Relic hunter’s Good Class Bungalow for sale at $63 mil

/ EdgeProp Singapore
January 31, 2020 12:30 PM SGT

SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Raymond Ng, executive chairman of Enviro-Hub, built his 34,000 sq ft home to accommodate his extensive collection of Chinese art and artefacts and his family of six. He has even incorporated part of his collection into the building itself.

The Good Class Bungalow at Camden Park sits on a freehold site of 26,642 sq ft, with a built-up area of close to 34,000 sq ft (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Raymond Ng, executive chairman of Singapore-listed investment holding company, Enviro-Hub Holdings, became interested in collecting Chinese antiques and artefacts in 2001 – the year he purchased all the contents of the Tang Dynasty City theme park, which closed in 1999. (See related story: The makings of a consummate collector).
It had taken 20 years and an estimated $100 million to build the theme park, modelled after Chang’An, the ancient capital of the Tang Dynasty. Ng carted everything away, including granite slabs, marble balustrades and the two imposing 3m-tall stone lions at the main entrance, over a period of three months.
“I needed more than 100 trailers to move everything out and I had to do it in the middle of the night,” he recounts. “I collected enough building materials to cover 200,000 sq ft of space.”
Ng: Given the location of the site, I felt that I had to build something that’s out of the box (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Getting hooked

From then on, “I got addicted”, Ng declares. His obsession extends beyond Chinese antiques and artefacts to building materials, antique cast-iron spiral staircases and street lamps, temple and castle doors, Chinese art, vintage Pu-Er tea, Chinese teapots, and snuff bottles.
“But I have always loved property,” he adds. “I like to buy a piece of land, design my own house from scratch and stay there for a few years. And then, if I see another interesting property, I will buy and build it up again. My wife doesn’t like it. She says she has to keep packing and unpacking. There are some things from our very first house that haven’t even been unpacked yet.”
Beyond collecting, Ng likes to think about how he can repurpose or redesign something new from his collection. “I’ve kept all the things from Tang Dynasty City since 2001. I’ve moved six times and all these things have moved with me.”
The next time he moves, however, Ng will be leaving some of his collection behind. This is because he has incorporated them into the building of his current home, a Good Class Bungalow (GCB) at Camden Park, just off Adam Road.
The façade of the house has stainless steel cladding with perforated panels designed to fit the marble kingposts that used to adorn the marble balustrades in Tang Dynasty City. (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

‘Out of the box’

Besides Ng, other illustrious residents in the GCB neighbourhood of Camden Park and Chee Hoon Avenue include banking legend and former UOB chairman Wee Cho Yaw as well as his children, who each have a GCB there; former actress turned top AIA agent Mary Chen Ming Li; and the Song family of Chinese property developer Nanshan Group (developer of Thomson Impressions and joint developer of Stirling Residences).
The Songs are the latest residents at Camden Park, having paid $40 million ($1,373 psf) for a GCB sitting on a prime, 29,150 sq ft, freehold site in September 2018. They are said to be tearing down and redeveloping the property.
Ng, however, purchased his GCB at Camden Park in 2010 for $17.25 million ($648 psf) and decided to build a new home to fit his collection and his family. The property sits on a 26,642 sq ft site. “Given the location of the site, I felt that I had to build something that’s out of the box,” he says.
Among his collection is a Ming Dynasty armillary sphere, an ancient Chinese astronomical instrument (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
He engaged Arc Studio Architecture and Urbanism, founded by husband and wife team, Khoo Peng Beng and Belinda Huang, to design the home. Arc Studio is known for its design of the premium HDB towers of Pinnacle @ Duxton in the city centre; Wing Tai’s 337-unit The Tembusu condominium at Tampines Road; and the 91-unit One Balmoral on Balmoral Road by Hong Leong.
The duo at Arc Studio studied Ng’s eclectic collection. “They really put in a lot of effort to see what I have and to try to incorporate them into the design,” says Ng. Hence, it took four years to design and construct his home, which has a built-up area of 33,670 sq ft. This excludes the basement carpark of 8,000 sq ft, which has a car lift and is big enough to accommodate 12 cars, including supercars such as Rolls-Royce and Bentleys. Including the basement carpark, the floor space will amount to more than 40,000 sq ft, estimates Ng.
The basement carpark comes with a car lift and parking space for 12 supercars including Rolls-Royce and Bentley (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Architectural details

