Singapore (1980-1990) / Concept of Bu Ye Tian and its Criticism

Singapore (1980-1990) / Concept of Bu Ye Tian and its Criticism

Concept of Bu Ye Tian and its Weakness

Bu Yet Tian is a conservation scheme proposed by William Lim and Dr Goh Poh Seng.  Its aim is to transform Boat Quay into a lively center for culture and tradition whilst ensuring a meaningful conservation of local heritage.  It also aims to restore a more lively night life in the area by contributing growth of tourism in Singapore.  The main approach of this scheme is the adaptive reuse of shophouses can the location of these.

The proposal by William Lim focuses on preserving the traditional local cultural activities experienced in Boat Quay whilst activating new activities on Singapore River.  This in return should make use of the upgrowing tourism market. The scheme also tried to provide additional leisure, cultural and social facilities for the community.


William Lim’s urban approach is to “Connect the back lanes to from an internal spine…opening to the sky.” (Lim, 1982) This is describing the space in-between the first and second row of shop houses.  The alleyway is the be connected and form a long covered arcade.  He describes the user experience as the unfolding of activities as you walk along the arcade.  The covered ceiling creates an internalized environment between the parallel of shophouses.  The proposal breaks down to 10 restaurants, 48 small food kiosks,  18 beverages and dessert shops and 47 trades and activity shops of the 110 shophouse units.  While the lower level predominantly house restaurants and kiosks, the 2nd storey has a lot more tea houses and Chinese inns.  The third storey and some open areas above becomes studios and offices as they are less accessible to the pedestrians.  William Lim states that

“there will be a different order of activities to lure the visitor to the second and third levels of the complex” (Lim, 1982)

Typical local cultural would be found here such as small shops, restaurants and tea houses on the upper levels.  This layer of arcade connects to the waterfront with “vertical punctures”, this is constructed to create “visual relieves” and awareness of the human scale.  (Lim, 1982)


Ground Floor Bu Ye Tian (William Lim, 1982)

The alleyways eventually lead up to these focal points.  For example, the Wayang Court is a Chinese opera or puppet show with daily performances.  This larger open area becomes a node where crowds can gather around.  Not only does it celebrate the traditional Chinese musical performances, it also becomes a key attraction to visitors.  The Chinese Inn is another focal point where travellers can experience the classics of Chinese literature, to sit and relax in a traditional Chinese Garden and experience some light poetry and musical performances.

Criticism on Bu Ye Tian

The Bu Ye Tian has a racial slant towards the Chinese population which do make up majority of the early settlements.  However, it neglects the minority communities like the Indians and Muslims.  The proposals also highly focuses on the alleyway between the shophouses.  This is arguably not utilizing the waterfront as not much information have been given on this.  On a larger scale, this hides the local heritage from the waterfront which can be seen from both sides of the river.


Lim, Mok, Por; Singapore river (1982) “a conservation proposal for boat quay, boating activities and floating Chinese Restaurant”

1 Comment on “Singapore (1980-1990) / Concept of Bu Ye Tian and its Criticism

  1. The part about the criticism of the BuYeTian project is interesting, but it seems as though it is mostly your opinion of it. Are there newspapers / articles critiquing the proposal when was first put forward, so that you can establish a stronger argument about initial responses?

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