SLA’s Project To Restore 45 Sultan Gate

Challenge goes behind the scenes and beneath the earth of 45 Sultan Gate, one of the latest restored state properties by the Singapore Land Authority.

For almost 30 years, a pair of shophouses sat undisturbed in Kampong Glam. But after a careful 15-month restoration into a combined unit, a new tenant will soon be able to use the space and bring a new flavour to the area. 

The newly restored state property, 45 Sultan Gate, lies in one of Singapore’s four historic districts. 

Within Singapore’s historic districts – Kampong Glam, Boat Quay, Chinatown and Little India – the “strictest form of building conservation guidelines are applied”, says Singapore Land Authority (SLA) Assistant Manager Philip Mah, who oversaw the restoration project. This means that the whole building, not just the envelope, must be conserved.

The shophouses were gazetted for conservation in 1989, and were unused until the physical restoration works began in July 2017.

With the shophouses in poor structural condition, and sitting on soil of “poor load-bearing marine clay”, the restoration had plenty of challenges.

A team of consultants, appointed by the SLA and led by architect Tan Kay Ngee of Kay Ngee Tan Architects, had to find a new structural system to ensure the new building would be structurally sound, while complying with conservation guidelines.

From Mr Tan’s research, he found that this pair of shophouses were built in the 1800s. The buildings have one of Singapore’s earliest shophouse styles, with a low building height and minimal façade decoration compared to later shophouse styles.

Being strategically located at the junction of Sultan Gate and Baghdad Street, in the 1840s, they “acted like a ‘guardian house’ to the Istana Kampong Glam”, he adds. 

Aside from the plain façade, the brick walls are unique. The bricks are known to be “man-made” cast bricks: unlike factory mass-produced bricks, these were compacted manually by buffalos. All the brick walls are preserved in the original form, leaving behind an invaluable resource for generations to come.

Before and after: The SLA converted two shophouses (45 and 47 Sultan Gate) at Kampong Glam into one larger unit now known as 45 Sultan Gate.
Before and after: The existing brick walls were brittle and structurally unsound, but were retained after reinforcement.
Before and after: The form of the roof has been retained to preserve the architectural heritage of the Kampong Glam shophouses.
Before and after: The existing structure had to be strengthened to support a new replacement timber floor slab and roof.
Before and after: The brick walls were propped up during construction, then secured with braced steel framing while substructure piling and casting for the new foundation took place.
Before and after: To reduce the risks of structural collapse during the restoration, complex temporary works had to be done. Micro-piles had to be installed in a congested space with low headroom because of the poor soil condition. Eventually, a new lightweight steel frame (superstructure) on a new piled foundation was proposed.
In an archaeological study of the area before the restoration, many artefacts were found. A total of 378kg of materials were recovered from just 22 sq metres of excavation, including items from Japan, Southeast Asia, China and Europe – attesting to the cosmopolitan nature of the Kampong Glam area.

The restoration of 45 Sultan Gate is part of Reinventing Spaces into Vibrant Places, a joint programme by the SLA and Urban Redevelopment Authority.

    Sep 10, 2019
    Siti Maziah Masramli
    Courtesy of the Singapore Land Authority
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