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September 2011 – almost there

September 24, 2011

A big apology for no update posts since June (I can’t believe it!) – its been a busy few months, luckily with plenty of new conservation projects opening up to discussion days, and good networking amongst those who have been following this blog – you haven’t been left without a helpful resource.

Thanks for your encouragement – I’ll keep going albeit a bit slow.

As usual – the updates will have the latest date next to them and the totally new posts will say (believe-it-or-not) – NEW

Chinese gate – specialist works –  from start to finish (19.06.2011 no change)

Garden wall – cast iron work – lost and replaced (NEW)

Anglo Indian Bungalow  – (new updates)

1) Exterior Front – updated 9.2011

2) Exterior Rear – updated to 6.2011

3) Interior Ground – view towards the Terrace. update to 6.2011

4) Interior First Floor  – view towards the porch 18.5.2011

5) Roof Structure and tiles – updated 27.9.2011

6) Nice Surprises – in progress

Indian Chinese Terrace (still in progress)

1) Exterior

2) Interior towards AIB

3) Interior towards SEA

4) On Top

5) Terrace Construction

Straits Eclectic Annex (still in progress)

1) Exterior view

Jack roof Annex 

1) Exterior Views  (updated 17.6.2011)

2) Interior Views (still in progress)

Indian Shophouses 

1) view from the terrace (updated 17.6.2011)

2) view from Stewart Lane (updated 17.6.2011)

3) Indian Shophouse – creating the interior  NEW

4) bringing back the 5″ way  (to be created)


New Technologies

1) Salt Removal – cocoon (updated 30.9.2011)

Project Documentation – update (in progress)

Garden wall – cast iron work – lost and replaced

September 23, 2011

Just before the conservation work began, the cast iron panels inset into the Love Lane garden wall disappeared. The cast-iron grille work was made in sections. We hunted high and low to find a match but even though we found the right pattern – it would be the wrong size!. In the end we found the right size, but a different pattern – and only one piece, when we needed 16.

The project M&E contractor told us he knew of a cast-iron foundry, and took the one piece to be copied.

The cast iron panels had originally been built in the wall as the brickwork was laid, so the brickwork above, used the ironwork for support. There was no lintol to support the brickwork once the ironwork was stolen – (but it didn’t fall down – lime mortar is tough) so during the installation works we dismantled a bit and added a lintol which also secured the cast-iron panels in place.

It looks a little different with the design, but the spirit is there.

July 2011 - New cast-iron panels set into the garden wall - replacing the ones stolen in 2008.

July 2011 - all in place, and the wall repaired with matching materials

July 2011 - inserting the cast iron panels into the brickwork frame. photo KM Ng

July 2011 - newly delivered cast iron panels

2009 the site where the original panels were once placed.

2009 The original cast-iron panels before they vanished.

Indian Shophouse – creating the interiors

June 18, 2011

The two shophouses, seen from Stewart Lane, had been slowly decaying. All that remained were the columns,and two side walls. The facades along the five foot way were gone and the fourth wall was shared with a neighbour.

The two shop houses were not divided by a solid masonry wall as is often the case, but at one time would have had timber partitions between the support columns, creating two separate dwelling spaces, but this gave us greater flexibility for adaptation, without taking anything away.

Over time the floors were  concreted over and the walls plastered with cement render. To create a sustainable repair and to conserve the original structure, the cement had to be removed  – with care.

Scroll down to the botom to see how we restored and adapted the shophouses.

09.05.11 - VIew B the view of the new staircase, steel and timber, following the principle that what ever new is installed can be taken out. Note the shutters are now installed.

09.05.11 View C - almost there -

05.1.11 View B looking towards the new staircase and teh compound facade. Terracotta tiles now laid, on lime concrete floor. NO CEMENT

05.01.11 View C staircase going in the other side of the column. the Mezzanine is in place and soon it will be home for the carpenters.

1.12.10 View B - the bathroom wall is plastered, the mazzanien joists are going in and the new facade facing the compound is almost complete.

1.12.10 View C big leap forward - bathroom walls plastered and front facade almost there with brickwork and timber frames for the windows.

27.10.20 View C, as the bathroom walls rise - using burnt clay bricks and lime mortar - NO CEMENT in the wall, Yes there are concrete columns, but kept away from the original structure.

13.10.10 View C New bathrooms are being installed, one above the other to minimise the new concrete structure. This structure is independant of the original so that it can be removed with care if a new owner wants to go back to the original form.

