Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another Walk Down Memory Lane

On Thursday 28 October 2010 I walked down Joo Chiat memory lane one more time. I acceded to a request for an interview by a seocnd year student in the Faculty of Real Estate, National University of Singapore. He is doing a project about building conservation and urban planning in Joo Chiat. We met at the junction of Joo Chiat Road/Dunman Road. After our conversations we walked along Joo Chiat Road towards Geylang Serai to view some of the conserved Peranakan shophouses and terraced houses. I also showed him the sites where some old buildings with archtectural significant and styles once stood but has now been replaced by modern buildings.

When we arrived at a block of 3 storey building bounded by Joo Chiat Road/a big drain and Onan Road, I pointed out to him that previously a bungalow with large compound occupied that entire block of building. The  property was then own by a Chinese towday known as towkay kelong because he had many fishing stakes off Marine Parade beach. In 1959 a fish jetty was built for the fishermen to bring their catch for sale to the
fish mongers in Joo Chiat and Changi markets. The jetty was directly opposite the end part of Joo Chiat Road.

Fish Jetty

We continued our walk. When we came to the vacant land between Joo Chiat Terrace and Joo Chiat Complex, I was overwhelm with nostalgia. On this empty land once stood the house that I grew up. Behind my house was an attap kampong  where some of my childhood friends lived.  We played marbles, gasing and flied kites together in the open ground near an old school. Chew Joo Chiat also had his residence on the same plot of vacant land. His house was a 3 storey building with a front balcony at the top level facing Joo Chiat Road. Across the road directly opposite his house, he built a permanent wayang stage (Chinese opera house) and engaged Teochew hi (opera troupe) to perform shows during his birthday. He watched the shows from the balcony with his family and friends. In 1980s all the buildings on the vacant land were acquired by the authority for development. But todate it remains an empty land.  Building conservation status in Singapore started in 1970. In 1993, more than 20 years later Joo Chiat area was granted the conservation status. Since the URA has no specific plan to develop the land for so long, why was it necessary to demolish Chew's residence then? The building could have been conserved to show case its historical significant. It is no use crying over spilt milk, but I am just thinking aloud.

Chew Joo Chiat's residence once stood on the empty land

Teochew opera

                                Elevation Plan of wayang stage

Foor Plan of Chew Joo Chiat's residence