UNIT 54, 54 HEEREN STREET

54 Heeren Street was purchased by Mr Ong Sek Pek's father, Mr Ong Hin Tiang only in September 1940, even though for five years, Dr Ong Bak Hin was using the house as a maternity home. The alterations, made only in 1940, highlight the "modern" architectural sensibilities and techniques of the period. To achieve the standards of a modern clinic space, the interior of 54 Heeren Street was totally gutted and its functional rooms, reconfigured. The party wall structure was augmented and stiffened with concrete piers and RC-beams; a higher floor to ceiling height was realiszed throughout; high-level ventilation was enabled by pre-cast ventilator units.


It is conceivable that the facades of these two buildings were renewed during this time, since the upper storey windows of both generously deployed the pre-cast ventilators over the casement windows with panelised glass panes. The built feature that would escape our contemporary eyes and be taken for granted, is the backyard area. In this zone, one finds the unit's modern kitchen, bathroom, RC-spiral fire-stairs and stand-alone out-house - an architectural assemblage prescribed in the new building and sanitary by-laws of the post-WWI years.

General

  • Appears to be the older of the two units; probably post-WWI built, or earlier.
  • Until recently, it was used as a "rumah turnpangan" (hostel/hotel).

Structure: Load bearing wall construction

  • The structural condition overall (walls, floors and roofs) is very poor and dangerously near collapse.
  • The lean-to construction in the back yard is in a rumous state and over-grown with weeds. The roof, structural rafters and floor have partially collapsed. There is no adequate protection from the elements; and water damage of extent structrue is severe.
  • There is ample evidence that there is termite infestations; and this potentially poses a threat to adjacent units.

Material Finishes

  • Mostly in fill-walls of wood boarding, cement-sand "plaster", party wall finishes with lime-wash, cement screed floors on first-floor, timber planks on second floor.
  • Poor condition and degenerating quickly.
  • The details of this unit probably date back to the period of construction.
  • Subsequent ad-hoc alterations have been few. For this reason, despite its "humble" appearance, this unit is a most representative of the late 19th century shop house in this area.

Spatial Character and Organization

  • Deeper of the two units, with two air-wells, but in spatial arrangement similar to Unit 54.
  • The open courtyard cum garden in the back is the most unique feature – -probably planned or used as place for the domestic helpers/workers.
  • Unless kept open as a garden or fire-refuge area, any proposed use of the back area (built -up) will need a back-lane access - which is an unlikely proposition given the pattern of development in this part, despite the ambition of the extant conservation guidelines.
Unit 56, 56 Heeren Street

Mr Ong Sek Pek offered that 56 Heeren Street was first purchased by his great-grandfather Mr Ong Keng Hoon in the mid-19th Century. It is clearly the older of the two buildings evidenced by the older Dutch strip foundations of laterite and architectural elements and motifs such as the windows and the stoop-stairs. It was first used as an office for the family's rubber and real-estate businesses; conveniently located across the road from the original ancestral home of the Ongs at 61 Heeren Street.

Today, the uniqueness of 56 Heeren Street is that it is the only remaining shop-house with an attached back courtyard that had, at one time, been used as a stable. This feature attests to its "Dutch" progeny and gentry affiliations. The horses and ponies, secured here, were probably led through a door opening at the back of the house, separate from the carriage houses as the common practice.


General

  • Appears to be the newer of the two units - probably rebuilt in the inter wars or post-WWII years.
  • However, the common composition quality of the facade of both units ( pre-cast ventilation grills, symmetry in the entrance placement) suggest they were "contiguously" rebuilt in time - the connecting archway between the units, the continuity of the roof-eaves and& corbel details suggest as much.
  • It is highly probable that the interior of Unit 54 was gutted and re-built in RC at a later stage - but the pitch of the roof was maintained.
  • Similarly, the facades of both were re-built. The original facade was likely to be similar to Unit 54.
  • Until recently, it was used as a clinic. Eye-witnesses reported/ remembered that it was a mid-wife/maternal clinic.

RC-frame Structure

  • Appears sturdy and intact.
  • There are shear cracks on some of the in fIll non-structural walls. Those in the second-story front room is most apparent.
  • Floor and roof rafters are of timber. They appear intact though it is conceivable that some, non-visible might be ravaged by termites - since there are evidence of wood particulates in many areas, especially Unit 56.

Material Finishes

  • Mostly in fill-walls of wood boarding, cement-sand "plaster", partly wall finishes with lime-wash, cement screed floors on first-floor, timber planks on second floor.
  • Appears sturdy and intact.
  • Roof construction of the main area is Chinese U-clay tiles on battens supported by rafters.
  • Back service areas of kitchen and bathrooms are in concrete, with a pre-cast concrete spiral "escape" stairs into the yard.
  • Some of the "period piece" ceramic fixtures of the last occupant are still intact.

Spatial Character and Organization

  • Shallower of the two units.
  • Typical of Melaka shop- house in the new areas - front room, mid-position timber -stairs.
  • Spaces have higher head room, enabled by the RC-structure.
  • All spaces appear to be work-rooms. In order: the first-floor space a waiting room/dispensary, a consultation room, air-well with a small cistern, and possibly a laboratory, toilet area & backyard. The second floor: a high front room with view down the street, a corridor to the back-room & kitchen area /toilet, and a opening connecting both units.
  • Area around air-well is adequately lighted, though the brightness here is relatively lower than the adjacent unit.