THE DOOR TO BROTHERLY LOVE, RELIEF, AND TRUTH
By W Bro Koh Kek Jin
SINGAPORE MASONIC HALL
SIR STAMFORD RAFFLES LODGE
Initiated by WB Allein Moore in a brainstorming session with SSRL Brethren back in 2017, finally becomes a reality when the non-descript blue metal folding door that stood for over 40 years at the foot of the staircase to the Temple was replaced with a commemorative solid timber door to replace.
When we enter into the Craft, we are inculcated with the three Grand Principles of Freemasonry, and that serves to remind us that we enter this door of Brotherhood to become better men and to leave this door to be better husbands, partners, fathers, friends, colleagues and members of society.
The idea of adorning the Singapore Masonic Hall with a commemorative solid timber door to replace the non-descript blue metal folding door that stood for, what I am told, over 40 years at the foot of the staircase leading to our Temple, was a result of a brainstorming session with SSRL Brethren back in 2017, initiated by WB Allein Moore, in preparing to commemorate the founding of modern Singapore by our illustrious Brother, Sir Stamford Thomas Bingley Raffles. It was one of several ideas offered, which included an ambitious re-enactment of Raffles’ boat landing in Singapore, which was eventually adopted as a stage re-enactment at the 2019 Annual Communication at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, - which many of you will recall, hundreds from the District attended. There was also a bust of our illustrious Brother sculptured by a Mason in Australia.
Can it be done?
Many of those ideas did not materialize as they met with immovable regulations and also often constrained by unsurmountable budgets. It was no different for the idea of the commemorative door, as the first obstacle was the assumption that it must conform to the fire rating regulation. That meant we would have to build two or more doors so one could be tested for their fire-rating - by burning one at a specific intensity - so that the other duplicate could be certified for use. That meant increased budgets, the complexity of conducting proper tests and an uncertain outcome.
The idea was about to be stillborn, when by a chance meeting with WB Ashvin Kantilal of Horsburgh Lodge at the entrance of the building and knowing him to be an architect of high regard, I inquired about the said fire-rating regulation. It was then in March of 2019, already well past the bicentennial anniversary date of 29th January 2019. This was when he recalled the while being in the Committee for the Alterations and Addition that presided over the renovations and the construction of the Annex building, he had sighted an exemption for the fire-rating regulation for that entrance.
With this wonderful news, I hastened back to report this favourable finding to the Worshipful Master and the Lodge Reference Committee. It was received, still with some scepticism and trepidation as the Committee surmised that the only true assurance is to have written approval from the building authorities, which is the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). And within our own District, we also had to get the blessings from the Masonic Hall Board (MHB) in Singapore. In order that we can obtain such an official written approval, a proposal for the door and the design was needed, which formed the next challenge.
What will it look like?
The priority would be to have it last for decades, it should reflect a Masonic theme, and it should complement the existing façade of the building. Thus, it was decided it should be of hardwood solid timber, carved with a motive reflecting the Craft, and of colour and finish to blend with the general look of the porch-way.
Several design sketches were put forth, but in keeping with the low profile discreet nature so preferred by the Craft, the Lodge Committee voted for the simplest of designs, just the Square and the Compasses, and eventually only agreeing to have the Three Grand Principles carved on the outward face of the lintel beam. The dedication text to SSRL as sponsor for the door and the date of installing it was agreed to be on the inside face of the beam.
Who can do it, and at what price?
While the designs were deliberated, we set out to obtain at least two quotations from separate suppliers. Armed with the requirements, we obtained quotes from suppliers recommended by Brethren in the Committee:
The first, Valtra Galleria, recommended by WB William Lyou, connected to a former Brother in SSRL (Bro. Wybe Valkema, member from 1980 – 2010) now living in Indonesia and whose wife, Aishah, operates a furniture business and they proposed a Teakwood timber door.
The second, Your Furniture Pte Ltd, recommended by WB Robbie Hoyes-Cock, is a supplier of bespoke furniture, and they proposed the door to be made from recovered Teakwood timber.
The third, Roger & Sons Pte Ltd, is a local furniture and woodcraft company, specialized in the re-use of timber from trees in Singapore that were cut down in the development of roads and buildings. This third supplier would have lent another degree of significance in the use of timber from Singapore, but it came with a significantly higher price tag.
The committee finally selected the second party, Your Furniture Pte Ltd, for the quality of their woodcraft and elaborate carving designs, which were illustrated with past works and reference projects. It was also preferred as they used recovered teak, which means the timber is more stabilized and less likely to suffer shrinkage and warping in future.
“Show Me the Money”
Armed with the quotation of nearly $9,000 to manufacture, ship and install the door, a budget approval of $15,000 was finally approved in open Lodge at our Regular Meeting back in August 2019. This amount also catered for the costs of the ironmongery, the design and fabrication of storyboards, and any additional costs that may arise from the works or modifications.
A Week of Hand-rubbing Apprehension
Equipped with an approved budget, we gave the selected supplier the nod on the provision that the MHB and the URA approved our proposal. It was already January, 2020, and the supplier immediately provided us the technical drawings and visuals to apply for approvals.
The MHB gave us the go ahead, and again, with the assistance of WB Ashvin, the formal application was duly submitted to the URA on the 18th of February.
There was a tense week when the URA dictated a design change to a panelled door instead, similar to the main entrance at the porch way. The fate of our aspirations hung in limbo for more than a week, while WB Ashvin explained to the URA that the door being of solid timber will provide the same function, last longer and add a higher degree of quality and significance to the adornment of the building as the Singapore Masonic Hall. The URA finally relented, and approved the design on the 11th of March, 2020 allowing only 6 months to complete the job.
All Systems Go!
An example of the level of detail that had been examined:
The carved rings on Texture & Colour
The pedestal of the pillars were made to align with the wall cornices
With that approval from the URA, we confirmed our purchase with our first payment on 20th March, and the supplier provided us with fabrication technical drawings including 3-D perspectives. This was reviewed by the committee, resulting in a suggestion to add a set of decorative pillars for the inside of the door frame. Below are samples of the technical drawings in preparation for fabrication:
After the drawings were finalized, the fabrication finally began in early July. A glimpse of the progress followed shortly, and we were pleasantly assured that it would turn out to meet expectations. Our anticipation was further heightened when it was prepared for shipment, and rightly so, because the door just looked magnificent on its own.
Arrival and Fitting
The doors finally arrived at the end of August, and the fitting works began on 5th September. The following pictures illustrate the process:
The works were stretched to 20th September due to the refurbishment of the first step of the stairs, which were generously covered by the Masonic Hall Board. The final touch was the fitting of the specially fabricated brass handles. Pictures were then submitted to the URA to seek their approval to conclude the original proposal to replace the door. The URA gave their approval, thus concluding the project on 7th October, 2020.
Nothing now remains, but to adorn the door with storyboards, laser-etched with illustrations of the significance of the Craft in Singapore; of Sir Stamford Raffles Lodge; of the building itself; and of our illustrious Brother after which the Lodge is named; so as to complete the commemorative significance of the door.
And may the door outlast the memories of all Masonic events marking the Bicentennial, and through all succeeding ages, lead every Mason entering it, to Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
So Mote It Be.
Gratitude: Foremost on the list to be thankful for is the support from Sir Stamford Raffles Lodge, for sponsoring the cost and the wisdom for the decisions made around the design, and the numerous constructive suggestions.
Many thanks to WB Allein Moore as the catalyst to start this idea back in 2017.
Also, to WB Ashvin Kantilal of Horsburgh Lodge, for the advice, and representing the MHB for the necessary interactions with the authorities.
And to the Masonic Hall Board for their support and endorsement for the adornment.
Last but not least, to Mr Greg Torreguitart (CEO), and Ms Zena Amir, of Your Furniture Pte Ltd, for their dedicated and professional work to ensure every detail of the project was attended to.