From 20 to 23 September, the NUS Baba House hosted Let’s Mix It!, a lime workshop for students taking the Advanced Architectural Studies module within the NUS Department of Architecture.

The workshop, which provided both historical context and hands-on sessions, was conducted primarily by Dr Nikhil Joshi from the NUS Department of Architecture with input from Mr Mark Lay of the NGO George Town Heritage Action and Mr Kee Eng Kwi of Ki Hon Construction. The workshop also featured a guest lecture by Mr Geoffrey Steward, Principal of the International Fine Art Conservation Studios.

Lime is a product that has been critical to building and construction for centuries. It gives a smooth finish and makes an ideal wall plaster as it is porous, resistant to rot and even has anti-bacterial properties. For these reasons, lime plaster featured heavily in period dwellings across Singapore.

Opening the workshop with an introduction to the lime cycle, Dr. Joshi showed each stage in the process of preparing the limewash and lime mortar from limestone; a process that students spent four days learning. From slaking quicklime, mixing lime putty with sand and water to produce lime plaster, to plastering the wall and applying the limewash, these were scenes that were repeated many times as the students participated in preparing mixes that would be observed and eventually used at NUS Baba House for restoration work.

While the workshop was a unique opportunity for the Architecture students, it was also a key part of the restoration, maintenance and research work that takes place at Baba House. The NUS Baba House has intricate architectural features and authentic interior spaces that are rare sights anywhere else on the island. In fact, the combined expertise of Dr. Joshi, Mr Lay and Mr Kee were able to reveal new insights into the construction of the house, and uncovered earlier restoration methods used in the maintenance of the living museum.

Left: Facilitators of the workshop explained how lime putty works as a carbon sink. Right: Slaking the lime at a safe distance because of the energetic chemical reaction.

By: Matthias Ang