Updated: Dec 27, 2021
ARCHITECTURE BRINGING HISTORY TO LIFE
Fort Tanjong Katong. For some who may not know what that is, it would be pretty easy to guess! It’s a fort situated somewhere in Katong, right? YES! However, there is so much more to it than just that. In this two-part blog series, WeCreate Studio is proud to introduce, “Reviving Fort Katong”, a project that has been in the works for a while now with the intention to bring to light the history buried within the Fort Tanjong Katong walls.
Although Fort Tanjong Katong was a prominent archaeological discovery made in 2001, many are unaware of it’s part to play in Singapore’s history. So, here’s a quick overview:
Why was the fort built?
Fort Tanjong Katong was constructed in 1879 by the British as part of the fortification works to defend Singapore Town and New (Keppel) Harbour in the late 19th century from the perceived threat of expanding Russian Imperialism.
Why was the fort abandoned?
Due to (1) advancement in military technology, (2) a lack of military resources to man the Fort as well as (3) the remoteness of the site which made it difficult to channel supplies and reinforcements to the Fort, it was quickly realised that the Fort was not effective as a defence position. Hence, less than 5 years after the upgrading works to the Fort were completed, the British decided to abandon and demolish the Fort.
What started the excavation works in 2004-2005?
Fort Tanjong Katong was brought to light when it was discovered by accident in 2001 because a dry season uncovered the outline of the fort’s bastion wall.
In 2004, community leaders, over 1000 resident volunteers and a local archaeological team rallied together for excavation efforts to uncover the remaining fort buried underground.
A total of $250,000 was raised to fund the excavation work and to date, there is still $150,000 remaining in abeyance by Mountbatten Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC) dedicated for the project.
However, after the preliminary Archaeological report released in 2005, the Preservation of Monuments Board (PMB) recommended that the remainder of the fort stay buried in order to protect the fort from damage by further weather or human interface.
Why is the Fort even important?
This 126-year-old fort marks one of the oldest examples of military architecture to remain in Singapore. It retains one of the oldest, unmodified architectural structures from the 19th century and colonial period in Singapore’s history. Because of it’s relatively short life-span, the Fort is still extremely well preserved.
But perhaps, more importantly, the Fort holds significant social, political and historical meaning for Singapore as it reminds us of a time where Singapore was a vulnerable island, threatened by larger European powers… and how far we have come since that time.
It’s 2021… what’s happening to the Fort now?
Right now, the part of the Fort that was excavated and exposed in 2004 remains cordoned off in Katong Park.
WeCreate Studio, together with key collaborators, is excited to mention that we are hoping to kickstart a revitalisation project so that we can continue the excavation works of the Fort!
As part of our activation plans for this project, we are proposing that a historical, experiential gallery be built in the form of a café over the non excavated West Bastion of the Fort. The café would serve as a common space to bring people together over food and drinks to learn about the history of this Fort as well as view the fort’s designs and structure through the glass floors of the café.
Why not just leave the fort as it is?
The possibilities of what we can do to reintroduce and incorporate Fort Katong into our modern-day world today are endless if we are willing to use our creativity and resources to bring history to life!
Architecture in Singapore holds so much history, even if unknown to us, and Fort Katong is just one of many buildings that contribute to the story of how and why Singapore came to be what it is today!
As far as possible, we hope to do what we can to bring these stories and buildings back to life and we hope you are just as excited as we are to see what can be done for Fort Tanjong Katong!
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll be hearing from key members of the team leading the “Reviving Fort Katong” initiative!
All information pertaining to the history of Fort Tanjong Katong was extracted from ‘Fort Tanjong Katong Raising History Planting Roots Project’ Preliminary Site Report, by Lim Chen Sian on behalf of the Archaeology Team, 2004-2005