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    May 07, 2015

    NHB survey on heritage sites gets the thumbs up

    THE first survey of Singapore's heritage sites and structures will kick off within "the next two months".

    The National Heritage Board (NHB) yesterday revealed more details of the project, which will study places of architectural, historical, cultural, social or educational significance. It will also include sites or structures completed in or before 1980.

    The survey aims to do a stock-take on the current state of heritage buildings and sites here, and was first announced by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong in March.

    The effort is expected to cost approximately $1 million.

    NHB said that the exercise will have two components.

    The first involves "desktop research", which will tap on maps, newspaper records, archival material and other publications to consolidate data about a place.

    The second involves field work, which will document and photograph the geographic coordinates, typology, and physical condition of the structure or site.

    If information is limited, interviews with the community and other stakeholders will be conducted. The survey is expected to take about 16 months.

    The board will use its findings to work with the Urban Redevelopment Authority at each stage of land planning. This includes the 10-year Concept Plan or the five-year Master Plan.

    Significant buildings and structures identified through the survey could undergo further research for possible preservation or conservation.

    NHB chief executive Rosa Daniel said the exercise is a step forward in enhancing the country's capabilities in research, documentation and commemoration.

    "As Singapore's population grows, it is important to ensure that in tandem with intensified development, there are increased efforts to preserve our heritage," she said.

    NHB said that it adapted the heritage survey from similar ones done in other cities.

    The board cited Hong Kong's 1996 survey, in which more than 8,800 historic buildings built before 1950 were identified. This was followed by more in-depth research and assessment to identify buildings of greater heritage value.

    Singapore's version will be guided by members of a newly formed eight member Heritage Advisory Panel comprising architecture, geography, sociology, anthropology and history experts.

    They include Brenda Yeoh, dean of the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; Eric Chin, director of the National Archives of Singapore; and Zahidi A. R. Arkitek's principal architect, Zahidi Abdul Rahman.

    The heritage community welcoms the survey as it represents the first step towards a more long-term strategic plan for heritage issues.

    Kevin Tan, president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites Singapore, said that, for the survey to be effective, the criteria for what constitutes a heritage building should be "crafted as widely as possible".

    For it to be truly comprehensive, he believes that surveyors should comb every square metre of the Republic.

    "Such a scan will help the authorities consider everything in an area as comprehensively as possible, to help them uncover new stories and things they didn't know about places before," he said.

    Heritage enthusiast and editor Choo Lip Sin believes the survey will help the authorities make more informed decisions.

    He hopes there will be space for public input to be factored into the exercise, "beyond what the authorities value as heritage".

    A separate survey on the country's intangible heritage, spanning cultural activities and traditional trades or businesses, will be launched at the end of the year.