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Singapore HeritageFest 2024: A journey through Singapore's built heritage

2 mins read

We're so used to seeing the common stone tables and stools at HDB void decks that we don't even notice them anymore. Now, they’re taking centre stage in shades of pastel pink, blue, and purple at the exhibition HOMEGROUND: We Built This City. It is one of the many installations that you can explore at Singapore HeritageFest this year. Immerse yourself in walking trails, workshops, and enlightening talks circling around this year's theme: Built Heritage.

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Located on the lawn outside the National Museum of Singapore, we walked through the nooks and crannies of Singapore’s built heritage, including kampongs, void decks, HDB flats, corridors, and the Botanic Gardens bandstand gazebo that are part of the HOMEGROUND: We Built This City exhibition. Not only does this colourful showcase provide unique photo opportunities, but it also offers insights into our daily staples here in Singapore.

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HOMEGROUND: We Built This City is one of more than 120 programmes presented by the National Heritage Board in the 21st edition of the Singapore HeritageFest (SHF). Festival Director David Chew explains: “Our built heritage is more than just walls of brick and stone, they hold the stories and experiences of diverse communities, past and present, and it is the people and their stories that bring these spaces to life.”

Unearthing stories behind buildings

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Buildings hold stories about our history and culture. We caught a Hop-On, Hop-Off (HOHO) Bus to the Thian Hock Keng Temple, located on Telok Ayer Street that used to overlook the sea. After all, telok means bay, and ayer means water in Malay.

We caught glimpses of what life was like for the first Chinese immigrants in the 1800s through the stone steles that record the temple’s history located in the entrance hall. Thian Hock Keng Temple was built in 1839 by Chinese immigrants who wanted to give thanks to Mazu, Goddess of the Sea, for the safe voyage that brought them to our shores.

The HOHO bus travels two routes across selected weeks and allows participants to tour cultural sites and architectural landmarks. You can also explore the Lenses of the Past Heritage Exhibition, and learn more about the rich architectural history of Capitol Singapore and CHIJMES. Teleport back to the 1950s, when Charlie Chaplin performed under the Capitol’s classic domed roof, and even further back to 1854, when CHIJMES was originally the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus.

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Preserving history and heritage

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There’s also the Architectural Conservation Laboratory (ArClab) where you can see how our conservationists use tech such as 3D laser scanners to create digital replicas of artefacts. In all, this year’s SHF makes it clear that our built heritage is indeed rich and layered, with stories contained in every brick, pillar, and bridge. Discover Singapore's rich architectural heritage at Singapore HeritageFest running now till 26 May 2024. Some events are ticketed.

Image credits: Singapore HeritageFest 2024, Chinatown Singapore.

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