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Project Profile


2007 Honourable Mention

The Old St. Andrew's School

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Project TitleThe Old St. Andrew’s School

Location1 Francis Thomas Drive, Woodsville, Singapore

Size7,400 square metres

CostUS$ 4,500,000

Responsible PartyChan Sui Him, Chan Yew Lih, David Liauw, Edmund Ngoh, Marisa Pua, Chin Li Nah and Hasanah Ahmad Noor

Heritage ArchitectChan Sui Him and Chan Yew Lih

ContractorSEF Construction PTE Ltd.

Date of Completion15 January 2005

Project Synopsis

Founded in the 1850s, St. Andrew’s School came under the supervision of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore towards the end of the nineteenth century and developed into an institution modelled on the British public school. After being relocated to a number of premises as the student body grew, the school moved to the Woodville estate in 1939 where a new building for the school was built.

The St. Andrew’s School building, designed by the British architect Frank Wilmin Brewer, was built in the Spanish Mission Revival style, featuring a large rectangular central courtyard surrounded by three-storey colonnaded blocks, each looking onto the central space through an unusual series of arches with differing profiles, round on the ground floor and segmented above. The six-storey Lim Teck Kin Tower was added to a corner of the precinct in 1952. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the building is the distinctive “fish-scale” exterior stuccowork, hand-applied in bold overlapping crescents.

Painted in camouflage by the British and then used as a prison for civilian internees by the Japanese during the Second World War, the building then remained in use as a school until the 1980s when it was virtually abandoned with yet another relocation of the expanded institution. Subsequent neglect led to the collapse of sections of the roof and a general deterioration of the structure, mostly through water and termite damage.

The conservation effort undertaken between 2002 and 2005 was part of a larger scheme by the Ministry of Education and the Anglican Diocese of Singapore to reunite the Junior, Secondary and Junior College branches of the school with their affiliated Diocesan bodies in their historic Woodsville grounds. As part of the larger St. Andrew’s Village complex completed in 2005, the Old School now houses the headquarters of the Diocese with the academic branches of the adjacent St. Andrew’s institution. The restored building garnered the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Heritage Award in 2006.

Conservation Approach

In line with international conservation charters and the guidelines of the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority, an approach of minimum intervention was adopted. The conservation effort focused on restoring the courtyard structure while adapting it to its new administrative role.

An effort was made to programme compatible new uses within the existing spaces. As such, the headquarters of the Diocese of Singapore, comprising the Bishop’s office and meeting rooms, were located on the first storey of the East Wing, in the old school office space, thus calling for minimal interventions. Likewise, the old school hall was transformed into the new Chapel of Resurrection, requiring only a new stage and additional storage space for musical equipment. The former classrooms were adapted into activity rooms and offices for affiliated Anglican organizations. The major intervention was the conversion of the large east transept, which had been a toilet block, into a meeting area and library. As part of the modernization of the building, facilities for air-conditioning were installed, which necessitated the addition of secondary internal glass windows behind the original louvered windows. 

Prior to the restoration work a thorough investigation of the structural condition of the building was conducted, particularly in light of the water damage sustained as a result of broken roof tiles. The strength of the reinforced concrete structure was examined using various tests for depth of carbonation, ultrasound pulse velocity, tensile strength and corrosion of reinforcement. The overall structure was found to be in sound condition, but it was determined that the purlins in the roof structure had to be replaced.  Existing roof tiles still in serviceable condition were cleaned and reused, and matching replacement tiles were sourced from India.

In order to faithfully reproduce the original decorative aspects of the building, extensive research was carried out, including interviews with former pupils of the school (“Old Boys”) to pinpoint such details as the characteristic pinkish-cream colour of the “fish-scale” stucco that had been obscured by later paintwork. After laboratory analysis of paint samples, the lowest layer was selected, as it was presumably  the original colour. Similar care was taken in sourcing the green, blue, white and yellow stained glass which appears throughout the building and which had been badly damaged during the period of abandonment.

Measures were taken to maintain the original spirit of the old school building, including the preservation of the concrete stripe running down the centre of the tiled hallways. This had originally been intended to organize queuing by the students, and was carefully retained as a memento of the former occupants. The tiles themselves were checked for soundness by striking each one with a metal ball; faulty or loose tiles were replaced or re-mortared.

The sacrosanct quality of the quadrangle, once forbidden to students except on the day of their passage from primary to secondary school, was preserved in the maintenance of a pristine central lawn.  

Conservation and the Community

Reflecting the great sense of pride surrounding the physical body of the Old School, the project received wholehearted support from the extended St. Andrew’s alumni community, with Old Boys not only providing a significant portion of the funding through donations but also becoming involved in providing aesthetic and historic inputs. As the headquarters of the Anglican Diocese today, the new incarnation of the building now enjoys a privileged position as the epicentre of Church activity in Singapore, serving as an administrative organ as well as a venue for conferences, performances and religious services.

Quote from the Project Team

"The repair technique employed ensured that all existing features were faithfully retained. After the repair, the historic building is now sound but still retains the patina of age and the spirit of the school building. In the adaptation, special attention was given to ensure that the original function of the building can still be appreciated and thus, that the rich social significance was not lost in the process."