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Luxury, Singapore

Kezia Toh
Tuesday, Apr 22, 2014

Luxury, Singapore

History gets funky

The Straits Times | Kezia Toh | Tuesday, Apr 22, 2014

An installation of a German barn at the Singapore Biennale utilised the sprawling space of the former Kallang Airport.

The venue is associated with a World War II battle where Malay Regiment soldiers fought to the bitter end against the Japanese army. However, death was the last thing on Ms Raina Yong's mind when she chose to tie the knot there.

The 33-year-old held her wedding at the outdoor space in front of Reflections At Bukit Chandu. The housewife paid about $2,000 to rent the venue for half a day in 2012.

"I did not want a mainstream location and felt that the charm of the old colonial house was a perfect setting for my outdoor wedding," she says of the building, now a World War II interpretative centre under the purview of the National Heritage Board (NHB).

It is one of several historic sites being used for private and community functions. With their old-world architecture, these sites are a magnet for luxe events such as fashion showcases and chi-chi private dinners.

For example, glamazons clad in Calvin Klein strutted last week in the midst of dramatic Art Deco architecture at the former Kallang Airport.

Singapore's first airport, which ceased air operations in 1955, has hosted art exhibitions and parties over the last few years. At the end of the month, luxury brand Hermes will showcase its men's collections there.

The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is another sought-after venue for private events. Hermes and street label Fred Perry have held functions there. Last September, spiffy vintage cars and bicycles lined up alongside the rail tracks in an exhibition organised by a vintage car club and the heritage board.

As a trade-off for the uniqueness of the venue, organisers of such private events say they are prepared to put up with inconveniences tied to renting a heritage location, such as the lack of air-conditioning and having certain areas fenced off.

For example, some areas such as the railway tracks were off-limits to the 1,300 guests at Fred Perry's 60th anniversary party at the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in 2012. At the station, gazetted as a national monument since 2011, the brand mounted a street market, a film screening and a concert.

The lack of air-conditioning at historic sites is also a bugbear, says Ms Crystal Chua, 39, director of culinary company My Private Chef. Her company has held dinners and cocktail mixers at places such as Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, Reflections At Bukit Chandu and Asian Civilisations Museum.

Ms Chua says some corporate clients turn down locations if they cannot dine in air-conditioned comfort.

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