Tag Archives: Dover Close Estate

Void Deck – Our Cultural Communal Space

A population size of 5 million, in a land size of 710 square kilometer, Singapore is one of the most densely populated country in the world and 4 out of 5 Singaporeans live in subsidised high rise public housing apartments known as HDB (Housing and Development Board) flats.

From the various HDB designs, starting from the 1960s till the modern public housing designs today, there were many changes from the floor size, facade and designs. However, there is a common element among the HDB blocks, a space for communal, leisure, recreational and cultural activities, that is commonly known as here as void deck, found under the HDB block on the ground level while the apartments start from the second level. Our beloved void deck is of historical and heritage significance that holds many different types of memories, thoughts, happenings for different Singaporeans.

Old concrete tables and stools of Dover Close Estate

Do you recall you memories at the void deck? Childhood memories? Teenager/schooling memories? How was it like? Close your eyes, recall and reflect, what comes to your mind when you were a young child? Playing with your friends? My memories of the void deck were a lot on playing, lots of fun without the hassles and pressures of the modern society.

  • Playing football with friends and kicking the football against the wall, staining the walls with football prints was our trademark!

  • Running around playing Police and Thief, jumping around on hop-scotch.

  • Playing Chinese Chess or checkers at the round stone table

  • Sitting and chatting with friends after school, before returning home to do our homework

  • Cycling under the void deck and towards other friend’s block to meet them at their void deck

  • Buying freshly baked loaf of bread at a regular timing of 5pm daily, from the uncle with his ratten basket at the void deck opposite my block.

  • Buying sweets, tidbits, ice cream, frozen ice dessert etc etc from our favourite mamak (local provision) store

Residents bringing down their pet birds to the communal space at void deck, at Blk 430 Clementi Avenue 3

The void deck did not just serve my childhood memories only, it was a common communal space for all Singaporeans.

Communal Use

  • Residents Committee gatherings, events, chit chat corners, leisure corner with television, bringing down their pet birds for gatherings

  • Kindergartens

  • Police Post

  • Study corner

Private Use

  • Weddings

  • Funerals

  • Provision shops

Only in photos & memories – void deck at Blk 39a Margaret Drive, Queenstown Estate

All these memories of the void deck held on deeply to me, I grew up there, with lots of fun and happy moments. There were of course, sad moments too, having to attend funerals. The void deck was and still is today, a great space and location for community, friendship and bonding activities. Embarking on a personal mission, my personal project to cover Old Places and void deck, I asked friends this question “What are your memories of void decks?”

Here’s a few quotes

I’ve always found it funny that we called our void decks, “Void Decks”, What does “Void Deck” even mean? Who coined such a term? In any case, “Void Deck” is something to me that is “Uniquely Singapore” (hi STB’s old tagline), because no where else in the world is the ground floor of a block of flats called a “Void Deck”.

To me, a memory of our HDB Void Decks are the old checker stone tables in the middle of the Void Deck, where the elderly hang out to play a game of checkers. Come to think of it, I actually have not seen anyone actually play checkers, but rather have only seen these elderly, with one leg propped on the stone bench, the other on the ground, sitting there eating gua zi, drinking a kopi-gao, and conversing in a dialect I don’t dare say I comprehend completely.

Another memory of our HDB Void Decks are the bird cages that adorn the “ceilings” of our void decks, where bird-lovers young and old bring their birds on a Sunday morning to share in the joy of a bird’s melodic song, or simply to say “my bird is nicer than yours”.

Daphne, early 20s

Void decks can be a reflection of happiness, or even the other extreme: the loss of a life. This is what makes our void decks special, a common space for Singaporeans alike to hold celebrations or to mourn for their deceased loved ones.

Charmaine, late teens

My memories of void decks are that it used to be more vibrant; it being the playground for kids, chatter zones for aunties and rendezvous for major festivities involving the HDB.

Andrew, early 20s

Different individuals with different backgrounds, they each have their own fond and interesting memories of the common void deck in Singapore’s landscape. Their thoughts and words showed what void deck meant to them, that I believe will resonate with you too! As economy and society progressed at such a fast pace, there were many changes to the lifestyle and activities from the past as compared to the current society today. The newer and modern HDB flats are differently designed and constructed, this the void deck below is a lot smaller than before. While those void deck at existing HDB estates, what was part of our childhood memories may not be there anymore. The bustling life of the void deck today is not like before in the older days.

Soon to be gone – Leisure corner at Blk 1, Rochor Centre Void Deck

Nevertheless, the void deck, it is uniquely Singapore, something that we can be proud of, an identity, space, icon that we created for ourselves. The void deck is not doubt a common space that encompasses historical, cultural, recreational, heritage and communal space for all Singaporeans from all walks of life. My memories of the void deck will remain in my heart forever, through the sharing of my void deck memories and thoughts, I am able to pass it on, the stories of our void deck in Singapore, to the present and future generations, and friends around the world too!

