Let us examine “new” and “old”

I know my friends in Europe will fall over laughing and condescendingly pat me on the head, but I’ve always thought of Boston as a city that respects the old while building the new.  After all, how many cities have the “Old City Hall” built in the 18th century next to a towering skyscraper?

Granted, that’s nothing when you consider the remnants of the original Roman wall to the city of Londinium next to the Tower of London next to modern skyscrapers in modern London, but for the US, it’s pretty damn good.

Something that still causes culture shock/disorientation in Singapore is when buildings that are 20 years old are disdainfully called “old.”  I was reminded of this yesterday as I was reading a new (to me) blog called “Mr. Brown.”  Mr. Brown also writes a column on the local CNN site, and I found myself laughing at his satirical commentary about Singapore, 30 years from now…

I think Future Singapore will need to complete the razing of all our old buildings. Any building older than five years will be torn down and made into something useful, like a shopping mall or multi-story car park. We’ll make our concrete jungle dreams come true yet, people!

Read more: Singapore in 30 years, according to mrbrown | CNNGo.comhttp://www.cnngo.com/singapore/life/step-back-time/mrbrown-predicts-future-singapore-759358#ixzz18L5VMxus

While we were away, a friend blogger posted pictures of the “new” mall in Singapore, “Nex”.  My amused/eye roll comment was something to the effect of “really?  ANOTHER mall?  Was there 10 feet without retail space on a sidewalk?”  (For the record, if you want to see gorgeous photography of daily life and food in Singapore, you should add Tiny Island to your feed-reader).
Either just before we left for the US or while we were gone, a friend told me that her building (a whopping 20-30 years old) was scheduled for demolishment, and at some point she’ll need to move.  From the apartment she just moved into less than a year ago.
Elanor’s room was moved while we were gone because of the constant construction noise from next door (which saved us rent costs but may be costing me sanity and is certainly costing me sleep).
What perhaps makes Singapore less interested in its past is that in such a small confined space, nostalgia is one thing this wealthy nation can’t afford.  But as a historian, I smile sadly each time I walk past some of the only surviving Peranaken buildings…sitting as they do, across from several gleaming new malls, I feel as though it’s only a matter of time before they’re ripped down in favor of something like a mall.
I also find it paradoxical that in a nation where the population can be shown as an inverted pyramid, with a very small young population and a very large elderly population (and in a region of the world where older people are generally treated with reverence) that things that are “old” are of little to no interest.
Personally, I think in Singapore in 30 years there will underground “link” malls from every condo to the nearest mall…which will be next door.
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2 Responses to Let us examine “new” and “old”

  1. Kirsten says:

    What I really envied when I lived in New Zealand were “family homes”. You know, friends who told me about how they’d grown up in a house, and their mother/father before them, and their grandparents had been the ones to build it. Rambling houses with hodgepodge extensions as the family grew. There was just something so sweet about it!

    But in Singapore, there’s really no such thing as a family home. Everyone has to move and there’s no way you can root your family in one place. 😦

  2. bookjunkie says:

    Thanks so much for the blog love 🙂 It’s so true. Everytime I travel, the first thing I marvel at are the gorgeous old building with so much history. Yes it’s definitely due to lack of space I think that we keep building up and up and tearing down the old. It’s also a hunger for the new, more convenience and air-conditioning.

    One of the old places I am sad about is the old railway station at Tanjong Pagar and the old National Library red brick building that I remember from childhood.

    Yes it’s true that everywhere you go in Singapore there’s construction going on all the time and it’s a never ending thing. Can be quite tiresome.

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