18 Jul 2019 Posted in Press releases
Some 90 members of various heritage and photography groups were amongst the first to receive a preview of newly-restored conserved building, Maxwell Chambers Suites, ahead of its grand opening on 8 August 2019. They will participate in a social media competition where they will share what they learn on social media. The preview is part of the Ministry of Law’s effort to work with the heritage and photography communities to share the building’s rich history and heritage with Singaporeans through social media and photography, as Singapore celebrates its Bicentennial Year and 54th National Day.
Joining the preview today was Dr Michael Chia, the 80+ year-old grandson, and other grandchildren of the late Mr Wee Cheng Soon, the owner of the now defunct Wee Cheng Soon Construction which constructed the building for the police barracks in 1928. The contractor won the tender to construct the building then at a tender price of $321,100 (Straits Dollars). Mr Wee Cheng Soon passed away in 1944 and Wee Cheng Soon Construction closed down during the tumultuous period of World War II.
The preview was hosted by Mr Han Kok Juan, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Law, who oversaw the refurbishment works and heritage conservation expert, Mr Ho Weng Hin from Studio Lapis. Mr Han Kok Juan said, “Over the last two years, the Ministry of Law has worked to sensitively restore this historic building while repurposing and reinvigorating it for future use as a modern dispute resolution complex that will help boost Singapore’s status as an international dispute resolution hub. We are working with the heritage and photography communities to capture this building’s storied past and share its rich heritage and exciting transformation with Singaporeans.”
The building was designed by Frank Dorrington Ward, the Government Architect of the Straits Settlement Public Works Department when Singapore was a British Colony. The building was constructed in 1928 and was first used as barracks for the Police Force. From the 1930s to 1999, it was used solely as the Traffic Police headquarters. At one time, it also housed Singapore’s first Driving Test Centre.
Designed in the neo-classical style, the otherwise austere and homogenous façade was interspersed by ornamented pediments to indicate entrances. This restrained design was contemporaneous with other PWD-built buildings in the early-mid 20th century, such as the Custom House (now Maxwell Chambers) across the street. The headquarters building housed the operational functions of the Traffic Police and acted as living quarters for its officers. By the 1970s to 1980s, the whole building was used only as a headquarters.
The building was gazetted as a Conserved Building by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 2007. The extensive restoration of Maxwell Chambers Suites which cost S$25 million started in May 2017 and took 2 years to complete.
By the time restoration works for Maxwell Chambers Suites started in 2016, the building had been in almost continuous use for more than 80 years. Certain areas were dilapidated and aged. Others had been modified, obscuring the original architecture.
- The restoration preserves authentic elements which pay homage to Maxwell Chambers Suites’ rich history while repurposing and reinvigorating it for its future use as a dispute resolution centre which will provide added boost to Singapore’s position as an international dispute resolution hub. One of the paramount considerations of the restoration was to reinstate the original and historic architectural character of the building:
- The façade has been restored to an off-white hue, reinstating the neutral tones used when the buildings served as the Traffic Police headquarters. Mineral silicate paint which are compatible with the historic brick walls were used in the restoration.
- Façade elements such as architectural mouldings, canopy hoods, timber doors, windows and metal grille have been restored to its original design and in serviceable condition.
- Previously damaged beyond use, historic case-iron rainwater goods have been painstakingly repaired or re-casted to its original profile and replaced latter-day mild-steel downpipes. They are now in serviceable condition.
- The interior plan of the building has been largely kept largely similar to its historic layout whilst adapting to new uses. Characteristic interior elements such as vents and doors have been retained and restored.
- Four courtyards in the 161m long building have been reinstated to their original open-to-sky configuration. The courtyards have been beautifully landscaped for public enjoyment, each offering a different look and feel.
- The restored building will be beautifully lit at night to highlight its unique architectural features and historical value.
- Maxwell Chambers Suites adds 120,000 square feet of space to Maxwell Chambers and triples its current size. Its opening is slated to coincide with the signing of the momentous Singapore Convention on Mediation. It will house at least 11 international institutions and 20 dispute chambers and practices from 11 countries. Maxwell Chambers Suites has the highest concentration of case management offices anywhere in the world and will see more high-value cross-border disputes managed in and out of Singapore.
MINISTRY OF LAW
18 JULY 2019
Last updated on 23 Jul 2019