When Heritage Meets the Modern City in Singapore

Singapore has long been an example of architectural beauty. The country has a great deal of traditional and modern architectural masterpieces, juxtaposed against each other representing the old and new Singapore.

One example of such a juxtaposition is in the Joo Chiat neighborhood in Singapore’s East Coast. The area is known for its diverse East Asian cuisine (including hand-rolled spring rolls and the city’s oldest Peranakan restaurant), shops offering collectible antiques, and its playful pastel-colored storefronts; the town’s various historic delights have made it Singapore’s very first heritage town.

The New York Times recounts one innovative renovation of a 1920’s Singapore shophouse, and how one family modeled their home to fit their contemporary lifestyle.

In preparation for the birth of their first child, Michael and Katherin Puhaindran decided to settle into one of Joo Chiat’s highly-coveted 1920s shophouses. The architectural style is characterized by terra cotta roof tiles, French double-shuttered windows, and ornate garlands of sculpted plasterwork. The largely Chinese style was codified by Sir Stamford Raffles in the nation’s first town plan in the early 1840’s. Chinese settlers first brought the style to Singapore even earlier than that, making it the predominant architectural style throughout the rest of the region.

However, much like New York City brownstones or Victorian San Francisco rowhouses, these stylized homes are in high demand, but short supply.

Many of the communities composed of such structures were razed in the later half of the twentieth century to make way for Singapore’s new high-rises and office buildings. According to Jane A. Peterson of the New York Times, the majority of about 7,000 Singapore homes are under some degree of conservation protection. Because of this, the Puhaindrans jumped at the opportunity of buying one of these cherished homes.

Despite its architectural grandeur, the interior of the home did not suit the needs of the Puhaindrans and their future family.

Their architectural remodeling professionals RT+Q designed a space retaining the traditional elements of the Puhaindrans’ new home while overhauling the flow of the space. They extended the back half of the property and made the space useful. The result was a new three-story structure interconnected to the house through an open courtyard. It’s a rectangular space that spans 72 feet deep with two additional floors and modern appliances.

To accommodating their lifestyle, the new space allows the family to host gatherings and provides their daughter enough space to play. The new design provides an abundance of natural light to enhance the property, while keeping the bottom floors cool during the warm summer nights. Within the new back-half structure, “boxed-in” elements such as closets and powder rooms are conveniently enclosed in filigree screens or glass enclosures.

The renovation, which costed the Puhaindrans $1.5 million Singapore dollars, has increased the home’s total cost to $4 million. A well-spent investment for a modern rendition of a traditional home.

If you would like to read more on Singapore real estate, follow me on twitter @AnthonySCasey1.

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