Former National University of Singapore (NUS) architecture professor Lee Kip Lin was always passionate about buildings, their history, and conserving heritage buildings in Singapore. To preserve the memory of the author of The Singapore House 1819-1942, his wife, Mrs Lee Li Ming, has made a generous gift to NUS in support of those who share her late husband’s passion.
Mrs Lee says, “My husband Kip Lin had a strong interest in the preservation and conservation of old Singapore houses and buildings. He spent his early retirement years recording and documenting them. I decided to establish the Lee Kip Lin Endowment Fund to support and train architecture students in this area.”
Her gift will support the University through several avenues including the Lee Kip Lin Bursary, the Lee Kip Lin Heritage Fund for students doing research on the architecture of Singapore and the Lee Kip Lin Research Fund which encourages the use of research materials such as maps, photos, slides and manuscripts lodged by the Lee family in the National Library of Singapore to create a book tentatively titled Singapore then and now through the eyes of Lee Kip Lin.
In 2009, the Lee family donated a valuable collection of rare memorabilia to the National Library. The historically significant collection comprises monographs, including the complete collection of early Raffles Institution annual reports, and letters and related documents of the East India Company; rare Singapore and Southeast Asian maps; and rare photographs. The Lee family also donated more than 17,000 slides and negatives of early and modern Singapore, including pictures that Mr Lee, an avid photographer, had taken of Singapore shops and streets before they were demolished.
Associate Professor Wong Yunn Chii, Head of the Department of Architecture, NUS, says, “Prof Lee had a deep-seated concern for promoting the knowledge of place. Such knowledge, one could readily surmise, is invaluable in forging not just collective memory but also in ensuring continuity of tradition. This gift will ensure that such historical sensibilities will continue in architectural research and in the education of our future architects.”
Mr Lee began practising as an architect in 1956. He decided to go into academia as he found that the business side of architecture did not suit him, and mentored prominent architects such as Tan Kay Ngee who designed the Singapore Management University, and Tay Kheng Soon, who designed the Golden Mile Complex.
Throughout Mr Lee’s career, he was a leading voice on the preservation of old buildings in Singapore. He was a member of the Preservation of Monuments Board during its early years. After his retirement, he published three books and contributed a chapter to Tanjong Pagar: Singapore’s cradle of development (1989).