Singapore is a historic center bristling with a legacy of trade and commerce, marked with modern architectural feats at its central skyline. However, in the quaint town of Joo Chiat on the east coast, tradition reigns supreme.
Here, the picturesque neighborhood is known for its diverse cuisine that follows strict traditional recipes (including hand-rolled spring rolls and the city’s oldest Peranakan restaurant), storing offering collectible wares, and shophouses awash in playful pastels; Joo Chiat is Singapore’s very first heritage town.
The New York Times recently reports one story of a family putting their own mark on one of these classic 1920’s Singapore shophouses.
With a child on the way, Michael and Katherin Puhaindran decided to settle into one of Joo Chiat’s highly-coveted 1920s shophouses. The architectural style is characterized by terra cotta roof tiles, French double-shuttered windows, and ornate garlands of sculpted plasterwork. The largely Chinese style was codified by Sir Stamford Raffles in the nation’s first town plan in the early 1840’s. Chinese settlers first brought the style to Singapore even earlier than that, making it the predominant architectural style throughout the rest of the region.
There once were streets similar the those of the community of Joo Chiat. However, they were destroyed in the second half of the twentieth century to make way for Singapore’s luxury high-rises and office buildings. According to Jane A. Peterson of the New York Times, over half of the seven thousand traditional Singapore homes are under some degree of conservation protection.
However, much like San Francisco’s Victorian rowhouses and NYC’s brownstones, these classic Singaporean homes are in high demand, but short supply. The Puhaindrans thought, why not? They embraced the chance to buy one of these cherished homes when the opportunity arose
However, despite its architectural grandeur, the interior of the home did not suit the needs of an active, contemporary family.
The Puhaindrans found architectural remodeling professionals RT+Q. They designed a space that could retain the traditional style of the shophouse while overhauling the general flow of the space. By extending the back half of the property, they added space and made the the rooms more useful. The result was a new three-story structure that connected the house with an breezy, open courtyard. It’s a rectangular space that spans 72 feet deep with two additional floors and modern appliances.
To accommodate their lifestyle, the new space allows the family to host parties and most importantly, it provides their daughter with enough space to frolic.
The new design also provides an abundance of natural light, while keeping the bottom floors cool during the warm summer nights. Within the new back-half structure, elements such as closets and bathrooms are conveniently enclosed in filigree screens or glass enclosures.
The renovation costed the Puhaindrans $1.5 million Singapore dollars, but it has increased the home’s total cost to $4 million. This is certainly a well-spent investment for a modern rendition of a traditional treasure.