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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Should there be any World Heritage Sites in Singapore?

World Heritage Sites (WHS)

 

UNESCO is going to announce the latest additions to WHS end of this week or next week.  Looking at the list of more than 700 sites, I sometimes wonder if it’s difficult to qualify at all.  Although the list includes world class sites like the Great Wall and Pyramids, it also includes many lesser known ones – including a Swedish submarine base and an 18th century iron mill factory site in England.  I have been asking myself if any site in Singapore qualify. 

 

The issue of Singapore having withdrawn from UNESCO aside – we left UNESCO together with the USA years ago due to political reasons – but are there places in Singapore that merit this status? 

 

The WHS label has become a kind of ISO 9000 for historical sites.  Having a WHS in Singapore would certainly help dispel the notion that Singapore has no historical sites or heritage, and is nothing but a sterile, cultureless, soulless city with North American style infrastructure and concrete jungle.  It would also provide greater impetus and incentive to conservation of heritage in Singapore.

 

I don’t know whether any of our heritage buildings qualify in terms of UNESCO’s conservation standards and requirements.  Personally, I do think that some of our districts do qualify for their historical and anthropological value.  Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam and the Civic District are the result of colonial urban planning for a city designed as the political, military and economic capital of the British Empire in Southeast Asia.  The old bungalows and architecture of Katong / Joo Chiat area are unique products of the combination of European and Chinese building style, and was once the centre of the Peranakan, an unique culture that was the marriage of two great Asian cultures.  The combination of these can be combined into a single submission to the UNESCO, as the “Old City of Singapore”, “Historic Centre of Singapore” or “Ethnic Quarters of Colonial Singapore”.

 

Any views or insights?

 

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