13.02.10 View A, from the bottom of the new staircase towards the five foot way and missing facades ( this view could not be photographed again as where I am standing became a utility room)

04.02.10 View B from the five foot way looking towards where the new staircase will be.

04.02.10 View C towards the central column - this together with timber panelling once divided the two shophouse units.

April new posts and updated progress 28.4.2011

April 3, 2011

A lot of things to see this month, I have been working hard to update all the old progress posts and add new ones – still a way to go, so keep watching this space.

Jack roof Annex (NEW)

1) Exterior Views 2) Interior Views.

Shophouses (NEW)

1) view from the terrace

Chinese gate (NEW ADDITIONS – 28.4.2011)

1) from start to finish

Straits Eclectic Annex

1) Exterior view

Indian Chinese Terrace

1) Exterior 2) Interior towards AIB 3) Interior towards SEA 4) On Top 5) Terrace Construction

Anglo Indian Bungalow

1) Exterior Front, 2) Exterior Rear, 3) Interior Ground, 4) Interior First Floor, 5)Roof Structure and tiles.

Project Documentation – update

Jack – roof annex- External views – start to finish

April 2, 2011

The original Jack Roof Annex  had been built as the new kitchen, and is now being converted into two bedrooms with bathrooms.

The building was a badly messed about over time, with door openings filled in or new ones opened up, there was little of the original wall  remaining -scroll down to the very fist picture in the post.

The jack roof, and dark trusses, were its most magnificent asset, and still are. When we looked around for buildings with a similar roof design, it gave us a clue as to how this building should look.

Take a look at the progress, bottom images is the early days….top image the latest.

25.5.2011 finishing touches taking place ready for handover.

26.4.2011 - the white windows were installed - but there was something wrong.... although they looked OK - there was no definition - they were made out of one flat piece of wood - so off they went back to the workshop and came back with the traditional beading design to match the era- 1920s.

23.03.2011, view from the Indian Chinese Terrace corridor, across what will eventually be a garden!

23.03.2011 - the granite floor at the entrance to the rooms, was found inside the building, under many layers of terracotta floor. Before lifting, their level and position were recorded in order to put together the jigsaw of change and understand the cultural layering the building had gone through.

02.02.2011 - A stunningly beautiful roof - hand made tiles, dried in wood kilns, made locally or shipped from China or India. sadly for us to gain these tiles, another building has been destroyed.

4.10.2010 lime plaster work is being carried out on the external walls

28.08.2010 - the new window frames have been installed, old openings bricked up and new openings made. The lime slaking pit is in the foreground.

28.07.2010 - roof completed, cocoon being stripped off the walls - the new opening in the centre bay is being made, and the dismantled bricks will be used to repair other areas of the building.

09.06.2010 the asbestos roof has been stripped off and a temporary shelter installed ready for the traditional roof to be reinstated. The walls have a desalination cocoon applied.

17.03.2010 the walls have now been 'plastered' with a paper pulp. this is called a cocoon and acts as a poltice, drawings out the damaging salts from the walls. The pond is now being used as a lime pit for 'slaking' quicklime powder - after time it becomes thick putty.

05.03.2010 the damaged lime plaster and cement render have been carefully removed from the walls, ready for the desalination process.

August 2008 - when we first looked at the buildings - the pond is still used, the ficus tree that was eventually cut as it was damaging the building, is still there, and the jack roof annex, looks nothing special.... and then

Chinese gate specialist works

April 1, 2011


The Chinese Gateway, which was probably added when the bungalow came under Chinese ownership, is being conserved by specialists from China. These images give a step by step view of what they were undertaking. The most recent are on the top. This part of the conservation project was given a grant under the Think City Grants Programme, which meant the craftsmen from China could be brought it for both this and other projects around the World Heritage Site.

02.05.11 complete except for the lantern, signboard and lions, coming from China.

28.4.2011 gone is the metal gate - at last we see the entrance as she would have looked when first built, or at least close to that. A strange and wonderful entrance into the Anglo Indian compound.

15.4. 2011 meanwhile the doors were being cleaned of all the filler, they will be stained a dark colour rather than applying the typical temple lacquer. This is so that they appear as if much cherished and used over at least 100 years

15.4.2011 the compound ridge is delicately painted with rural scenes etc.

