Breathing new life into Singapore’s old buildings

A throwback to Singapore’s nostalgic buildings and iconic landmarks that have taken on a brand new life

From old to new
From old to new
21 Jul 2015

From old to new

Timeworn buildings have intrinsic values, more so if the structures carry a certain historical importance of a rich, vivid past. As our nation gets ready to celebrate its much-anticipated 50th birthday next month, we suss out our little red dot’s iconic buildings that have been handed new lease of lives.

Here’s a look at some unique makeovers from old dilapidated buildings that would probably have been torn down.

The Projector (former Golden Cinema)
The Projector (former Golden Cinema)
21 Jul 2015

The Projector (former Golden Cinema)

6001 Beach Road, Golden Mile Tower, #05-00 

Tucked away in the somewhat sleazy Golden Mile Tower is an indie art-house cinema that every hipster film buff would approve of.

Housed on the fifth floor of the long defunct yet iconic Golden Cinema with a long cinematic history - it used to be the largest cinema that screened mainly Mandarin films in the 70s and 80s and later on ‘adult’ films and Bollywood blockbusters - The Projector has been serving up a specially curated programme that includes independent, foreign, local, classic films, cult favourites and even special themed movie nights.
 
PHOTOS: (L) via National Heritage Board, (R) via Olicel Group

The Projector (former Golden Cinema)
The Projector (former Golden Cinema)
21 Jul 2015

The Projector (former Golden Cinema)

With a mishmash of old and new furnishings, panoramic windows, a franchise café operated by Group Therapy Coffee and sprawling mural inching from the entrance of one of the halls to the carpark, the space literally screams hipster-cool the moment you step into its sunlit cinema foyer.

Officially opened in January this year – thanks in part to crowdfunding, the revived cinema, still retaining most of its original fixtures like vintage doors and signboards, has been growing in popularity, albeit slowly.

Occupying two cinema halls, renamed the Green Room and Redrum, the 220-seat Green Room comes with refurbished old-school seats and screens mainly films curated by The Projector, while Redrum (inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s classic, The Shining) is a 150-seat hall that features a cozy red and black décor along with bean bags, original steel seat frames and a stage. The latter is a “versatile creative space that screens classic films, cult favourites or hosts themed parties,” according to Jerome Chee, who’s in charge of Marketing and Outreach.
 

The Projector (former Golden Cinema)
The Projector (former Golden Cinema)
21 Jul 2015

The Projector (former Golden Cinema)

He adds, “We want to turn this into a fun, creative space that screens a diverse programme of good indie and alternative titles. We try to pick quality films as much as we can although we have to work with a strict MDA (Media Development Authority) guideline.”

The Projector has since hosted various events like pole dancing, music gigs and themed parties.

But with any self-funded independent establishment, The Projector’s key concern “is to maintain its sustainability”.

Jerome adds, “Although ticket sales have started to pick up in the recent month, they fluctuate and aren’t always predictable. We’re positive but let’s see…”

So hey, indulge your inner hipster and go book yourself a seat at Singapore’s only indie cinema right now. 

Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill (former Pearl’s Hill School)
Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill (former Pearl’s Hill School)
21 Jul 2015

Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill (former Pearl’s Hill School)

175A Chin Swee Road

How does schooling in a 12-storey building with lifts (and lift operators!) to ferry you and your buddies to your classroom sound? Sure, it might seem like good fun what happens when the lifts break down?

Located on the slopes of Pearl’s Hill with lush greenery as a backdrop, it’s hard to imagine the structure of Hotel Re! (Re! is short for Retro) was once Pearl’s Hill School.

The primary school was the tallest school building ever built in Singapore and it’s also one of the first English primary schools established by the British colonial government.

Established in 1881, the school underwent many name changes and relocations before it finally became Pearl’s Hill School and settled at this spot in 1971. A popular school in the 70s, Pearl’s Hill provided education for underprivileged children living in Chinatown and nurtured many prominent personalities including the fourth President of Singapore, Dr Wee Kim Wee, former Cabinet Minister Dr Yeo Ning Hong and even our very own radio DJ-actor Dennis Chew.

PHOTOS: Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill

Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill (former Pearl’s Hill School)
Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill (former Pearl’s Hill School)
21 Jul 2015

Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill (former Pearl’s Hill School)

The school eventually closed in 2001 due to declining enrolment rate and became Stamford Student Residence before being transformed into the 140-room modern retro-themed boutique hotel that pays tribute to the iconic pop culture of the 60s and 70s.

Furnished with retro-inspired furnishings like capsule armchairs, each floor features a different psychedelic colour theme with matching glittery mosaic tiles in the bathrooms, and silhouettes of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Bruce Lee – very groovy, very ‘Austin Powers’.

PHOTO: Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill

Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill (former Pearl’s Hill School)
Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill (former Pearl’s Hill School)
21 Jul 2015

Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill (former Pearl’s Hill School)

A suburban sanctuary with lush greenery and a convenient location, it’s the perfect escapade from the city’s bustle - if you’re a fan of anything remotely retro with a psychedelic vibe.

PHOTO: Hotel Re! @ Pearl’s Hill

Red Dot Traffic (former Singapore Traffic Police Headquarters)
Red Dot Traffic (former Singapore Traffic Police Headquarters)
21 Jul 2015

Red Dot Traffic (former Singapore Traffic Police Headquarters)

28 Maxwell Road

First built in 1928 as a police barracks for married junior officers and later converted into the Singapore Traffic Police Headquarters (which vacated in 1999), this iconic building has taken on an arty twist and is now a creative hub known as Red Dot Traffic.

