投身设计艺术浸淫华洋文化-同安会馆大厦设计人及名誉主席陈树仁
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投身设计艺术浸淫华洋文化-同安会馆大厦设计人及名誉主席陈树仁

曾到过同安会馆的人,相信会对矗立在繁忙的丝丝街上的11层楼会馆大厦留下印象。那些常往会馆走动的人,是否注意到这栋于1984年竣工的大厦,底层电梯等候处有一柱梁? 这柱梁其实述说着会馆的建筑历史。

同安会馆大厦的前身,是一栋三层楼建筑,于1931年购得,当时的楼面面积只到目前电梯等候处。及后以当时的孙炳炎主席为首的会馆领导人,买下会馆毗邻的咖啡店,会馆大厦楼面得以进一步扩充,也就是包括了目前的会馆办事处、会议室和会客厅的面积。而电梯等候处的柱梁,就是替增加的楼面加固而建的。

 而负责同安会馆大厦建筑设计的,正是目前的产业股股长陈树仁。树仁的父亲陈大江是会馆大厦赞助人之一。当时从英国修毕建筑设计、学成归国的树仁,负起了会馆大厦的绘测设计。

树仁说,扩建会馆,经费吃紧是最大挑战。由于兴建大厦的500万元,是大家募捐而来的,一分一毫都得省着用。另一个让树仁搅尽脑汁的地方,是如何将会馆原址和咖啡店楼面妥善衔接起来,也就是今天我们看到的电梯等待处,楼梯和厕所等共用设施的部分。而礼堂采取两层楼高设计,就是要带出堂皇壮观的气派。

树仁一向予人温文尔雅的印象。学贯中西的他,和会馆财政张子杰有着类似的学习背景,两人都是华中校友,都曾负笈英国。两人也都是在英国期间,认识他们的太太。不同的是,树仁的太太原籍澳洲,是个洋人,两人于1968年在英国结婚,这在当时保守的社会算是十分罕见。 不过,这段跨种族、跨文化、跨地域的姻缘,却历久弥新,令人羡慕。2006年,国家博物馆为夫妻情坚的两人摄制了七分钟的短片*,于摄影展廊播放,让人们了解本地华人早期生活的面貌。

如今进入半退休状态的树仁,闲时喜欢画画、游泳。早期他还亲手为父母亲,用加固水泥制作了半身雕塑。雕塑如今还摆放在树仁家中。孝顺之情不言而喻。

*短片是永久展品的一部分,目前仍在国家博物馆二楼展厅放映。

Mixing design art with oriental and western cultures

For people who have visited Tung Ann District Guild, the 11-storey Tung Ann Association Building on the busy Cecil Street may come to mind. The building which was completed in 1984 has a column in the lift foyer which tells the history of the Guild and its premises.

Tung Ann District Guild bought the building in 1931. It was a 3-storey building then. The original floor area was much smaller, occupying only up to area where the lift foyer is. The leaders of the Guild, led by then-President Mr Soon Peng Yam (Soon Bin Yan), decided to buy over the coffee shop next door to expand the Guild’s premises. The added space has been turned in useful space, including the present office area, the meeting room and the guest room.

 
The man behind the architectural design of the Tung Ann Association Builidng is none other than the Head of the Guild’s Property Section Mr Tan Soo Ren. He is the son of Mr Tan Tai Kang (Chen Da Jiang), one of the sponsors of Tung Ann Association Building. The junior Tan returned from Britain after he had completed his architecture studies there and took up the role of building design for the Guild.

However, to design the Tung Ann Association Building with limited resources posed the greatest challenge to Mr Tan. He had to work within a tight budget of 5 million dollars from donors. He also had to seamlessly blend the old building space with the coffee shop space. Mr Tan skillfully filled it with the lift foyer, the stairs and even toilets.

 Those who know him would describe Mr Tan as a gentleman. Interestingly, he shares a similar background as the Guild’s Treasurer Mr Teo Choo Kiat. Both of them attended Chinese High School and went abroad to further their studies. In fact, they met their wives while studying in the UK. However, their similarities ended there. Mr Tan married his wife Raelene, an Australian back in 1968 in Britain. Such a cross-cultural, cross-racial and cross-border marriage was very rare then. It has even prompted the National Museum of Singapore to produce a 7-minute film* documenting the life of the loving couple. It also gives a glimpse into the life of the early Chinese Singaporeans.

Enjoying his semi-retirement now, Mr Tan draws and swims regularly. He likes sculpting too. In fact, he has created a bust for each of his parents. The heavy busts, now displaced prominently in Mr Tan’s house, is a reflection of his love for them.

*The short film, part of a permanent exhibit of the photo gallery, is on show now on level 2 of the National Museum of Singapore.