Two historic shophouses sit side by side in Spottiswoode Park Road: one is a beautifully renovated home and the other a contemporary art gallery. We spoke to one of the owners about the area and to see what’s inside these historic properties.
Spottiswoode Park Road is located in the residential historic district of Blair Plain, just west of Duxton Hill. It takes its name from the merchant Charles Spottiswoode; he established the trading firm Spottiswoode & Connolly in Singapore in 1824. Beautiful two- and three-storey Peranakan shophouses line this area. It’s an eloquently preserved neighbourhood that offers a rare glimpse into the past.
French art collector, gallery owner and artist Guillaume Lévy-Lambert and his partner Mark Goh are lucky enough to call 64-1 Spottiswoode Park Road home. Guillaume was a formerly an investment banker at BNP Paribas, and Asia CEO of Publicis. Then he realised art was his true calling. He’s been living in Singapore for 25 years and Asia since he was 24, when he first moved to Tokyo.
The home dates to somewhere between 1910 and 1920; back then, the ground floor served as a warehouse. Today, the double-storey transitional shophouse turned live-in museum boasts old-world charm while providing a haven from bustling city living.
When the property was first renovated, the team at Eco-id Architects had several tasks: restore the residential front of the house; build up the rear with a double-storey extension; and add a mezzanine level with what’s known as a “jack-roof” at the attic. The restoration was such a success that in 2003 the property was presented with an Architectural Heritage Award. The award recognises well-restored monuments and conserved buildings in Singapore, and also the people behind them.
Comprised of a front and rear block, the shophouse features a central open courtyard complete with a garden plunge pool, climbing creepers and sculptured frangipani trees in a floating planter. In the front block you’ll find the main living quarters, a study and a guest bedroom; housed in the rear, meanwhile, are the kitchen, dining room and master bedroom.
While the dramatic spiral staircase – a lightweight metal framed structure with timber planks – is a standout feature of this property, one can’t help but notice the amount of work that has gone into the interiors. The couple has brought in furnishings from French luxury brand Liaigre. There’s also artwork from The MaGMA Collection, their ongoing joint project of more than 20 years. “Once a year, we completely curate a new look, exhibiting a different collection of works. One year, after we rearranged everything, it felt like we had moved house. The regular change keeps the house pulsing with new energy, as if a feng shui master has intervened,” explains Guillaume.
On the second floor, cantilevered bay windows take full advantage of the courtyard sanctuary. A lightweight glass block bridge links the front of the house to the rear. And full-height glass panels on the ground floor allow for seamless boundaries between indoor and outdoor.
Prior to restoration, the property was missing the two casement windows flanking a door that’s typical of most terrace houses in the area. This façade was reconstructed, and bat-shaped vents symbolising good luck were added above the windows to return the residential character – and also to help ensure the old-fashioned house could beat to the rhythm of a brand new heart.
Art takes centre stage
The adjoining terrace shophouse, 64 Spottiswoode Park Road, is one of the few retail licensed shophouses in the area; it’s also owned by the couple. Inside, the property has been transformed into a contemporary art gallery known as Art Porters.
Together with Sean Soh, cofounder of Art Porters, and Singapore-based design studio Wynk Collaborative, Guillaume set about creating a space that would be a blank canvas for a constant rotation of contemporary art.
Divided into an upper gallery at the front and a lower gallery at the back, the property can also be easily converted into an events space. The material palette is purposefully spare. A patterned tile flows from the “five-foot way” into the gallery, transitioning into cement floors and white painted walls with the original brick wall showing through at the top. A short flight of stairs – hidden behind a mirrored door – connects the upper and lower galleries. A small kitchen and counter space sit at the end of the lower gallery, bookending the space.
Outside on the rear wall, Guillaume and Sean commissioned Patcharapol Tangruen (better known as Alex Face), an influential graffiti artist in Thailand, to create a mural featuring his signature character, Mardi. Patcharapol says that Mardi – a child dressed in a rabbit costume – was inspired by his daughter and represents “every child who has to face the troubled world upon birth.”
For Art Porters, the street artist decided to showcase one Mardi wearing a nyonya kebaya with flowers in her hair to celebrate Peranakan culture, while the other Mardi character is dressed in a traditional Chinese changshan and is riding a Segway as a nod to the present day.
Visit the gallery website (artporters.com) for details of upcoming exhibitions.
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