Comment: Appreciating ancient places like Thambi kiosk will not stop us from moving forward


However, there is another point of view, and that is that the loss of Thambi and other places like the former Raffles Junior College Mt Sinai campus is inevitable and, in some ways, necessary. It suggests that one should keep moving forward, and being sentimental about the past does no one any favors.

This view also presents progress (often economic) and the past (often cultural) as polar opposites. The past, expressed in feelings of nostalgia, lacks purpose and usefulness. This is especially true for places that are neglected or lack developments for financial gain. Nostalgia becomes an enemy that hinders the evolution of society.

This view is, of course, simplistic and fails to recognize the very real value that the past has for our everyday lives. Many people and organizations, such as the Singapore Heritage Society, have advocated for the preservation of monuments, institutions and places that are deeply connected to our Singapore heritage.

Heritage, especially heritage places, serves as active and ongoing connections to who we were and how we came to be. The emotions of losing a place, even an abandoned one, cannot simply be dismissed as sentimentality. Rather, that sense of loss is due in part to the loss of a sense of continuity, an anchor to something or somewhere.

Fortunately, there have been many cases in recent years where the past has taken precedence over a “development at all costs” or “carte blanche” approach to spaces and places in Singapore. The preservation of several former Police Academy buildings along Thomson Road is a very good example of such thinking.

While walking around the Bras Basah Complex a few weeks ago, I also came across the Toast Box branch that had taken over the Music Book Room unit. The cafe has a music-inspired theme and kept key elements such as the Music Book Room signage and flooring.

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