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21 July 2017
Architecture is not just merely about space, it tell us volumes about the time in which it was built. This episode, InstaScram travels from contemporary 2017 to the past, in the form of architectural exploration, where we visit two vastly different buildings, in terms of style, scale and history.
You may have noticed a two-towered, honeycombed structure along the Bugis district. These high-rise, metallic-looking buildings first garnered the interest of social media before it even officially opened, due to its unique hive-like design, that brings to mind puzzle pieces joined together.
This is DUO, a mixed-development along the Ophir-Rochor area that was only completed this year. You can expect to see the buildings filling up with people in the near future, as Duo's plans include offices, residences, shopping outlets and even a hotel.
The architecture of the structure is by no means coincidental. A partnership between two countries, Singapore and Malaysia, highlights the historical friendship between them that extends into this millennium. The area that Duo was chosen to be built is also purposeful, as Bugis is an area full of heritage, highlighting the roots of the Malay-Arab community, and true Singaporean modernity.
Duo's dedication to structural symbolism also extends into its decor. Within its compound are 5 structural works of art that are free for public viewing. They are crafted by 5 Malaysian and
Singaporean artists, including notable Malaysian artist Latiff Mohidin. All the sculptures were deeply inspired by ties between the two countries, as well as the relationship between heritage and modernity within the Bugis area. When you explore this "live, work, play" environment, you're not just greeted with the future, but also enlightened by the culture that surrounds you. Experience all five sculptural artworks titled 'Poetics of Convergence', by Latiff Mohidin, Sun Yu-Li, Lim Leong Seng, Grace Tan and Baet Yeok Kuan.
And before we fully appreciate the futuristic quality of Duo in encapsulating a holistic experience in our daily lives, we look back to our colonial history once again, to explore the era of mansions and bungalows.
Built around the 1910s, the name Beaulieu literally means 'beautiful place' in French. Stroll along a paved path which leads you from Beaulieu House to a picturesque jetty, where you can marvel at the expanse of the Straits of Johor.
The proximity to the sea is no coincidence. In 1923, the British bought over the house and the surrounding land from its Jewish owner to develop the strategically-located Sembawang Naval Base. Beaulieu House was then occupied by several British Royal Navy officers, most prominently, Vice-Admiral Geoffrey Layton, the most senior naval officer in Singapore and the Far East. It is speculated that the house was given its name after acquisition by the British, who most likely named it after the historic Beaulieu River in Hampshire, England, or after one of their Royal Navy officers.
In 1978, the National Parks Board (then called the Parks and Recreation Department) drafted plans for a park, overlooking the Straits of Johor, and encompassing Beaulieu House. The park, Sembawang Park, a 15-hectare space, opened a year later. Beaulieu House was opened as a restaurant since 1981, serving up Chinese and Western cuisine, and is a popular spot for weddings and celebrations of all kinds. It is currently managed by Mr Lim Hock Lye, who himself, grew up in Sembawang.
Beaulieu House was gazetted for conservation in 2005, by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Given the large number of conserved buildings in Singapore, there is a determined urgency to properly preserve our older architecture, right alongside our newer ones, before our culture and legacy are but a distant memory.