News: Merlion, Changi Airport Control Tower most important heritage sites for Singaporeans

Aug 16, 2019

Singaporeans ranked the Merlion, the Control Tower of Changi Airport and the Singapore Botanic Gardens as the top three “heritage sites” with the highest popularity and physical appeal, reported Today Online citing an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) study.

Titled as Perceptions of Singapore’s Built Heritage and Landmarks, the study sought to know the public’s opinion regarding built heritage.

The participants were categorised into three age groups: 18 to 28, 29 to 48, and 49 and older.

They were asked to rate 53 sites, that were more than 30 years old and included a mix of those that were and were not conserved, were significant to different social groups and were already demolished.

In the case of the Merlion, the study found that it was an example of how “promotional programmes and initiatives led by the state” had a significant influence on respondent’s views of sites.

“Although the Merlion has little functional utility to the average Singaporean, and it is unlikely that most people visit it regularly, respondents across the age groups evaluated it as one of the most memorable, well-known, aesthetically appealing and important sites,” said the study’s authors.

“This is probably because of its prominence in branding Singapore as a tourist destination, and in the conscious promotion of a unique Singaporean identity.”

The study noted that heritage sites were perceived not just as landmarks and old buildings, but as “representations of a collective”.

Senior respondents, for instance, may directly link a heritage’s significance to their own lived experiences, which in turn enhance their sense of national identity.

In fact, People’s Park Complex emerged as one of the top 10 most memorable sites for the older group, likely because they used to spend their free time at the complex, which was a recreational spot.

For the 29-to-48 age group, the Changi Airport Control Tower may be viewed as a “narrative marker of collective memory” that reminded them of Changi Airport’s opening.

“They (were) likely to have visited Changi Airport since, and have seen how the airport grew in passenger numbers and flights, and won many international awards over the years,” said the authors.

“Given the significance to national identity and sovereignty attached to these sites, these respondents’ memories of such sites may boost their sense of national identity,” they added.

The Singapore Art Museum, formerly St Joseph’s Institution, was among the top 10 most important and well-known for respondents aged 18 to 20, but not among the older age groups.

This comes as the site was opened to the public as a place for the arts and leisure only in 1995.

Natalie Pang, IPS senior research fellow, said that the study is the first of its kind in the country and is still ongoing.

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Fiona Ho, Digital Content Manager at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact her about this or other stories, email

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