Tan Teck Guan Building

Tan Teck Guan Building, located at 16A College Road, was built in 1911 to add to the existing facilities of the Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School (later known as King Edward VII College of Medicine). The building underwent renovations in 1985 and was gazetted as a national monument on 2 December 2002.1


The construction of the building was funded by a $15,000 donation from Tan Chay Yan, a philanthropist from Malacca and one of the earliest rubber planters in Malaya.2 The building was named after Tan’s father, who was a son of Tan Tock Seng.It was officially opened on 23 June 1911 by then Acting Governor of the Straits Settlements, E. L. Brockman.The building served as the medical school’s administrative block and housed various offices, a library, a reading room, a lecture room and a pathology museum.5

In 1926, when the College of Medicine Building was constructed for the medical school, the Department of Anatomy took over the Tan Teck Guan Building.6 During World War II, the laboratory in the building was used by the Japanese to develop biological warfare weapons.7

In 1982, it was decided that the medical school would move to the Kent Ridge campus, and the Ministry of Health proposed to restore and renovate the College of Medicine Building. In August 1985, the then Preservation of Monuments Board (now Preservation of Sites and Monuments) recommended that the Tan Teck Guan Building be preserved too. Both buildings were then renovated at a cost of S$14.4 million.8 When the latter officially reopened on 14 August 1987, it was occupied by the Ministry of Health, the Academy of Medicine and the College of General Practitioners.9

In December 2002, the Tan Teck Guan Building was gazetted for preservation as national monument by the Preservation of Monuments Board.10

An architect by the name of Draper designed the two-storey building, which features a Georgian façade with neo-classical elements.11 Its main entrance has an ornate archway supported by Doric columns. The upper level of the building has Ionic columns.12

The building was originally made mainly from timber trusses, floors and joists that sat on bricks. However, much of the timber had been badly infested with termites by the time of the building’s renovation in 1985, and had to be replaced with steel structures. Similarly, its timber window frames were replaced with new matching wooden ones. The roof tiles were also replaced with matching new ones from France. While the building’s internal granite staircase and balustrade were retained, two brick walls were removed to allow for flexible office installation.13

Justin Zhuang

1. Tommy Koh et al. eds., Singapore: The Encyclopedia (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Heritage Board, 2006), 280. (Call no. RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
2. National University of Singapore, A Continuity of Ideals: Commemorating 90 Years of Medical Education (1905–1995): Medical Faculty, National University of Singapore (Singapore: Armour Pub., 1995), 17. (Call no. RSING 610.7115957 NAT)
3. “The Medical School: Opening of the Tan Teck Guan Building,” Straits Times, 24 June 1911, 8; “Death,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 6 March 1914, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “The Medical School: Opening of the Tan Teck Guan Building.”
5. E. S. Teo, “The History of the College of Medicine and Tan Teck Guan Buildings,” Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore 34, no. 6 (2005), 61C–71C, 64C. (Call no. RSING 610.5 AMSAAM)
6. Lawrence H. H. Lim and Lee Yong Kiat, To Commemorate the Re-opening of the College of Medicine Building, August 1987 (Singapore: Ministry of Health, 1987). 9. (Call no. RSING 610.7115957 TO)
7. Phan Ming Yen, “Tampoi Lab May Not Be First in S-E Asia,” Straits Times, 22 October 1993, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Lim and Lee, To Commemorate the Re-opening of the College of Medicine Building, 2–3.
9. “Partners in Pursuit of Excellence,” Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore 16, no. 4 (1987), 716. (Call no. RSING 610.5 AMSAAM); Lim and Lee, To Commemorate the Re-opening of the College of Medicine Building, 4.
10. Genette Koh, “Three Historic Buildings Picked for Preservation,” Straits Times, 6 December 2002, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “The Medical School,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 26 June 1911, 10 (From NewspaperSG); Teo, “History of the College of Medicine and Tan Teck Guan Buildings,” 61C–71C, 64C.
12. Lim and Lee, To Commemorate the Re-opening of the College of Medicine Building, 3–4.
13. Teo, “History of the College of Medicine and Tan Teck Guan Buildings,” 61C–71C, 70C.

Further resource
Shiji mi ma. Chen De Yuan dalou 史迹密码. 陈德源大楼 [History teller. Tan Teck Guan Building], directed by Guo Li Juan, produced by Feng Bi Hui (Singapore: MediaCorp Studios, 2007), videodisc, 25 min. (Call no. Chinese RSING 362.1095957 HIS)

The information in this article is valid as at July 2021 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

National monuments
Schools (Buildings)
Historic buildings--Singapore