Theses Master's

“When I’m Dead, Demolish It”: Contradictions and Compromises in Preserving Values at Lee Kuan Yew’s Oxley Road Home, Singapore

Leo, Cherie-Nicole

Since the death of Singapore’s founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, on March 23, 2015, the fate of his house at 38 Oxley Road remains in question. In spite of its association to this seminal political leader and the fact that historic meetings that led to Singapore’s independence from British rule in 1959 were held in its basement dining room, heritage authorities and the Singaporean public are faced with a dilemma because Lee Kuan Yew had, on multiple occasions, expressed his wish to have the more-than-a-century-old colonial bungalow demolished after his passing and he had included this wish in his last will and testament.
This thesis uses the ongoing debate surrounding 38 Oxley Road as a case study. It aims to address how decision-makers in the heritage conservation field might more effectively negotiate the multiplicity of competing values ascribed to heritage sites in working toward a future common good. Through a discourse analysis, the thesis examines how a values-based approach to heritage conservation can serve as a basis for exploring more robust tools for decision-making through the adoption of a more future-looking, scenario-focused framework. In this way, heritage decision-makers are challenged to look beyond some of the field’s traditional paradigms, as reflective of the broad shift from more expert-driven materials-based approaches to more participatory and contextually aware values-based approaches. In line with a values-based approach that posits that the goal of heritage conservation is to preserve significance and not material for its own sake, this thesis shows how an assessment and prioritization of the broad range of values ascribed to a heritage site can expand the range of potential outcomes that may effectively transfer those values to future generations. Acknowledging and understanding this spectrum of possible outcomes and evaluating their trade-offs can help to enhance the field’s capacity to creatively work out contradictions and reach compromises in its decisions. In doing so, heritage decision-makers can more effectively engage in dialogue with related planning and policy fields as they work toward shaping the collective future.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Avrami, Erica C.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 20, 2016