Friday, February 13, 2009

Jackie Chan to donate antique houses

The Hong Kong star will give away the $100m houses from his collection to Singapore's 4th varsity

Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan is donating antique wooden houses from China worth more than $100 million to Singapore's upcoming fourth university.

The structures, now sitting in a warehouse in Hong Kong, are from the private collection of gongfu king Chan, a lover of Chinese history.

They consist of seven wooden housing structures and a performing stage originating from the Ming and Qing dynasties dating back more than 200 years. The houses are anchored in stone slabs.
These rare examples of Chinese housing from a bygone era are set to be displayed at the new university's campus in Changi South when it is completed in 2011, according to a story in Lianhe Zaobao yesterday.

The Chinese newspaper also reported Chan's property manager Simon Kwan as saying that the popular star wanted the precious objects to be in safe-keeping.

Chan, 54, had originally approached the Hong Kong government about donating his collection but changed his mind when it did not respond quickly enough, the report said.

He decided on Singapore because his collection would be of educational value to the students seeing it on campus.

Mr Kwan declined to go into details about the project when contacted by Life!.

However, he confirmed that Chan had met local government officials at the site of the upcoming university last year to discuss his intended donation.

The tertiary institution will be built on land originally earmarked for the now-aborted Asian campus of the University of New South Wales and will offer courses in design, engineering, architecture and business.

Mr Kwan, 52, who handles Chan's property deals here, said there should be 'no problem bringing these structures out of China'.

But he added that additional 'paperwork on how to transport these structures and getting a local architect to put them together' has to be done before anything can be finalised.

He also said that the collection, which has 'stones taller than a man, that hold the wooden structures together', had been amassed by antique-lover Chan over nearly 20 years.

His collecting passion was also influenced by his late father, who loved old Chinese wooden houses. Chan's dad, Charlie, died in February last year at the age of 93 after battling cancer.

The star's love of all things historical can be seen in his property purchases here. He owns the 105-year-old Jinriksha Station at 1 Neil Road, once the central depot for rickshaw drivers in Singapore, and the four-storey The 50s complex. Both are historic buildings within the Neil Road conservation area.

He also has contemporary interests, owning condo units in the Orchard Road area, and opened Jackie Chan's Cafe, Coffee and Tea at 1 Nassim Road two years ago.

Life! asked Mr Jeffrey Goh, principal architect at local firm GP Design, about what might be involved in putting Chan's antique houses on display.

His firm has not been approached about the project but Mr Goh said that for such old wooden houses, a lot of work would have to go into conserving doors, walls and pillars which 'might have intricate detailing because of their Chinese origins'.

The 59-year-old has done conservation work on more than 100 houses here in areas of special architectural interest such as Joo Chiat, Geylang, Selegie and North Bridge Road.

Rotting wood would also need to be replaced and this has to blend in with the original structure, he added.

He said: 'The project sounds very interesting and I wouldn't mind taking it up. But I would need to do a lot of research to find out more about these houses first.'

Source: Straits Times - 13 Feb 2009

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