Singapore Tatler - - CONCIERGE SMALL TALK -

Dis­cover the story be­hind Emer­ald Hill from those who call it home such as banker Lisa Robins, in an­other edi­tion of the OH! Open House art walk­a­bout

ising above bustling or­chard road, Emer­ald Hill is an en­clave rich in Per­anakan her­itage. For­merly the site of a large nut­meg plan­ta­tion, the land un­der­went res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment at the turn of the 20th cen­tury with ter­race houses built in the Chi­nese Baroque ar­chi­tec­tural style, de­fined by the coloured ce­ramic tile­work, shut­tered windows and carved swing doors. Un­cover the story of this his­toric district with OH! Open House (ohopen­house.org), an art walk­a­bout held from March 3 to 25, which will un­veil the se­crets of the neigh­bour­hood through cus­tom-made art­works and per­for­mances in strangers’ homes and un­con­ven­tional spa­ces. Hav­ing lived on Emer­ald Hill for the past seven years, Amer­i­can banker Lisa Robins and her French hus­band, Hervé Pauze, will be open­ing their doors to vis­i­tors. Her home will show­case works by Sin­ga­porean artists such as pho­tog­ra­pher Ang Song Nian, who ex­plores the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween hu­man and na­ture—a per­fect back­drop for Emer­ald Hill. Robins tells us about the al­lure of Emer­ald Hill for her, and why she wants to share its his­tory and her­itage with every­one.

Why did you and your hus­band choose to live on Emer­ald Hill?

Our friend lived in an old shop­house on Emer­ald Hill Road, and when the rain fell into the well in the court­yard—which had pink and blue Per­anakan tiles— the sound evoked nos­tal­gic feel­ings. So when we moved to Sin­ga­pore in 2011, we looked for a house to rent on Emer­ald Hill and were for­tu­nate to find one. We haven’t moved since!

Tell us about the house.

Our house was built in 1926 as part of a row of six res­i­den­tial homes, not shop­houses. While it re­tains the bones of the orig­i­nal house with dog bone windows, bar room en­try doors and cen­tral court­yard, it was trans­formed decades ago by our ar­chi­tect land­lord. Its orig­i­nal in­ter­nal vol­ume re­mains, but the in­te­rior is akin to that of a loft.

Why did you de­cide to open up your home for OH! Emer­ald Hill?

Sin­ga­pore is a mod­ern city. We tend to for­get its in­ter­est­ing his­tory, her­itage and the sto­ries that in­form its present. OH! Open House plays a unique role in bring­ing neigh­bour­hood his­tory to life. See­ing how peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence art and his­tory in ev­ery­day life can bring new per­spec­tives and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for her­itage and the arts.

What will vis­i­tors ex­pe­ri­ence?

We echo the ex­pe­ri­ences of colo­nial ex­pe­di­tions to for­eign lands in which or­der and dis­cov­ery were not pre­dictable. Like th­ese ex­plor­ers, vis­i­tors de­velop their own itin­er­ary, ex­plor­ing how the early colonis­ers strove for the or­gan­i­sa­tion of the un­known.

What have you dis­cov­ered about Sin­ga­pore through pre­vi­ous tours?

We loved Joo Chiat for its back al­leys and beau­ti­ful Per­anakan homes; Tiong Bahru, one of the first hous­ing es­tates has a tem­ple in one cor­ner and play­grounds all around; and last year’s Hol­land Vil­lage tour cov­ered a lot of ter­ri­tory. Sin­ga­pore has a com­plex cul­tural his­tory that of­ten gets over­shad­owed by the dom­i­nance of business and fi­nance. Each OH! Open House has of­fered a glimpse into a different neigh­bour­hood, his­tory, as well as new artists.

TOP OF THE HILL In the rented Emer­ald Hill home (left) Lisa Robins (be­low) shares with her hus­band, vis­i­tors can also see some of their In­dian and Chi­nese art col­lec­tion

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