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Singapore selects Padang as potential candidate for UNESCO World Heritage Site

If successful, it will be the city-state's second UNESCO World Heritage Site after the Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Padang Civic Ensemble. (PHOTO: National Heritage Board)
The Padang Civic Ensemble. (PHOTO: National Heritage Board)

SINGAPORE — The Padang and its surrounding civic architecture has been identified as a potential candidate for Singapore's next UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The National Heritage Board (NHB) said in a media release on Thursday (9 March) that the Padang Civic Ensembled will be added to the city-state's Tentative List to be submitted to UNESCO. This is the first step in the potential nomination of the site as a World Heritage Site.

If successful, it will be Singapore's second UNESCO World Heritage Site, after the Singapore Botanic Gardens' inscription in 2015.

"The Padang Civic Ensemble was identified as the best possible option as it stands a good chance of meeting the World Heritage criteria," NHB said in its media release.

"The successful nomination... will provide greater recognition of Singapore’s heritage on the global stage, in particular of the Padang and the surrounding monuments, raise awareness of heritage preservation in Singapore, foster a stronger sense of national identity and pride for Singaporeans, and ensure the site’s preservation for future generations."

How to be inscribed as World Heritage Site

To be inscribed as a World Heritage Site, sites must be of "outstanding universal value" and meet at least one out of 10 selection criteria.

Out of the six criteria for cultural properties, NHB considers that The Padang Civic Ensemble is most likely to meet and fulfil the criterion of being "an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history”.

"The Padang Civic Ensemble is an outstanding example of a British colonial civic square in the tropics," NHB said.

"The coalescence of colonial-era and post-independence civic institutions within a single municipal area bears testament to the historically widespread phenomenon of decolonisation and the transition of long-held British territories to independent nations."

The Padang has a high level of preservation, having been gazetted as a National Monument on 9 August last year. In addition, adjacent buildings such as the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, the National Gallery Singapore, the Arts House and various other National Monuments are similarly of high historical significance.

Consultations before official nomination to UNESCO

Singapore’s tentative list will be published on the World Heritage Centre’s website on Friday.

Following that, NHB will be studying the Padang Civic Ensemble site further with the World Heritage Centre and the advisory bodies through the Preliminary Assessment, a new mechanism in the nomination process which will begin in September.

This new mechanism will provide a longer runway for NHB to work with relevant agencies to address redevelopment concerns, before submitting an official nomination to UNESCO.

As part of its preparatory efforts, NHB has held focus group discussions in January and February with stakeholders such as local heritage experts and professionals, academics, government agencies, monument and building owners.

It said in its media release that, while there were some concerns raised regarding the impact on redevelopment in the area, they were generally supportive of the submission of The Padang Civic Ensemble to Singapore’s tentative list.

“The Padang and its surrounding civic architecture capture the many layers of Singapore’s history from the colonial to post-colonial era and continue to co-exist alongside our modern built heritage," said Dr Chang Jiat Hwee, associate professor at NUS' Asia Research Institute and the Department of Architecture.

"Its inclusion on the tentative list as a potential nomination would raise awareness of the importance of sensitively protecting buildings from the different historical periods in Singapore.”

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