Monday, January 29, 2007

A tale of two shophouse back-alleys

Chinatown back-alley

Little India back alley

Here are snapshots of two shophouse back alleys I took during one of my vacations back. The former is soldierly clean, brightly painted, yet cold and lifelessly sterile. The latter is slightly disordered, somewhat grubby, yet teeming with soul and urban life. (Dare I say, the latter is more value-added since it involves economic transactions, rental payment, performance of service at affordable prices. And add the intangible value of urban interaction/activity.)

What are the lessons on preservation that we can learn from such a comparison? Is it enough to "sensitively restore" a building to its "former glory" in a clean and pristine state? Are we missing out on something more essential and soulful in our preservation efforts, in our need to talk real-estate re-rental/redevelopment dollars and sense? Could we and should we just leave some areas alone? (as they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.")

What are your thoughts? (Let's start a discussion thread in the comments section.)