Baba House
Baba House is a house, located at 157 Neil Road, in Singapore, showcasing Peranakan history, architecture and heritage. It is a traditional Peranakan pre-war terrace-house which formerly owned by 19th-century shipping tycoon Wee Bin who settled in Singapore, after arriving from the southern Chinese province of Fujian. The House is also an outpost of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Museum and co-managed by the NUS Centre for the Arts. Built possibly in the 1860s, 157 Neil Road is a residential terrace house located in the Residential Historic District of Blair Plain. The house and the surrounding area was gazetted for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore, in 1991. In April 2005, a S$4 million donation was made to the National University of Singapore (NUS) by Ms Agnes Tan, the last surviving daughter of the founder of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the late Tun Tan Cheng Lock. This donation was given to the University to acquire Wee's traditional Peranakan house along Neil Road, built circa 1860 on the land plot bought by Wee Bin in 1860. The house is currently owned and managed by Mr Wee Lin, the sixth-generation descendant of Wee Bin. Another donation of S$1.5 million was made to the University, for acquisition of two other shophouses along Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock in Malacca. These acquired houses will be restored and used for educating younger generations about Peranakan history, culture and architecture, while the two houses in Malacca to be used for study on conservation techniques of historical buildings. In gesture of appreciation for the donation, the University named the Singapore house as the Tan Cheng Lock Baba House. The House was officially opened by President of Singapore Mr S R Nathan on September 4, 2008 as the Baba House, and opened to the public on September 15, 2008. Staff and students from NUS' School of Design and Architecture and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences' South-east Asia Studies Programme were involved in the restoration, which has elaborate and intricately carved wooden windows, doors and partition screens. About 70 per cent of the furniture in the House belonged to the Wee estate, while the rest of the items were acquired from Peranakan families in Singapore and Malacca. The first two storeys of the House showcase the Peranakan domestic interior, while artists showcase modern interpretations of Peranakan culture through the exhibition gallery on the third storey. At the same time, the House will also be a venue for Peranakan culinary and craft workshops to be organized by the NUS Museum. The Baba House served as a contrast to the Peranakan Museum wing of Asian Civilizations Museum, as the House enable visitors to experience more intimately how typical Peranakan homes looked and functioned in the 1920s, a time when there were big shifts in Peranakan family structures and their fortunes in Singapore. Its showcase of furniture and items encouraged visitors to interact and touch, and even book the venue to host events as part of the experience-making process. Because of the limited space and the fragility of Peranakan wares, visits to the House are limited to small groups of 12 and by appointments only, so as to reduce impacts made in the House. Project Data The restoration project was carried out between 2006-2008 by: Architect & Engineer: Urban Redevelopment Authority Contractor: LF Developments Pte Ltd Interior design for 3rd floor gallery – FARM In collaboration with: NUS Museum Department of Architecture, School of Design and Environment, NUS, A/P Chan Yew Lih South-East Asian Studies Programme, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, NUS Mr Peter Lee Site Area: 208.67 sqm Total GFA: 635.24 – 480 in old house, 173 in new extension Gross Plot Ratio: 2.3 Overall construction cost: $1.4 million


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