Maxwell Chambers Suites opens for preview ahead of grand opening

Maxwell Chambers Suites opens for preview ahead of grand opening

Maxwell Chambers Suites
Maxwell Chambers Suites (Photo: Maxwell Chambers)

SINGAPORE: Shutterbugs and heritage buffs were among the first to take a peek into the newly-refurbished Maxwell Chambers Suites on Thursday (Jul 18), two years after the building closed for renovation works. 

Constructed in 1928, Maxwell Chambers was first used as the police force's barracks. From the 1930s to 1999, it was the Traffic Police headquarters.  

After the Traffic Police’s departure in 1999, the building underwent a revamp and sported a bright red facade as the Red Dot Traffic Design Museum. 

It was then gazetted as a conservation building in 2007.

TRACING ITS ROOTS

Mr Wee Cheng Soon's descendants.
Mr Wee Cheng Soon's descendants from left to right: Great granddaughters Tanya Pillay-Nair and Sherry Lim, grandniece Juliana Lim and grandson Dr Michael Chia. (Photo: Darius Boey)

The man who made Maxwell Chambers a reality was Mr Wee Cheng Soon, the owner of now-defunct Wee Cheng Soon Construction. Back then, he won the tender to construct the building at 321,100 Straits dollars.

Joining the preview on Thursday were Mr Wee’s grandson Dr Michael Chia, as well as Mr Wee's grandniece and great-granddaughters. 

Dr Chia, 90, said he felt extremely proud upon seeing his late grandfather’s work being refurbished. 

“This was a journey of discovery because I have never been here before and I didn’t know that he had built this until a few days ago,” he said. "I feel very proud that my grandfather has built this building and many others in Singapore.”

“My kids don’t know about this place, but I would definitely want to tell them, and I would bring them here and show them around,” he said. 

“It’s difficult to say (which part is my favourite) because every part is interesting and it’s almost perfect.”

Mrs Margaret Wee joins Maxwell Chambers preview. (Photo: Darius Boey)
Mrs Margaret Wee, wife of Mr Vincent Wee, grandson of the late Mr Wee Cheng Soon also joined the preview. (Photo: Darius Boey)

The preview is part of the Ministry of Law’s efforts to work with various heritage and photography communities to share the building’s rich heritage ahead of its grand opening on Aug 8, as Singapore celebrates its Bicentennial year and 54th National Day. 

dome-shaped arbitration room
A dome-shaped arbitration room inside Maxwell Chambers. (Photo: Darius Boey) 

AN INSTAGRAMMER'S PARADISE?

Ninety members of various heritage and photography communities in Singapore, including the likes of Singapore Heritage Society, My Community and Nostalgic Singapore were there.

Bridge linking Maxwell Chambers to Maxwell Chambers Suites. (Photo: Darius Boey)
This newly-constructed bridge links Maxwell Chambers to Maxwell Chambers Suites. (Photo: Darius Boey)

One of them is Mr Jiaquan Lu, 31, a member of the Singapore Photography Community, who first came to know about the building when it was still the Red Dot Traffic Museum.

Mr Lu said he only learned about the building’s significance through his parents. 

“It’s my first time experiencing the building apart from their stories and walking through it as well. The building speaks for itself through some of the architectural symbols. It’s interesting to know these bits and pieces of history,” said Mr Lu. 

This artwork can be found within the building's compound (Photo: Darius Boey)
This artwork can be found within the building's compound (Photo: Darius Boey)

When asked what drew him to join the tour, he said: “It was definitely more of the historical value that drew me, not the aesthetics … I guess we take it for granted when we pass by these buildings and there’s a lot of history behind it.” 

The building has also become an Instagram photographer’s paradise. Following its refurbishment, more people have been flocking to Maxwell Chambers for snapshots. 

There are many Instagram-worthy spots within Maxwell Chambers. (Photo: Darius Boey)
There are many Instagram-worthy spots within Maxwell Chambers. (Photo: Darius Boey)

"People have actually come here to take photos as they think it’s a very instagrammable building,” said Mr Han Kok Juan, Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Law.

“I think the beauty and intricacy of this building’s design needs to be shared with the younger generation of Singaporeans and I do think that modern photography and social media is a good channel for a wider population of Singaporeans to appreciate the heritage and the history of this building."

Maxwell Chambers' hooded windows
The building's hooded windows were preserved during the refurbishment. Back in the day, they were communal kitchens. (Photo: Darius Boey)

Source: CNA/dl(hm)

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