Letter: Lessons learned from Singapore’s rush to develop

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About thirty years ago, our company was asked to produce an IMAX historical film by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, to help celebrate their 25th year as a nation. The film would play in their science center’s IMAX theatre for several years to over 5 million people.

However, at the time we were filming, Singapore was in a rush to modernize. They were tearing down their past, demolishing their Chinatown, their Bugi Street, their history, thinking that visitors would like a shiny, new city. Years later, they realized their mistake when tourists complained that the city now lacked “soul” and was bland and boring; then those visitors stopped coming. So, the able and imaginative prime minister precisely rebuilt those historic districts, restored the historic Raffles Hotel, and passed new rules to prohibit further demolition of their country’s character.

Is there a lesson to be learned here for us in Laguna?

Greg MacGillivray, Laguna Beach

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  1. Hi Grag, I have no opinion on the “Digester” but the question is: Are we really so in lack of soul that we need to hold high a sludge-separator as a historical landmark. If the political active people in town like it so much, get rid of the environmental poison, paint it and enjoy the view. To pretend this is a Normandy castle is an open invitation to make fun of us Lagunans, especially if we add a concession space in it.

  2. Michaell, making fun of ourselves is one of the most endearing and enduring charms of Laguna. It is the only reason a show like LAGUNATICS hasn’t run our of material after 28 years. Preserving the Digester demonstrates more than our sense of history. It is a vote in favor of not taking ourselves too seriously.

  3. Sorry Chris, this is not my experience at all. Lagunens take themselves very serious. How could we have so many opinions voiced on what should happen with this town. I might be wrong, but please give some more examples others than a cabaret show where we do so.

  4. Yes: the lesson is TEAR DOWN THE OLD and make sure what you put up will have a demand years later . . if they left the old stuff, they’d be in worse shape . . worse? SINGAPORE? i mean, come on . . . they’re fantastic right? Laguna Beach, UGH! . . a beach you can’t park at?

  5. Hi Michael M. ~ Laguna residents are doing exactly what you state here: “If the political active people in town like it so much, get rid of the environmental poison, paint it and enjoy the view.” The desire to preserve this historical building doesn’t show a ‘lack of soul”, it’s the opposite. Our “creative” community should be able to lend their unique talents to participate in a repurpose of this building that we can be proud of. In fact, throughout the world, many landmarks have been retained and used as important Interpretive Centers to highlight a towns history and educate visitors. Thanks to Greg and Barbara MacGillivray for stepping up to encourage us to think about the long term impacts as we encounter those who want to demo and build a new Laguna for their own interests.


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