15.4.2011 the front ridge is complete, so now they work on the compound face.

9.4.2011 the cut procelain pieces, ready to make petals, feathers, scales etc.

8.4.2011 working on the ridge, sitting on a plank, resting on sand bags, sitting on the tiles.

7.04.2011 - the wing of the phoenix was almost the only remaining original piece of shard work left on the ridge. Over the years the elements, birds and age had caused the cut pieces of porcelain to fall. Here the body of the bird is being created to fit the restored wing. Note the base of the new wing is made from the curved temple roof tile,

05.04.2011 the top ridge of the roof is about to be worked on - its the decorative ridge where birds and flowers are made from broken pottery. there were a few original peoces remaining, and if you look closely you can see that they remain in place.

05.04.2011 - the Chien Nien figures for the two column brackets, were removed, and repaired - this is where they use a bit of cement! They have also used old bowls, which is very traditional, but as they are glazed on both sides, they say the cement helps the smooth surface grip. When lime was used in this area, the shards were easily removed, as time went by - often picked off by crows.

5.04.2011 Meanwhile the doors were being repaired back at the workshop. The joints were wobbly and the surface pitted over time. We decided that to go back to super-smooth would not be authentic for this house, so the craftsmen will experiment with the finish.

04.04.2011 the two outer edges of the roof are laid with large terracotta tiles and the craftsmen then work row by row from either end, until they meet in the middle.

04.04.2011 - the rebuilding of the gable end, using burnt clay bricks and lime mortar.

1.4.2011 the original end of tile, roundel and drip tiles were also salvaged for reuse, unfortunately many had been smashed by thieves, before the project began.

1.4.2011 what tiles could be saved were cleaned ready for reuse.

31.03.2011 the external roof tiles were so brittle and frail and little left of the timbers after the white ants had finished that there was little to be salvaged of the original tiles.

31.03.2011 the new timber battens are being put in place on the courtyard roof

30.3.11 - compound view - totally stripped and the timbers removed - two timbers have already been replaced or repaired and put back. All this whilst lorries were coming in and out underneath.

22.03.11 - compound view - luckily some sunshine as the tiles were removed in order to replace the ant eaten timbers. If they made wide brimmed hard hats I think this guy might wear one ! but in this heat the traditional plastic hard hat makes you feel dizzy - not a good idea.

22.03.01 - compound view - the work begins just as the rains come - and so a slow start made more difficult as the gateway is still used for deliveries to the site. Note the big blue doors have already been taken away for repair.

18.3.11 - compound view -The gateway is in a sad state, white ants have eaten away the support battens, the porcelain chard work has mainly dropped off and the green drip tiles at the eave off the roof had been smashed in attempted theft.

17.03.2011 just before the works to the Chinese Entrance gate begins

Indian Chinese Terrace construction

March 8, 2011

Unless you are old enough to see how a terracotta terrace is built ( you would have to be 100+ years old or come from Chennai (Madras). One of the best ways to learn is to record what you take apart.

Often our Chinese shop-houses have terracotta terraces over the back kitchen area, and so did Indian and  Anglo-Indian buildings. St George’s Church was built with a Madras Terrace flat roof and so was Suffolk House, in both cases there was very little evidence left before conservation.

We can see that the terrace is supported on timber joists and usually ( but not in this case) battens. Then comes a layer of terracotta tiles – but after that? you can’t know until you take it apart. So here are the images of what we found.

other related  posts  show the exterior view, the view towards the AIB , view towards the SEA, and the view on top.

20.08.2010 - the view from below shows the big timber joists and on top of them terracotta tiles - the props are to support the joists as they are now in a bad condition.

20.8.2010 - when we removed the top concrete layer we found the terracotta terrace floor beneath.

20.08.2010 cut through to record the layers - timber joists - lime mortar followed by three layers of terracotta tiles with lime mortar in between - not a drop of cement to be seen, and the mortar was as hard as limestone.

everything was measured - the Tiles were 14"x14"x1"

the joists were 15" to 15 1/2" apart

the gap between the first layer of tiles was on the centre of the joist - about 1 1/2" gap - the next layer of tiles covered over this joint.

the timber joists were supported by the load-bearing brick wall.

the timber joist projected onto the 9" load-bearing wall by 6 to 7 "


the decorative walls to the terrace were also measured, so that they could be dismantled and rebuilt.

measuring the decorative elements

every measurement taken and sketched


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