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.

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18 Comments

  • al

    Hello there, I’m kind of worried about my essay.
    My first point was about traditional buildings found in schools. For instance, Hwa Chong. Because of that, there is a future especially because some of them have been gazetted. The school will still continue to function as a school. Likely to be the case.
    My second point was old colonial buildings. Some are taken over by organizations such as the government and utilized as offices. In the Changi Village area for instance. Not gazetted and hence there’s no legal rules stating they must be conserved. So they might get abandoned due to wear and tear and the cost associated with mantaining these old buildings. So there is no future.
    Thirdly, places of worship are likely to remain. Many places are gazetted in Singapore. They have a future due to architectural value and the fact that people will continue to visit them for worship and all. Might contribute to tourism in a way too. There is a future because it is likely to continue functioning as a place of worship.
    Fourth point is that there are still villages in sg with traditional housing. This is quite inconvenient because of the location. They have to travel for work and sch. Likely to vacate in the future for better living standards. Hence there is no future. However some abandoned traditional houses have been redeveloped into amenities for other functions. (Example). Sg is small with limited land. As long as they do not demolish the hse to make way for other types of housing, and instead just redeveloped the house, it will still have a future.
    Is this ok or out?

    • Christine Chen

      Hi there, thanks for ur comment. You have added a fresh angle and perspective to this essay,do not worry since you are not out of point. What I think could be better would be the categorization of your points. They should not be categorized in accordance to the types of traditional buildings, rather the essay should be argument driven based on the need or want of the state to either preserve or demolish them.

      • al

        Thank you for the reply. I’m comforted to hear that. I do quite agree that my organization could have been better. Because my topic sentence in every para is at the very bottom of the para instead of the top. Might get penalized a little for that.
        Do you think the content is enough? Approximately how much upon 30 will this receive the points are elaborated
        and expanded well?

  • eclipse

    Hi, I would like to ask if museums could be counted as traditional buildings? Some of my examples have included museums such as Old Parliament House, and I was wondering if that could be accepted. Also, if I did not include specific names of temples (could not remember) will I be heavily penalised?

    • Christine Chen

      The Old Parliament house is definitely fine, since it has now been refurbished to be an arts house. Anyway, i do not think that all museums could be counted as traditional buildings, many of them are just created by the government to serve a national building purpose. The building itself may not hold any historical significance. I doubt you would be heavily penalized if you cannot remember the specific names of temples.

  • hialoha

    Hi, I did this question and my points are largely similar to yours, with the addition of how traditional buildings can help to faciliate cultural learning. I have some relevant examples but also some general examples for 2 of the points which are not very concrete. Will this hinder my chance to get a mark of around C for the essay? thanks in advance

    • Christine Chen

      Its hard for me to determine your grade just based on these few points that you have raised. But do not worry I think a C is definitely manageable since this is an average grade of what most students would be getting 🙂

  • Hi, if I used only religious buildings for my examples will I be penalized for that? My first point was on boosting tourism, second on adding beauty to environment with its vintage charms, third was my OA that youths are not rly engaging in traditional practices much anymore and thus these traditional buildings (temples etc) are losing relevance, fourth was my counter which I said that youths are only like uninterested at present but in the future when they grow older they will start to explore fundamental ques about identity and explore their traditional roots and practises thus traditional buildings do have a future (smth like that HAHA). Do you think it’s ok? And I panicked a bit so I had a few repetitive sentences, will I be penalized on that? 🙁 thanks so much!!!

  • r_ayy

    Hi, i was just wondering if old neighbourhood buildings like Dakota Cresent and those in Tiong Bahru are considered to be traditional buildings? Thanks in advance.

    • Christine Chen

      could be if u could argue that they fit some purpose. what are the purposes of preserving them? Do they showcase the nation building aspect of Singapore? Were they one of the first flats that were built? Just because something is old does not necessary mean that it is traditional and fits any historical meaning and purpose.

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