A home for our heritage

Thank you for your report, “Butterfly House escapes wrecker’s ball” (June 19). To me, this is an important issue concerning the way Singaporeans think about our material history. This issue is not something that merely concerns “architecture buffs”; it should worry all Singaporeans.

There is important historical value in this house not only because of its designer, age or even its unique architecture. For many residents of Katong like myself, it has gained a life of its own.

During my childhood, my brother and I saw it as an abandoned, haunted house. In my teenage years, I found out that a good friend of my grandparents grew up in the house during the 1930s. This gentleman, Mr Lee Kip Lee, set much of his memoirs — a published book titled Amber Sands — in the house. As I read the book, it opened my eyes to the important human value embodied by this structure.

Recently, I have begun to see the Butterfly House as a reminder of a Katong gradually lost to high-rise developments. Today, it is a grand old dame ageing with quiet dignity.

To lose the house would be akin to losing an actual human being. Looking at the artist’s impression of the projected development soon to rise up around it, I cannot help but agree with the Historic Architecture Rescue Plan’s (Harp) view that we need to protect distinctive buildings vital to our heritage.

When will our current craze for integrating the old and the new in such a draconian, absurd fashion end? When will we, as a country, without the help of groups such as Harp, realise the need to preserve the very tangible structures that remind us of our past?

Source: Today, 21 June 2007

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