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Grange Road No. 25

History
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ABOUT

This seminal example of a Modern bungalow in Singapore, was designed by HO Kwong Yew, one of the leading architects of the Modern Movement in Singapore during the 1930s.

Built in 1938, it is an excellent example of the 1930s Modern style in reinforced concrete - straightforward in character and pleasantly proportioned. It also features typical 'Modern' materials such as mild steel casement windows and glazed tiles as trimmings. The house features extensive stretches of windows, which givesa strong sense of horizontality to the facade. The extensive windows, while necessary for ventilation in the tropics, would also bring in excessive light and heat. Green tinted, and embossed glass was thus used for windows to moderate Singapore's strong tropical light. Its interiors are noted for extensive terrazzo work, which is a material that was popular in Singapore from the 30s to the 50s. An unusual feature was the incorporation of decorative metal balutrades along the ground floor verandahs as well as its internal grand staircase, that are more reminiscent of the 1920s Art Noveau style. Also of note are the unusual curved reinforced concrete beams that are expressed above the main entrance verandah.

Some design reference may have been taken from the DeLaWarr Pavillion in Bexhill, England (Mendelsohn & Chermayeff, 1935), although in this case, the main building is noted for its generous and dramatically curved plan and walls, these are juxtaposed with the flat concrete roof and a orthognal service block at the rear. It is thus also an illustration of the Art Deco influenced 1930s Modern design that was becoming popular locally, as well as its roots in the more traditional bungalows where there was a clear architectural differentiation between the main house and the subservient service wing.

The house also incorprates and early example of the introduction in Singapore, of a roof garden that incorporated a pavillion as well as integrated planter boxes. As the house is located on higher grounds, the roof garden would have provided views over the surrounding greenery.

Within the compound is a smaller house of similar design, but unusually, with timber floors and concrete walls.

At the time of its design, Ho Kwong Yew was a structural engineer. From 1926 to 1930, he worked with Chung and Wong Architects, a local firm formed in 1920. This firm was also responsible for the design of the reinforced concerete Happy World (later known as Gay World) Stadium in 1937 (now demolished). It was only later that he became a registered architect. Kwong Yew was also the designer of the original Haw Par Villa, which was bombed by the Japanese during the campaign to capture Singapore. He was killed by the Japanese Army during the early days of the Occupation of Singapore in World War 2. His company, Ho Kwong Yew and Sons, carried on after his death, going on to design many key Modern buildings in Singapore. These included the Church of the Ascension at St Andrew’s School and the Our Lady Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Church Parish Hall at Tanjong Katong Road. Both these buildings have been gazetted for conservation.

The main house at Grange Road was given conservation status on 23 May 2008.

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