HeritageFest - Phoenix Park

Avondale Grammar School
Phoenix Park
Central, Singapore
May 2015

Many of the secrets of heritage site Phoenix Park were today brought to life for the public by Avondale Grammar School as part of HeritageFest 2015. The fully-subscribed event titled Avondale Grammar School: From Past to Present at Phoenix Park saw the doors of the former headquarters of the British Military and Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs at Tanglin Road opened to the public for the first time. 

Students of Avondale Grammar School took more than 100 visitors around the site as guides and recreated meetings as actors. The 11-stage programme highlighted the unique hexagonal architecture of the main building and historical significance of Phoenix Park. 

Phoenix Park then and now, students show the structural changes over the years...

In this map by Year 5s, the students researched the history of the local area surrounding Phoenix Park. Using this information, they wrote newspaper reports about the interesting facts uncovered...

During colonial times, the sprawling 14-acre hilly terrain along Tanglin Road used to be a golf course owned by the Singapore Japanese Golf Club before it was taken over by Kay Siang Camp, which housed the Commander of the Royal Engineers.

Subsequently, Governor-General Malcolm MacDonald put up a proposal to construct an office complex at the site to meet the British Administration's need for office  space.

Designed by architectural firm Messrs Palmer and Turner, the complex was completed in 1949 and called "Phoenix Park" as the emblem of the British's South East Asian Command featured the mythical bird.

Phoenix Park played host to some of the region’s most important strategic meetings in the mid-20th century, including what are believed to have been Asia’s first intergovernmental meetings on food security – dubbed the ‘Rice Talks’, and meetings which helped bring into force the first regional defence organisation, the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).

Boys from Year 3 with their cute little mustaches role play a British Major, a Colonel and a General discussing the formation of SEATO...

The regional Consultative Committee on Rice (or Rice Talks) were held at Phoenix Park from 1951 to the 1960s, and involved representatives of 24 governments around the region attempting to secure the trade of rice at a time of widespread food insecurity. Taking inspiration from these historical talks, Avondale Grammar School students highlighted that many of the same food security challenges still remain by re-enacting the 2012 launch of the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR).

The handover of Phoenix Park from the British to the Singaporean Government was marked by a student playing the role of British Defence Secretary Denis Healey...

With old photographs of Orchard Road, students drew what they thought Orchard Road was like in the past...

  A running slide show on Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew,
and his achievements to the national and global arena...

Other Singapore politicians are showcased on the doors to key rooms in the school -
Professor Jayakumar's profile is here on the door to the music room...

As visitors go past the corridor, the students' photographs of Phoenix Park were showcased...

The final stop was the Hall with cultural performances from the children...
(Photo Credit : Avondale Grammar School)

"As the current custodians of this heritage site, we are delighted to welcome the Singaporean public to Phoenix Park to experience the site’s historical and architectural significance.
This building played a critical role in Singapore’s security before and after its independence, and
we are honoured to help share that story as part of HeritageFest 2015.
I couldn’t be more proud of the students today for leading groups as guides and re-enacting
what were complex strategic events through their own interpretations."
--  Avondale Grammar School Principal Ms Helena Sobulis --