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A passion for preservation

Many people talk about their university days as a seminal time in their lives, when they gained clarity on their future careers.

This was certainly the case for Mr Kelvin Ang, 46, the director (Conservation Management) of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Awarded a URA overseas scholarship in 1993, he opted to study architecture at University College London.

Spending six years living in the British capital, as well as travelling around European cities soaking up the culture and history, he developed an appreciation for the way old cities there had managed to not just survive but thrive by leveraging their unique physical and social environments.

“Beautiful historical buildings are weaved into the tapestry of people’s lives by serving the wider community as venues for both everyday and special events,” he elaborates.

“It became clear to me that one of the keys to successful urban regeneration includes the careful protection and considered reuse of old buildings.  But this presents architects and planners with unique challenges.”

Mr Ang continued to be intrigued by such city planning challenges even after he returned to Singapore in 1999 to work as a URA architect.

In 2001, he was deployed to the Conservation Department, and by 2007 he was appointed head (Heritage Studies). In this role, he was in charge of researching buildings with potential heritage value and making recommendations as to whether they should be conserved.

In his quest to deepen his knowledge in his passion topic, he applied for a postgraduate scholarship, which he was awarded in 2010, and returned to University College London to pursue a Master in Sustainable Heritage. He followed that with a two-month work attachment at English Heritage, the agency in charge of heritage sites in Britain.

By 2013, Mr Ang was back at URA to take up his current role. His work includes the restoration of buildings such as NUS Baba House, as well as conservation projects involving Balestier Road and the former Beach Road camp.

“My role is an amazing opportunity to help shape the city that I live in,” he says. “Planning for the retention of our built heritage helps to ensure that Singapore can grow in a sustainable manner and strengthens the ‘heartware’ of our citizens as a foundation for the future.”