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

This blog entry is written in support of NHB’s third community heritage exhibition on void decks entitled “Our Void Decks, Our Shared Spaces.” The exhibition highlights the history and development of void decks in the HDB heartlands, their common features and uses, and their role in providing shelter, building community and promoting racial integration. The exhibition is currently on display at the void deck of Blk 2, Saint George’s Road for the month of April before travelling to Marine Parade and over void decks around Singapore.

Old Playgrounds & Old HDB Estate (Part 1)

This is the start of a new journey into something that touches not just myself but also many Singaporeans who grew up and are now in their 20s and 30s, what was new and fresh during their time is now becoming history and old, with some places, locations, buildings, areas and community lifestyle that they grew up in, will soon be gone forever into history books, photographs and archives.

It’s a personal project, influenced, encouraged and motivated by Old Places in Singapore, the photojournalistic journey of capturing the Old Places of Singapore, recording her time when she’s at her peak, the community and lifestyle that many heartlanders called Home. This first photojournalistic walkabout brought me back into my childhood and schooling days, of Old Playgrounds in Clementi Central and Dover Park Estate, an Old Housing Development Board (HDB) Estate known as Queenstown HDB Estate.

Living in Clementi HDB Estate since I was born, over 30 years and still counting. The memories of my childhood, playing with my primary school friends at the playgrounds, the fun and laughter, without any worries, pressures and chasing of material wealth. It’s all about play and fun, and that was something we as kids looked forward to all the time, after school (before rushing back to do school work).  Bringing a group of photography friends, Clayton, Daphne, Amanda, Sue, Ted, Dylan and Noel, we started with the small Old Playground in Clementi Central, beside the hawker centre, right beside where A&W once was. The bigger Old Playgrounds were gone, lost forever into our history books and personal memories, what left was a small Old Playground. Nevertheless, it was of great fun, hanging around, sliding down the slides and doing all over again, nothing beats the kid inside me.

Next stop was Dover Park Estate, this area was initially navigated by myself personally prior to bringing my group of photography friends. This area is slated for en-bloc development, the people living in this area had already vacated and it’s like a ghost town. The Old Playground, something different from the Old Playground at Clementi Central, just one of the few designs that was known to us during our childhood days. The kid in me came out again, climbing up and down the pelican, the swing and merry-go-round is no along around though. Walking through the vacated Old Dover Close HDB Estate, it was a great photojournalistic opportunity to document them. More photographs of Dover Close Estate Old Playground and HDB Estate here!

Our final stop was the Old Queenstown HDB Estate, slated for big plans redevelopment and transformation. What once was her pride and joy in the landmarks of Singapore, a historical first in many areas –

the first satellite town, where the first HDB flats, the first branch library, the first neighbourhood shopping centre and the first sports complex were built – (via Heritage Trails Singapore)

I remembered the hawker centre and the library a lot, they were a significant part of my childhood memories and growing up. The area is similar to Dover Close HDB Estate, vacated, sealed up in most places and inaccessible. However, some areas were still open and it was walk through memory lane, showcasing the early days of a heartlander in a HDB Estate. The Queenstown Bowling Alley was another of the places I went to and the Golden Crown Restaurant was used to be there too. More photographs of the Old Queenstown HDB Estate here !

As we ended the first part of the Old Playgrounds and Old HDB Estate photography walkabout, this is a start to capturing more Old Places in Singapore. It’s time to document and capture them down in photographs, words, thoughts, emotions and feelings, before they are gone forever. In this modern and fast paced society, it’s inevitable that some older places have to make way for the newer and future generations. Let’s pray that whatever we can preserve our heritage and history, let’s all do it.

Remember the Old Playground ?

Do you remember the times … when you were young? The surroundings, your neighbourhood, friends, schools and your playgrounds? How many years ago was that? 10 years? 20 years? 30 years? Fast forward till today, in this modern cosmopolitan society of Singapore, how much has changed? Are the Old Places that you affectionately associate and grew up with/and inside, is it still there or is it gone forever? Deeply and emotionally inspired by Royston’s Old Places, I began to research more on Old Places in Singapore.

Take a look at the photograph above, do you remember this Old Playground? Are you able to recall your childhood days? Or do you belong to an older generation or younger generation? This Old Playground brought back memories of my childhood days, just one of the playgrounds that I played during my primary school days. This Old Playground is located at Dover Close Estate and this particular area of public housing blocks along with this Old Playground is vacated and soon it will be  gone forever (when it will occur, I don’t have an answer to that)

Why did I take up a great interest in Old Places? It was simply taking a step back to slow down in this hectic cosmopolitan city life that I began to see and realised that many places could be gone or already gone forever into our history books. Not only am I just documenting and taking photographs of Old Places, sharing and passing it on to the future generations, it’s for me to get back to my childhood days when it wasn’t so hectic, busy and pressurising.

Hoping to lead and share with my friends on documenting Old Places, and maybe we can all come together to save some of the Old Places of Singapore and not just send all of them into history books. Photographing, documenting and sharing Old Places Singapore, shall be my ongoing project … Check out my Old Places – Singapore photographs collection.