Ian Tan’s interest in Architectural Conservation began a very long time ago through observing things around him. “As the Chinese saying goes "麻雀虽小，五脏俱全", I realised that even though our historic buildings such as shophouses, temples, churches and mosques are not big, they have intricate ornaments and designs that are imbued with social and historical significance,” says Ian.
Learning from experts in England about the removal of plant growth on masonry walls, England, 2013
In 2018, Ian will begin reading a PhD of Architecture, Specialising in Architectural History and Theory, at the University of Hong Kong. His research there will focus on the history and conservation of cast iron and steel buildings constructed in port cities during the 20th century, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Yangon and Calcutta.
In this interview, Ian talks about projects close to his heart; his ambitions and challenges; and his goals to contribute to Singaporean design.
Where did your career in Architectural Conservation begin?
My interest in Architectural Conservation began while I was pursuing my architecture degree in NUS in 2007 - 2011. I then went on to obtain a MSc Architectural Conservation from the University of Edinburgh and a MA in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester.
What do you hope to gain from your education, PhD of Architecture, Specialising in Architectural History and Theory, in University of Hong Kong?
My PhD involves the study of early 20th century cast iron and steel buildings found in Singapore, Hong Kong, Yangon and Kolkata. I am particularly interested in how this material created buildings which form our impression of grand colonial civil districts in early 20th century. Examples of cast iron and steel buildings found in Singapore include Lau Pa Sat, Fullerton Hotel and the Supreme Court. I hope that my research will help to raise awareness for such buildings found in Kolkata and Yangon, many of which are threatened by urban redevelopment and modernisation. I also hope to learn best practices from Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere to form a comprehensive plan to retain and reuse these exquisite colonial buildings. Such best practices involve learning about placemaking, urban revitalisation and most importantly, conservation techniques and technologies for adaptive reuse of old buildings.