Location: Silat Avenue, Singapore
History: Kampong Silat Estate was developed by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) from 1948 – 1952, making it the oldest surviving SIT flats after the renowned Tiong Bahru Estate. It was planned to be a self-containing village area to make it easily adaptable for the residents who were resettled from their own kampong areas. These blocks of flats were also constructed due to a spate of fires which affected the residents of Kampong Silat living in traditional attap roofed kampong houses back then. The estate originally consisted of 31 blocks of flats, but only 5 remain as of today. In June 2014, the 5 remaining blocks of flats were gazetted for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
Urban Morphology: The urban planning of the entire estate comprised many pockets of open spaces within an intimate spatial layout. These open spaces were viewed as communal spaces to reinstate the memories of kampong life. The open spaces were also influenced by Patrick Abercrombie, an English town planner who first implemented such ideas in Tiong Bahru estate. He stressed that open spaces such as small playgrounds should be “spaced at regular intervals”, for a city of open spaces would be tantamount to a city of content citizens. Considering that Kampong Silat estate was constructed post-war, it might also have been a move to address the welfare of the citizens by giving them autonomy to such open spaces.
Architectural Design: The SIT flats were designed by their chief architect, S. C. Woolmer. They were constructed in the Art Deco style but adapted to Singapore’s tropical climate. This gave the estate a more modern feel and paved the way for technological advancements in the methodology of building construction in Singapore. The SIT flats, in this case, used a variety of pre-fabricated construction elements and relied heavily on the usage of lightweight concrete hollow blocks.
Allowing natural ventilation flow was a crucial factor due to Singapore’s tropical climate. This includes a large ventilation screen on the circulation core which can be seen on the front façade. The buildings’ interior layout also allowed for natural cross ventilation, with interior vents strategically placed between rooms.
These flats are also some of the few which incorporated chimneys, a largely western architectural feature. However, they have had their functions changed. The chimney’s flue runs through the entire height of the flats to the ground floor and was linked to the refuse chutes to allow any unpleasant smells to dissipate.
Scope: A detailed research into the site and its surrounding context was conducted to better understand its architectural and construction history, including the physical alterations carried out over time such as the sealing up of the previously open balconies. These includes studying archival records, drawings, reports and photos.
As the Heritage Consultant for this project, our scope of work also includes visual inspection and a dilapidation survey of the five blocks, coupled with several non-destructive testing works to identify hidden defects and construction details. Other testing works such as paint seriation was also carried out to determine the historical colours used for the five blocks.
From the detailed study, research and testing works, recommendations for conservation approaches were made in line with the 3R principles as highlighted by the URA. We assisted with the development of adaptive reuse strategy respecting and enhancing the inherent historic physical, spatial and environmental qualities of the buildings and their surroundings. In addition to that, strategies for proper maintenance were outlined to extend the lifespan of the building.