A love letter from Penang / Yangon on the downlow / The ghosts of Singapore past / Sydney's falling star / Will we always have Paris?
Hello, and welcome to the first installment of WWWarisan. This newsletter will feature pieces on built + urban cultural heritage from across the internet. While there'll be a strong slant towards regional content from ASEAN and Australasia, I plan to include at least one or two pieces from further afield each month.
A recent forum highlighted Singapore's lost Panggong Negara (National Theatre). The event brought together architectural historians and former performers in conversation with the theatre's architect, Alfred Wong. What is clear is that the demolished theatre was truly a 'people's theatre' -- one built and cherished by citizens from all walks of life. If you couldn't make it to the seminar, you can still check out the architect's new memoir.
Roadworks, namely the construction of the CTE tunnel in 1986, played a role in the demise of the Panggong Negara. Thirty years later, another Singapore building is making way -- at least temporarily -- for a new highway. Today it was announced that parts of the Ellison Building will be demolished and reconstructed to facilitate the construction of the North-South Corridor. This is despite the building, built in 1924 by the Romanian Jew Isaac Ellison, being gazetted as a conserved structure. The Singapore Heritage Society has expressed its disappointment with the decision, and called for demolition plans to be reconsidered. The Ellison Building is a reminder that even listed buildings aren't always safe, and that the growth of cities can put new pressures on historic areas; conserving heritage is a continuous, active process -- not a passive one.
This month, Chinese communities around the world mark the Hungry Ghost Festival, a time when the lines between this world and the next are said to be blurred. One place you can glimpse this eerie underworld is Haw Par Villa. Built in 1937 by the Tiger Balm tycoons, the park's garish folklore dioramas provided Singaporeans with a unique public space that was both educational and recreational. After decades of decline, there are now moves to bring the park back to life. The National Heritage Board has just closed a tender to study the park's thousands of sculptures. A recent escape game showed the potential to reactivate old entertainment spaces, making them relevant to a new generation. With proper management, maintenance and vision, the Tiger Balm Gardens may draw crowds once again.