Assess the view that traditional buildings have no future in your society
Question Analysis- Definition of Key Terms
Traditional Buildings: Structures that have a historical significance to Singapore. These could be the old colonial buildings; buildings that reflect unique architecture that showcase a nation’s culture and identity or even a historical past.
No Future: Possible demolition of these traditional buildings; the original architecture may be refurbished to suit present time needs.
Assumption: Singapore is a highly pragmatic nation that is constrained by her geographical boundaries, if these traditional buildings do not serve any purpose for the nation, the state would choose to forgo and even demolish them to make way for more pressing economic and social needs.
To do well for this question, students need to take a look at the different types of traditional buildings in Singapore and examine the motivations of the state in keeping and gazetting these buildings. Do these buildings showcase a national history that would aid in the nation building process or would these buildings be preserved primarily for tourism? Also, students can consider why majority of these buildings are preserved at the central district of Singapore. Students would also need to measure against the needs of the state, especially that of economic development and how practicality usually affects the decision of the government whether to keep these buildings or not. Note that this question is not asking you about the benefits/values of these traditional buildings, rather the want or need of the state in keeping them.
Yes traditional buildings do not have a future here:
- Limited land space here forces the state to prioritize economic and future development of the nation before fulfilling historical and cultural needs. There is a limit to the number of traditional buildings that the state can preserve. As such, given such a limitation, it is only wise to preserve buildings that can serve both a historical and economic purpose. It is no wonder that certain places like the Old National Library and Bukit Brown have been forgone by the state, despite these places holding strong and rich cultural memories and identity for the older generation of Singapore.
- Singapore takes a very pragmatic view towards the preservation of these buildings, especially with the advancement of science and technology. Preservation of these buildings does not necessarily have to take on a physical angle. The memories of these places could be stored in digital form online and archived in the library or even the museums. It makes more sense to have the space make way for more pressing economic needs to grow the nation. As such, it seems like it fulfills the twin objective of preservation and growth especially with the use of technology.
No traditional buildings have a future here:
- Traditional buildings serve a nation building purpose and they showcase a nation’s rich cultural heritage. Singapore has always been accused as a nation that does not have much culture and history, and is still in the midst of searching for her identity in her short national history. As such, the presence of these buildings is necessary to keep Singaporeans grounded in her own identity especially in this increasingly globalized and connected world. There needs to be some continuity and familiar places for Singaporeans to identity with and to call this place home. This is to counter the increasing displacement that the older generation feels given the quick progress of the nation where the familiar landscape is changing quickly. Examples of traditional buildings that would have a future increasingly would be Kuan Yin Temple, Fort Canning, the British Barracks etc.
- Traditional buildings do serve an economic purpose, in line with the state’s pragmatic vision of harnessing growth and attracting tourists to this city state. A lot of our traditional buildings are found in China town, Clarke Quay, Little India and even Raffles Places. These are tourist places to showcase the multi-racial and multi- religious aspect of the nation. The shophouses at Chinatown have always been preserved and gazetted by the state as a site for preservation. The contrast of the new and old architecture buildings helps to beautify the landscape as well.
At the end of the day, it is not about traditional buildings having a future or not in Singapore. Of course, they will have a future. Perhaps the debate should be on which building is going to have a future and the motivations behind them.