Friday, April 13, 2018

Go Local : Former Beach Road Police Station

Haven't had time to go on any heritage walks this year yet but the last one I went to was in Oct 2017. It was led by Jerome to the old Beach Road Police Station.

Just like the walk to Old Changi Hospital, the old Police Station is usually closed to public, but we were given exclusive access this time thanks to the kind folks at Singapore Land Authority {SLA}.

{image from URA}
Right next to Shaw Tower, it's hard to miss the iconic orange building. That's not the original colour though - it was repainted bright orange by Raffles Design Institute when it took over the site from 2007 to 2013.

The old Police Station was in the news last year when Singapore's Urban Redevelopment Authority {URA} launched a public tender for the plot of land along Beach Road where the old Police Station was located.

It eventually sold for S$1.62billion to a consortium comprising subsidiaries of property developer Guocoland. It's a pretty unique sale because although the developer must conserve and restore the former police station, only the main station building that was built in 1931 must be retained.

The developer has the option of demolishing the two barrack blocks as part of the redevelopment, so I was lucky to have gone on that heritage walk as it might have been the last opportunity for me to see the whole complex as it is.

Note: According to URA, 70% of the land must be used for office spaces. The remaining can be developed for additional office, retail, hotel, serviced apartment and residential uses.

The station and two barrack buildings were completed in 1934 and was operational for nearly 70 years until 2001.

Apparently before the 1960s, most police stations in Singapore had living quarters for staff and their families. Beach Road Police Station was no exception too and provided quarters for 64 married men in one block, and 80 single men & NCO in another block.

Someone in the group that day, Mr Philip Xavier, actually worked and stayed there in the 1970s!! Was interesting to hear him share about his experiences..

The old Police Station also contained offices, a guard room, an armoury, a cell block, fitness training / recreation areas and a number of stores.

After its closure in 2001, the Beach Road Police Station was accorded conservation status in 2002 and became the fourth location to be marked as a historic site by the National Heritage Board in 2003.

You can find out more on its history & background from Jerome's write-up.

Unlike Old Changi Hospital, the old Police Station is actually very well-maintained, clean and in most areas, already refurbished.

Probably because even after the Police Station closed, the site was still used from 2003 to 2006 by private schools, and then from 2007 to 2013 by Raffles Design Institute as I mentioned earlier. After that, it was open a few times for art shows and trade fairs. 

Some parts were air-conditioned, grounds were swept, windows were cleaned... the interior looked and felt just like any other unused modern building except for its traditional colonial-style exterior. 

Nothing like the dilapidated, Old Changi Hospital we saw which I actually enjoyed exploring more as it had more character and an air of mystery haha.

I really love these old wooden window shutters though...

Every time I go on one of these heritage walks, I'm reminded again how fast Singapore is changing and developing. By the time Lil Pumpkin grows up, will it be vastly different from the one I grew up in?

Read this opinion piece in Straits Times recently about how if this is home, truly, it should look like home. It struck a chord with me especially now as my parents are preparing to move out of my childhood home since it, too, will be redeveloped soon. Sobs.. sobs.

"And if the point guard chooses to pass, let us not, in 50 years, undertake a "Memory Project" memorialising the Big Four, turned to dust on our watch.

Let us not wax lyrical about the best pad thai we ever had at Golden Mile Complex.

Let us not commission a documentary on People's Park Complex, behemoth of South-east Asian Brutalist architecture.

Let us not track down the founders of The Projector, the beloved independent cinema at Golden Mile Tower, to pick their brains on seeding creative diversity in fringe locales.

Let us not fund the production of hipster badges featuring illustrations of the legendary horseshoe-shaped Pearl Bank Apartments.

Let us not be bystanders to the destruction of things we hold dear - things that make us us - while there is still time to take action, and then some years down the road, when it is well and truly futile, initiate twee endeavours to revel in skin-deep nostalgia about those losses.

Before we are asked to have an identity, to reflect on ties that bind, to take pride, to procreate, to pledge, let us have something to come home to that is ours.

If this is home, truly, it should look like home."

Former Beach Road Police Station
99 Beach Road
Not open to public

Other Singapore heritage places:


mail4rosey said...

Change really does seem to come about so quickly. I remember it everytime I go back to visit my hometown. Some changes are good, some not so much.

An Apel a Day said...

That window shot of you looking out is so great!

I agree to go local when possible.

I hope Singapore is changing for the better. Here in the US things seem to be changing for the worse. Like you we have buildings that are not in use. We tend to tear down instead of refurbish. I wish our values were better in the US.

Theresa Mahoney said...

I love exploring old buildings like this. Change is inevitable though. It amazes me to drive through town remembering when the old mall was over there or that building used to be something entirely different. Just like people, towns are always changing and growing.