via The Straits Times, 01 January 2024: St Andrew’s Cathedral in Singapore, a 162-year-old national monument, recently reopened after a 2-year restoration project costing about $6 million. The restoration involved extensive work including plaster repairs, electrical updates, and uncovering historical architectural features. Notable findings include granite ribs on the west porch ceiling and timber fleurs-de-lis motifs on the roof.
Preparation for the restoration works began as far back as in 2016, as the cathedral decided to repair certain wall areas where the plaster showed signs of visible deterioration.
Conservator Yeo Kang Shua, who was involved in the restoration works as the conservation adviser, said that besides conducting historical research and logistical preparations for the repairs, the project team had to “address the elephant in the room”.
He was referring to the century-long assumption that Madras chunam – a labour-intensive form of plaster comprising egg white, sugar and coconut husk – was used in the inner walls and columns of the cathedral.
Dr Yeo, who is the associate head of pillar (research, practice, industry) and associate professor of architectural history, theory and criticism at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, said there was no evidence to prove this.
“It is just such a wonderful story if the cathedral was really made of Madras chunam, because it really fires up people’s curiosity and imagination,” he said. “Imagine how many eggs would be required to construct the whole building.”