SINGAPORE in the 1970s and early 1980s was like Hong Kong - happily demolishing old buildings and replacing them with new ones. Hong Kong has continued the process throughout the boom years and scarcely a single building of any age has escaped the destruction - unless it was used by the Government or the armed forces. Meanwhile, Singapore was hit by a recession which, in one respect at least, proved a blessing in disguise - the wrecking virtually stopped. Gradually, it occurred to the government and private enterprise that their architectural heritage might be worth preserving, and that to do so would be cheaper than the cost of redevelopment. The best-known renovation project, of course, has been of the famous Raffles hotel. Views differ on how successful this has been in preserving the character of Raffles, but it has undoubtedly ensured the survival of the building's structure. A more impressive achievement can be seen on the banks of the Singapore River - until fairly recently one of the most foul stretches of water in Asia. Following a major clean-up, Boat Quay and Clarke Quay have been lovingly restored. The old warehouses have been converted into boutiques, bars and restaurants while preserving the historic character of the buildings. Plaques commemorate the 19th and early 20th century traders whose businesses were once based on the site. Areas which were derelict as little as 10 years ago are now among the focal points of the city. People go to the quays to dine, dance or enjoy a quiet sundowner while admiring the view. Boat Quay is of great importance to Singapore's history. The commercial heart of the colony until the modern port took over, it is located just opposite the point where Sir Stamford Raffles is believed to have landed in 1829 to claim the island for the British EastIndia Company. Today, if you stroll in the area during the evening past the restaurants and night spots, you can see the Raffles' statue, and also two of Singapore's finest colonial buildings spectacularly lit. They are the Empress Place, which is now a museum, and Parliament House. Restaurants from all over the world are represented along the quay and the bars offer entertainment ranging from rock and jazz to comedy. An English-language comedy club is one of the main attractions with a raunchy line in humour from visiting stand-up comedians. Clarke Quay, a little further up the river, opened in November 1993 and is the most recent of Singapore's major renovation projects. The restored warehouses along the river bank today house 176 shops and 17 restaurants. Street musicians, clowns, and acrobats perform throughout the day at the Singapore quay and there are traditional trade and craft stalls. In the evening, the area is devoted to al fresco dining, either on the river bank or aboard one of the four permanently moored, restored barges. The bridges across the river have also been restored and are now illuminated using a system developed by a French lighting consultant. Cavenagh Bridge, the first to span the river, has an interesting history. It was erected in 1869, to the irritation of many of Singapore's boat owners, who realised that their vessels could not pass underneath. The architect, not a man who took criticism with good grace, said the problem was not the bridge, but the river which was much too high. Dredging finally solved the problem to the satisfaction of all involved. Over at Tanjong Pagar, on the fringe of Singapore's business district, a whole area of old buildings has been reclaimed and converted into shops, boutiques, hotels, pubs and offices for small businesses. Old Nonya houses in Peranakan Place, off Orchard Road, are effectively a museum of old Singapore and, again, bars and restaurants abound. Singapore's economic fortunes have revived since the recession which first forced it to think again about its architectural heritage. But moves to conserve of its heritage have been maintained.