Temasek Shophouse launches Orchard Road extension project

27 Aug 2022

Straits Times, 27 Aug 2022, Temasek Shophouse launches Orchard Road extension project
Social impact hub Temasek Shophouse at 28 Orchard Road is launching an ambitious extension project to meet the needs of a growing community of change-makers, who are finding innovative solutions to pressing social and environmental challenges.

The stately premises, which opened its doors in June 2019, is home to the philanthropic arm of state investment company Temasek, which comprises Temasek Trust, Temasek Foundation and the Stewardship Asia Centre.

It announced on Aug 27 that the extension will include adjacent shophouses along the same stretch, which will be restored to celebrate their architectural heritage.

The row of colonial-era shophouses in Orchard Road opposite Dhoby Ghaut MRT station comprises a tropical Modernist shophouse at No. 38 that was built in 1937, the former Midfilm House at No. 22 (1922) and the former Malayan Motors Showroom at No. 14 (1925).

The extension will add about 4,100 sq m of space, taking the total gross floor area to a whopping 6,400 sq m.

It will facilitate larger and more diverse spaces for events and exhibitions, and programming which will revolve around important social or environmental causes relevant to Singapore and beyond.

Surbana Jurong Group, a global urban and infrastructure consultancy, has been appointed the architect and engineering consultant for the restoration and extension project. The completion date has yet to be determined.

The restoration process, which is similar to the work done at the current unit at 28 Orchard Road, will take place in phases starting in the fourth quarter of this year, and will reveal a showcase of Modern architectural gems reflecting Singapore's urban development during the early 1900s.

There will also be sustainability elements for greater efficiencies in the gazetted conservation shophouses.

The restoration of the current unit at No. 28, which was built in the 1920s, started in 2018 and took Surbana Jurong Group 18 months to complete.

It included sustainable test-bed cooling technologies that helped reduce energy usage and cut down on the urban heat island effect, which happens when air-conditioning units expel heated air into the surroundings.

The works won the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Architectural Heritage Award in October 2019, as well as the 2022 Singapore Institute of Architects' Merit Award.

Since its June 2019 launch, Temasek Shophouse has held more than 100 events, engaged more than 64,000 people and convened a community of change-makers to foster exchanges, forge new collaborations and create positive impact to advance the greater good.

With the new extension, Temasek Shophouse will have larger and more diverse spaces for its various events, exhibitions, community-centric programming and co-working partners.

Ms Cheo Hock Kuan, chief executive of Temasek Trust, says the restoration of the gazetted conservation shophouses adjoining an arts and civic area steeped in heritage and history reflects the trust's commitment "to preserve a part of Singapore's heritage and enable it to be regenerative for the future".

"We hope to see Temasek Shophouse become a place where collaboration between the public-private-people sectors catalyses the changes needed to address today's most pressing and complex social and environmental issues."

The row of shophouses in the extension project forms a rare cluster of buildings, each with its own distinct architecture and function.

Professor Yeo Kang Shua, an architectural conservator and associate professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, says the row of early- to mid-20th-century buildings is reflective of the transitional phase from the traditional shophouse design to larger commercial and mixed-use developments with residences.

"Starting from the late 19th century, developments started to move northwards from the city up Orchard Road, with land plots mainly divided into the traditional long and narrow shophouse plots," he adds.

He says that during the period of the interwar years, there was a post-World War I boom caused by rising tin and rubber prices that started to decline in the late 1920s.

"Correspondingly, the architecture of the buildings in the new extension, dating back to the early 1920s, features a more urbane vibe with a marked increase in building height and density."

According to Mr Ho Weng Hin, co-founder of conservation specialist consultancy Studio Lapis, which is also the conservation consultant for the Temasek Shophouse extension, the new buildings feature a plethora of rare Art Deco and Mid-century Modern architectural finishes that were uncovered during his firm's building research and investigation process since 2021.

These include artificial marble tiles, patterned mosaic flooring, geometric mild steel elements as well as curved glass blocks.

"Such a historic fabric reflects the former glory of these buildings as a centre of early Modern culture in Singapore, associated with their owners who were pioneers in the motorcar trade and film industry," says Mr Ho, who is also founding chair of Docomomo Singapore, a non-profit group focusing on the island's Modern built heritage.

"Preserving these finishes not only captures the rich history and artisan craftsmanship, but also the upcycling of existing historic buildings by Temasek Trust. It embodies an environmentally and socially sustainable approach to development, especially pertinent today in the current climate crisis."