Tuesday, 26 May 2015

[Today] Civic District renovation needs more coordination, creativity

Surrounded by a charming mixture of colonial buildings and gleaming skyscrapers, the stretch of the Singapore River from Esplanade Walk to Boat Quay and Clarke Quay can perhaps be considered as the most elegant part of the Civic District.
With the completed refurbishment of the former Supreme Court and City Hall into the National Gallery and with the restoration of Victoria Theatre, I have been looking forward to a more scenic landscape.
Disappointingly, the area is again turning into a messy construction site — this time involving the renovation of the Asian Civilisation Museum and the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s enhancement of the public spaces along Empress Place and Esplanade Park.
Although the pedestrian paths are partially accessible, the project, which is expected to be completed by year end, has cheapened the image of the place, with areas boarded up casually by both nondescript scaffoldings and steel barricades.
The inelegant way contractors are caging up the statue of Stamford Raffles is also shocking.
While I understand the need for upgrading and refurbishment, I am less impressed with the absence of coordination among the various agencies to minimise the disruptions.
Why could not the current projects have been timed together with the earlier ones at the National Gallery and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall?
Given the significance of the place, why is there no evidence of creative efforts in maintaining the area’s image if construction works are inevitable?
For example, the authorities could have commissioned artwork and other aesthetic projects for those blank and bland construction hoardings, and a more dignified casing to protect the statue of Raffles.
Instead of construction workers barricading the space, let our artists’ imagination beautify it.
I acknowledge the commitment of the relevant authorities, but a little more inter-agency coordination and aesthetic imagination would go a long way in maintaining our Civic District’s charm.