Office buildings bring glitzy towers to mind. Usually clustered in the Central Business District, these cookie-cutter towers – with their reinforced floor-to-ceiling windows that sparkle in the sun – are marked with few other distinguishing features.
This is what makes The Herentia, with its rich and soulful architectural, a rarity. Designed in the post-independent architectural style of 1960s Singapore, this commercial development looks nothing like the typical business hub.
46 Kim Yam Road formerly served an educational purpose. Founded by Tan Kah Kee in 1941, the Nan Chiau Teachers’ Training School began operation in 1941. The site was donated by Tan’s son-in-law, Lee Kong Chian. After operating for a brief period of several months, the Japanese Occupation forced the school to close.
After the Occupation, the institution was reopened as Nan Chiau Girls’ High School in 1947 by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (SHHK), with an ancillary primary school added. Under the leadership of its first principal, Yang Zhenli, the school flourished.
In 1965, SHHK spent $2 million dollars to rebuild the school. During construction, the secondary school moved to temporary spaces at premises at Guillemard Road. It was completed four years later in 1969.
Architecturally, the new premises featured a modernistic design, with rooftop flourishes in the shape of concrete vaults. New athletic facilities (a five-lane running track and two basketball courts) were also added to improve the school’s amenities.
At its peak, 2,700 students were housed in Nan Chiau. The high enrolment rates caused SHHK to upgrade the school in 1977. Built at the cost of $300,000, a fifth storey was added to provide upwards expansion. By 1984, the school was renamed Nan Chiau High School and admitted male students.
In the 1990s, following the demographic shift away from the city to the heartlands, Nan Chiau’s enrolment gradually dwindled. Faced with the looming prospect of closure, the school’s campus was vacated and closed to the public in 2000. That year, both the primary and high school of Nan Chiau were relocated to new grounds at Sengkang.
The school building was eventually adaptively reused in 2013. Known today as The Herentia, its simple, traditional façade has been retained – paying homage to Nan Chiau’s rich history. Through contrasting nostalgia with its present use as a modern commercial building, The Herentia is a tangible bridge between the past and the present.
This is a conserved building(s) by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), please visit URA’s Conservation Portal for more details.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of October 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.