Golden Mile Complex belongs in a Mumbai slum

From ‘Buildings not worth preserving’, 9 May 2014, My Point, ST Forum

(Anuradha Singh): THE Golden Mile Complex in Beach Road is one of the ugliest buildings I have ever seen. It looks like it belongs in a Mumbai slum. To even think of preserving it is absurd (“Architects keen on conservation status for Pearl Bank”; yesterday).

When many beautiful old buildings are being demolished in the name of “development”, why maintain this monstrosity in the name of modernist architecture?

There are many fine examples of modernist architecture worth preserving – but Golden Mile Complex and People’s Park Complex do not belong in that category.

Golden Slumdog Millionaire

I don’t know if Anuradha has actually been to a Mumbai slum, but who made this woman the heritage AUTHORITY in deciding what should be preserved and what should be demolished? A favela in Rio would be a more apt description. Still, she may be right about the ugliness. In 2006, NMP Ivan Png echoed the writer’s sentiments and called Golden Mile a ‘vertical slum’ and a national DISGRACE. Other Singaporeans slammed it as an EYESORE, and that it belonged in the same slummy category as Lucky Plaza (incidentally also a foreign worker enclave like Golden Mile). Maybe in a few decades’ time people will be complaining about another ugly building that has erstwhile become a national icon, the hanging surfboard that is Marina Bay Sands. You won’t have to look far, though, for the OTHER slum in our spanking clean Garden City – the entire Hougang GRC. Would the writer suggest going all Sodom and Gomorrah on Hougang as well?

Here are some things you never knew about Golden Mile Complex, other than it being the only place in town you can celebrate Songkran with actual water. For a while, it was the pinnacle of urban living and a tremendous ‘breakthrough’ in Singapore architecture intended to attract the well-heeled, the ‘mile high club’, so to speak. Today it’s a top contender for Architecture’s equivalent of the World’s Ugliest Dog award, with people so pissed off with its look that they would come in like a wrecking ball themselves to knock it out of existence.

1. In the 70’s, you could buy a ‘luxury apartment’ and ‘penthouse’ with a ‘uninterrupted panoramic’ seafront view, facing even the Southern Islands.

2. Golden Theatre, opened in 1973, boasted a preview room and a VIP LOUNGE, and was one of the BIGGEST theatres in those days.  These days it screens softcore porn and the occasional Hindi blockbuster.

3. In 1989, you could buy Thai nudie mags disguised as ‘respectable women’s magazines’ there for $3. Ah, pre-Internet.

4. The ‘ugly’ facade was intended to resemble a ship, and by the mid eighties has been described as a ‘tacky beach cruiser’. Well, from certain angles, you could see why. All aboard, mateys.

Not so smooth sailing

5. It was designed by a team of architects including Tay Kheng Soon. In his bio for the 2010 Fifth Gold Medal Recipient, works cited include KK Hospital, ITE Bishan and Serangoon Gardens Country Club. GMC wasn’t mentioned. As for KKH, doesn’t its cross section in this draft remind you of something else, a cruise ship maybe? A GOLDEN cruise ship?

6. Its stepped terrace design has been praised by international architecture experts including Dutch Rem Koolhaas, who referred to Golden Mile and her sister ‘monstrosity’ People’s Park Complex, as ‘accidental’ landmarks and bold ‘experimental’ structures. They’re probably the same people who gush over Mumbai slums because there’s nothing sexier to architects than chaos and decadent sprawl. As long as they don’t live a day in it.

7. Lastly, GMC has also been compared to a typewriter.

An icon doesn’t need to be pretty to endear to Singaporeans and tourists alike, and we don’t need to rely on just refurbished shophouses or rusty religious buildings to add ‘character’ to our city. GMC and People’s Park are just a couple of many local designers’ creations out there threatened by collective sale. Victor Chew’s Cairnhill Hilltops and Ming Court Hotel (now Orchard Parade Hotel) were given the Godzilla treatment. If we don’t start conserving now, all we’d have left on this tiny island are HDB blocks,  condos and ugly showpieces commissioned to foreign designers, too expensive to tear down. Losing Golden Mile would be like sweeping ‘lawless’ Geylang off the map.

Still good as Gold Photo credit: Darren Soh

Still good as Gold
Photo credit: Darren Soh

GMC is not just a Thai hangout and hub of sleaze where you could get a gloryhole blowjob from a stranger in a cubicle of the dingiest loo in the country. Even if GMC fails to remain viable as a mixed-use building, it could at least be preserved as a location to shoot a dystopian Judge Dredd action movie. But for now it’s still a workplace, home and even SECOND HOME to many people, Thai workers included, and to call for its destruction because it burns your eyeballs just to gaze at it is, well, rather ugly thinking too.

THE Golden Mile Complex in Beach Road is one of the ugliest buildings I have ever seen. It looks like it belongs in a Mumbai slum. To even think of preserving it is absurd (“Architects keen on conservation status for Pearl Bank”; yesterday).

When many beautiful old buildings are being demolished in the name of “development”, why maintain this monstrosity in the name of modernist architecture?

There are many fine examples of modernist architecture worth preserving – but Golden Mile Complex and People’s Park Complex do not belong in that category.

– See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/my-point-20140509#sthash.o4BCuG0m.dpuf

Advertisements

2 Responses

  1. Just because it’s dirty looking at the moment, does not make it the equivalent of a slum. And it has more character than so many buildings out there.

    Spruce it up.

  2. […] PS: Click to read more on the controversy relating to Golden Mile […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: