From the beginning of Chapter 2 of Edward Shils’ Tradition:
The inherent durability of material objects of stone, metal, and wood, and the durability of the physical landscape enables the past to live into the present. The costliness of the scarce skill and materials which have been invested in the making of material objects counsels generally against their deliberate destruction. It is often economically advantageous to maintain older buildings. However wealthy a society and however wasteful it is of its resources, it does not regard itself as able to afford, in every generation, to demolish buildings surviving from the past and to replace them by those of greater convenience and of greater conformity with contemporary taste. The most energetic policies in the modernization of the stock of buildings in a contemporary metropolis still leaves in being a large number built before the lifetime of the persons who live or work in them. Buildings have usually been built to last; intentionally “temporary” buildings are exceptional. Palaces, the seats of governments and parliaments, churches and temples, buildings for commerce and for public administration, academic buildings, museums, theaters and buildings for musical performances built long before the birth of those now living, mark the cities of the earth. The fame of a city depends on having such buildings.
Many residential buildings of more than one hundred years of age still exist although architectural tastes have changed, standards of amenity and convenience have changed, and the pressure for more concentrated use of space has increased. Nonetheless many older residential buildings survive, frequently with modification, because their occupants are willing to pay the cost of maintaining and “modernizing” them. Others have survived because their occupants could not or would not pay the price demanded for more recent buildings. Sometimes the cost of “modernizing” buildings is so great that it is more economical to destroy them and to replace them by new buildings more suitable to contemporary taste and usage. Sometimes their maintenance is too costly to justify the expenditure. In countries in which the ownership of the buildings is in private hands, the consideration of profit from neglect or demolition and then replacement makes old buildings vulnerable. In socialist countries, enthusiasm for novelty, hygienic social ideals and the desire to build visible monuments to the efficacy and benevolence of government lead to the destruction of old buildings. Considerations of familial piety and local and national pride in past achievements sometimes give motives for their maintenance and renewal. By and large, old buildings are always in danger from within themselves and from their users and proprietors.
I find it interesting how both the private profit-oriented and socialistic factors are at work in Singapore’s context (which partly explains why the destruction of old buildings is much more extensive in Singapore than elsewhere). The ruling party /government (there is little difference between them here) is profit-oriented and is quick to demolish old buildings in favour of making profits on selling new ones. In addition, it has that socialistic “enthusiasm for novelty, hygienic social ideals and the desire to build visible monuments” to the efficiency and benevolence it boasts of itself. Thus, a double whammy for old buildings in Singapore.