Refurbished in 2005 and painted a flamboyant shade of red, the 1920s colonial-style heritage building now houses the second Red Dot Museum in the world (its parent museum is in Germany) and creative agencies as well as food and beverage outlets.

Showcasing a collection of interactive installations and interesting design concepts from over 55 countries, the Red Dot Design Museum is known for displaying edgy and eccentric exhibits from winners of the prestigious international Red Dot Design Award.
 
PHOTO: (Top) National Archives of Singapore

Red Dot Traffic (former Singapore Traffic Police Headquarters)
Red Dot Traffic (former Singapore Traffic Police Headquarters)
21 Jul 2015

Red Dot Traffic (former Singapore Traffic Police Headquarters)

And a monthly Friday night flea market called MAAD (Market of Artists and Designers) – touted as one of the trendiest creative marketplaces by expats and independent artisans, is held at the museum. The monthly thematic attraction is free for everyone and features original artworks and quirky products by local talents as well as performances by homegrown musicians.

The next MAAD happens on 14 Aug, 5pm.
 

Wanderlust Hotel (former Hong Wen Primary School)
Wanderlust Hotel (former Hong Wen Primary School)
21 Jul 2015

Wanderlust Hotel (former Hong Wen Primary School)

2 Dickson Road

Prior to becoming the it’s-so-hip-it-hurts boutique hotel that it is today, the four-storey Wanderlust Hotel was once a residential space and later on Hong Wen Primary School.

Established by the Hing Hua dialect group from Fujian, China, the school began its campus at Dickson Road after the war in 1945, and remained there from 1955 to 1973.

PHOTO: (left) via Singapore (SG) School Memories 

Wanderlust Hotel (former Hong Wen Primary School)
Wanderlust Hotel (former Hong Wen Primary School)
21 Jul 2015

Wanderlust Hotel (former Hong Wen Primary School)

To make up for the lack of facilities - there was neither a hall nor area for physical activities due to space constraint - the school’s principal ingeniously converted its unused rooftop space into a playground (the very first in Singapore) for the students. Today, the rooftop playground space has been turned into the hotel’s outdoor open-air rainbow-hued Jacuzzi.

Wanderlust Hotel (former Hong Wen Primary School)
Wanderlust Hotel (former Hong Wen Primary School)
21 Jul 2015

Wanderlust Hotel (former Hong Wen Primary School)

Living up to its name, the 29-room boutique hotel is a vibrant and experimental property with amazing themes ranging from Industrial Glam (lobby), Eccentricity (level two) to Is it just Black and White (level three) and Creature Comforts (level four – loft rooms).

Designed by four different award-winning design agencies who were given full reign to flex their creativity chops, every nook and corner is Instagram-worthy.

“It’s our way of supporting local talent,” says Lyndel Joyce, the hotel’s marketing communications executive. Each room also comes with a dual his-and-hers toilet amenity – perfect for a couple’s getaway.
 

The Fullerton Waterboat House
The Fullerton Waterboat House
21 Jul 2015

The Fullerton Waterboat House

3 Fullerton Road

This historical three-storey building with an iconic semi-circular tower-like structure is where merchant ships and boats used to ply and Singapore’s early trade and commerce activities first begun.

Built with a basement that was visible from the sea, it used to house the Master Attendant’s Office, from which all harbour activities like registration of vessels and their cargoes were supervised. It was also used to supply fresh water to incoming ships docked in the bay.

PHOTO: via skyscrapercity.com

The Fullerton Waterboat House
The Fullerton Waterboat House
21 Jul 2015

The Fullerton Waterboat House

Today, it houses the trendy Boathouse restaurant and its rooftop bar – Prelude, offering stunning views of the Esplanade Bridge and Singapore’s CBD skyline. Other tenants include Starbucks 100th landmark store and the Waterboat House souvenir shop.

Editor’s note: Boathouse and Prelude were closed for renovations at publish time of this story.

Raintr33 Hotel (former Changi Commando Barracks)
Raintr33 Hotel (former Changi Commando Barracks)
21 Jul 2015

Raintr33 Hotel (former Changi Commando Barracks)

33 Hendon Road

When this site at Changi Point first got its makeover last December, many people mistook it for the infamous Old Changi Hospital that was abandoned in 1997 and notorious for its spooky tales. Turns out, the 50-room boutique hotel that now occupies this refurbished site was the former commando barracks further down the road.

PHOTO: via remembersingapore.wordpress.com

Raintr33 Hotel (former Changi Commando Barracks)
Raintr33 Hotel (former Changi Commando Barracks)
21 Jul 2015

Raintr33 Hotel (former Changi Commando Barracks)

Housed in two colonial buildings and surrounded by lush greeneries, the beautiful Raintr33 Hotel exudes a rustic vibe that’s peaceful and laidback. Whatever anxieties from the area’s haunted repute quickly diminishes the moment you set foot into the modern and plush settings of the hotel.

Calling the refurbished space “one of Singapore’s best kept secret spots, which locals know of but yet know little about”, the hotel is unfazed by the area’s spooky reputation.

Raintr33 Hotel (former Changi Commando Barracks)
Raintr33 Hotel (former Changi Commando Barracks)
21 Jul 2015

Raintr33 Hotel (former Changi Commando Barracks)

“We get a lot of young Singaporean couples, mostly in their twenties, coming here for a weekend staycation,” shares Adrian Lim, the hotel manager.

Apart from families and couples looking for a relaxing getaway, the hotel is also attracting business travellers who “might have to work at the nearby Changi Business Park” and elderly tourists who are mostly on transit, and “don’t want to travel far from Changi Airport.”
 

Related:
8 quirky landmarks of Singapore’s heartlands
6 Singapore brands that are hip overseas
11 food crazes that rocked Singapore
15 things you miss about Singapore when you go overseas

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