters. So why is it that Singapore veers towards the other end of the line?

If there is one thing I love (and all my friends know this), it is old buildings. For that reason, I alway love to walk the streets lined by the traditional Peranakan Houses and old black-and-white colonial buildings, there feels to be so much history in such places! And no, it is not the same as walking through a row of houses that only retains the exterior shell of the place it once was.

Another news article today talked about the gentrification of the Tiong Bahru Estate, another place I visited often as a child… old shopkeepers are being pushed out by the younger entrepreneurs looking to set up shop in the new ‘hip’ neighbourhood. While it is currently at the state of balance of the ‘new-old’, I somehow still feel a sense of foreboding. (yet I fill the customer niche that these new indie shops target towards. oh the irony.)

I don’t have the solution to retaining the essence of our heritage in the modern world yet, but I wish that before we continue to bring down or rejuvenate old places, we might want to think of which is the best way to do so. This takes more than simply retaining a facade and erecting a plaque explaining the lost history of the location in question.”

Permission to re-produce this post granted by blog-writer, Ramblings.

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