The façade of the house has stainless steel cladding with perforated panels designed to fit the marble kingposts that used to adorn the marble balustrades in Tang Dynasty City. The walls of the house are reinforced with granite balustrades, also from the former theme park. “Each of these pieces weighs about 300kg,” says Ng. “These were all built in the 1970s, so they are almost 50 years old. You won’t be able to find another house with such architectural features.”
The two stone lions that once graced the main entrance of Tang Dynasty City now adorn Ng’s pool deck and garden. As the stone lions weighed 15 tonnes each, they had to be brought in after the piling was done and a special platform was built. The stone lions had to be positioned in the property even before construction of the house began.
Ng and his family, together with his collection, moved into the Camden Park home in June 2014. “It took twice the amount of time taken to construct my Belmont Road GCB, which was just over two years,” he relates. “This is because of the construction of the basement level and all the architectural features and details.” He reckons he spent about $12 million just on construction.
The Good Class Bungalow was designed as two buildings - a private residence and the gallery block separated by a courtyard garden but linked with bridges on the upper levels (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The property was designed as two buildings – a main house and an annex building which Ng has turned into a three-storey gallery to house his collection. The two buildings are separated by a landscaped courtyard garden and linked by bridges on the first and second levels of the house. The basement level is only accessible via the lift from the main house and has a total area of about 18,000 sq ft, including the basement carpark.
On the first level of the main house is a spacious living area, enclosed dining room with en suite kitchen, a tea room and his children’s study.
The spacious living room on the second level with full height glass sliding doors opening out to the swimming pool (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The second level has four bedrooms – one bedroom for each of his four children – and a family room on one side of the house. Another part of the second level contains his master suite – a vast master bedroom, an adjoining office, two-level walk-in wardrobe area and a palatial bathroom with a private jacuzzi. The bathroom is semi-open to allow natural ventilation while also offering privacy. “I designed all my bathrooms this way,” he explains.
The third level contains a private suite, which has been turned into a prayer and meditation room, a pantry and a roof terrace. Ng also designed every room in the house with a balcony. The office in his master suite on the second level was designed with display shelves for part of his collection of “a few hundred” Chinese snuff bottles. A door from the office leads to the gallery via a bridge. “I can go and view my collection at night without disturbing anyone,” he says.
The double-storey wardorbe area with an antique cast iron spiral staircase (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Saving all the relics

The entrance to each floor of his gallery features an antique door, salvaged from an ancient Chinese building, while the basement level has a heavy castle door.
Some of the structures within his home, for instance the door frames, doorposts and outdoor pavilion, were designed by Ng out of reclaimed teakwood.
Sitting in his garden are two lamp posts that used to stand along North Bridge Road. They are made of cast iron and used kerosene in the old days, he points out. He also salvaged three cast-iron spiral staircases from old buildings in Bencoolen Street.
Cast iron lamp posts salvaged from North Bridge Road (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Ng feels he has to save all these relics. When a century-old temple on Rangoon Road was about to be torn down, Ng was asked if he wanted to have some of the wooden structures. “I told them to give me all,” he says. It totalled 12,000 pieces.
The basement houses Ng’s prized collection of Chinese sculptures and artefacts, including a massive hand-carved bone sculpture by a Chinese artist. “There are only four of these pieces in the world,” says Ng. “I own two of them.” Among his collection is a Ming Dynasty armillary sphere, an ancient Chinese astronomical instrument.
Part of his collection of Chinese antiques and artefacts in the basement level of his gallery (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Tea by the tonne

Another room in the basement houses his tea collection. His interest in tea dates back to 2005. That was when he started collecting vintage Pu-Er tea bricks, which cost US$250,000 per 250 grams. Ng has enough Pu-er tea bricks to cover an entire wall in his basement. But that’s not his entire collection either. “In 2006, there was an exhibition and they brought in 12 tonnes of this special vintage Pu-Er tea,” says Ng. “I bought five tonnes because this was the last of that vintage.”
He opened a storage room to reveal shelves lined with boxes of tea still wrapped in their original packaging. “This is just half of the collection,” he says. “I have another storage room full of tea. This is the problem when you’re addicted: you can’t stop collecting.”
A wall featuring in the tea room featuring his collection of tea pots and vintage Pu-Er tea bricks (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
In the basement is also a customised wine cellar that can house up to 2,000 bottles. The inspiration for the wine storage had come from a trip to Italy, while he was at the airport. “I saw the way the bottles were displayed, with LED lights of different colours running through the glass display,” says Ng.
He had a similar wine display designed for his basement.
The basement carpark space has also been taken over by his collection of building materials, artefacts and antiques. He has another covered garage on the first level to park his cars.
The customised wine display with the capacity for 2,000 bottles (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Ever-growing collection

The first level of the gallery is where he houses a mix of antiques, art pieces, sculptures such as a second bone carved sculpture, and an assortment of furniture pieces. The second level is where his prized art collection is.
They include works by Lang Shining, an Italian missionary by the name of Giuseppe Gastiglione, who became a court painter in China to the Qing emperors for 50 years and was famous for painting on silk. Another favourite artist of Ng’s is Xu Beihong, famous for his paintings of horses in Chinese ink and watercolor as well as portraits.
Ng also has art pieces by Singaporean artist Liu Kang, the father of Liu Thai-Ker, a celebrated architect and town planner in Singapore. “The majority are famous artists,” says Ng. “But I just buy pieces that I love.”
Part of his collection of artwork on the second level of his gallery (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Besides One Hundred Horses, a painting made famous by Lang Shining, Ng has a 30m-long silk scroll painting of 100 tiger cubs by an anonymous artist, and another depicting 100 eagles.
Having lived in the house for 5½ years, Ng feels that his collection has outgrown the space. He now wants to put the Camden Park GCB on the market at a price tag of $63 million.
He has appointed Jeffrey Sim, associate executive director of OrangeTee & Tie, as the sole marketing agent. With the house boasting finishings such as marble flooring, a car lift that can easily fit a supercar as well as a home lift, Sim reckons cconstruction cost alone would amount to $25 million today, based on the existing floor area of 33,670 sq ft and construction cost at $750 psf. This excludes the cost of the land, which he pegs at $1,450 psf, which translates to $38 million, based on the land area of the GCB. Sim says the asking price is “fair” given these factors.
The doors to his gallery block are marked by an antique door salvaged from an old building (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
“This is the type of house that will appeal to collectors of all sorts – from art, antiques, wine to cars, including vintage cars,” says Sim. “It’s ideal for a collector who wants lots of space.”
Sim has suggested that Ng sells his house together with his collection. To that, Ng responds: “I will be very happy because I can then collect more.”
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