Stamford House, Singapore
|Location||Stamford Road, Downtown Core, Singapore|
|Owner||Urban Redevelopment Authority|
Stamford House (Chinese: 史丹福大厦; pinyin: Shǐdānfú dàshà) is a historic building located at the corner of the junction of Stamford Road and Hill Street, in the Downtown Core of Singapore. Originally known as Oranje Building (sometimes spelled Oranjie), it currently houses a shopping mall.
The building was built by Regent Alfred John Bidwell (1869–1918) of Swan and Maclaren in 1904, for Seth Paul a Singapore citizen of American extraction, for his tenant, retail firm Whiteaway Laidlaw & Co. Paul called the building Oranje Building, and Whiteaway Laidlaw carried out their business there until 1910.
Because of a shortage of hotel rooms, Raffles Hotel took over the top two floors of Oranje Building as an annexe for a number of years. In 1933, Seth's daughter Theodara Van Hein renovated the building and converted to become the Oranje Hotel. Before the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in February 1942, a number of survivors of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse were housed in the Oranje Hotel.
During the Japanese Occupation, the building continued to be used by the Japanese forces as a hotel. After World War II, the hotel rooms were rented out and ground floor of the building used as shops.
In 1963, the building changed hands and was sold to Basco Enterprises Private Limited. It refurbished the building and renamed the building as Stamford House. Together with the adjacent Shaw Building, which housed the Capitol Theatre, the Stamford House was once a main shopping centre in Singapore.
In 1984, the Stamford House, together with the Shaw Building, was acquired by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which imposed planning restrictions to preserve the building. In May 1991, a decision was made to forgo preserving the similarly rustic four-storey Eu Court and conserve Stamford House instead as the latter had more potential for commercial purposes. Despite protests by the public, Eu Court was demolished in 1992 for road widening with the aim of easing future traffic congestion on Hill Street. Today, a new building, Stamford Court, is sited on a portion of the site of the former Eu Court building.
The S$13 million conservation project for Stamford House was undertaken by the main contractor Batae Engineering, and took three years. The Stamford House was re-opened as a furniture and furnishings centre on 28 March 1995. The shopping mall has a rentable space of 3,350 square metres (36,000 square feet) over three floors, and was managed by Pidemco Land (now CapitaLand).
The Stamford House was designed by RAJ Bidwell, who was also the architect for Raffles Hotel, Goodwood Park Hotel and other significant buildings in Singapore. The building is architecturally well-related to its environs, including the adjacent Capitol Theatre and the MPH Building on Stamford Road.
The Stamford House is a variation of the Venetian Renaissance architectural style that was popular in commercial buildings in the Victorian period. It has an appealing, romantic architectural composition with its curved central pediment and two triangular ones at either end. With its Adamesque-like mouldings and elaborate ornamental devices, the three-storey Stamford House is typical of the High Victorian phase. The building has an arcade which allows natural light to enter. It mainly housed offices, with shops on the ground floor opening on to a five-foot way.
The Stamford House's characteristic gold tinted detailing was only revealed during restoration work between 1991 and 1994. A frieze of intricate floral plaster on the façade was found beneath another layer of plain plaster, for which no historical records were found. Solid granite columns were uncovered from under layers of plaster at the main entrance. The solid pillars were carved from a single huge slab of granite. Exquisitely wrought cast-iron grilles, in the same intricate floral design as the frieze, were revealed after years of being covered by bland shop signs. The missing pieces were restored by a Malaysian craftsman.
Though the walls of Stamford House were in a good condition, 50% of the plasterwork and cornices were damaged. Most of the wooden floor boards in the building were rotten and had to be replaced with chengai (Balanscarpus heimii), a tropical hardwood. New doors in the original style had to be made. All originals were photographed meticulously before work began. Modern services had to be added sensitively, so that wiring and the air conditioning vents do not jar with the original architecture.
New additions were introduced to maintain the old-world ambience of the building. These include brass lamps from Italy, ground flooring done in the original marble, a hydraulic lift with brass doors and chengai timber covering for the new concrete floors. Decorative features were also added internally to reflect the rich facade: naked steel I-beams were clad in plaster, and the old outhouse, a wing which contained only toilets, was turned into an attached wing for shops and services. A modern skylight allows sunlight to illuminate the building's interior. The corner store was turned into an external foyer where people can walk in from both sides of the road. As there were no records of the building's interior decor, the contractors had to uncover clues and make decisions on colour, pattern and size, sometimes based on straw polls taken from passers-by.
The main contractor Batae Engineering employed the preferred top-down approach, from the roof down to the floor, for Stamford House's restoration.
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