Tag Archives: Old HDB Estate

Counting down to the end of Rochor Centre

The time is finally catching up with the iconic Rochor Centre in Singapore. You can’t miss the 4 colours red, blue, green and yellow HDB blocks in the area, the colourful blocks stood out for years and they are easily identifiable. I started photographing Rochor Centre a few years ago, using her void deck as one of the examples for an article that I wrote “Void Deck – Our Cultural Communal Space” in 2012.

As the countdown timer started ticking in 2011 when the news to aquire the land was announced with 2016 being the year whereby they would have to move out and relocate to another HDB estate. In 2016, the residents of Rochor Centre slowly started to move away into their new home, the retail and commercial units below the Rochor Centre HDB blocks also started to find alternative locations for their businesses.


I returned to Rochor Centre a few times for another article on Canon EOS World Singapore whereby I shared on photographing and documenting old places in Singapore that face “extinction”. In the Canon EOS World Singapore article titled “Exploring Singapore Heritage“, I covered Rochor Centre and Dakota Crescent areas. For the Dakota Crescent area, I would be writing another article on them soon.


During early July, I went to photograph Rochor Centre with my Canon EOS M10 review unit for a site recce on photographing Rochor Centre from the outside areas before going down with my Canon EOS 1DX for my Canon EOS World Singapore article.

A few days ago on 12th November 2016, I had a quick walk around Rochor Centre, most of the residents, retail and commercial units had relocated to somewhere else. The rubbish and junk were piling up, there were a few different group of people exploring and taking photographs of Rochor Centre.

The NTUC Fairprice outlet at Rochor Centre put up a notice informing their customers that their last day of operation in that location will be 1st December 2016. This is an indicator on when would be the last days of Rochor Centre whereby everybody living/working there will move away, out from Rochor Centre. Once the curtain comes down, Rochor Centre will be boarded up before demolition begins, when exactly, I do not know yet at this time.

I would just continue to add more photographs to my Flickr collection on Rochor Centre, they will be memories for us very soon.

Counting down to the end of Rochor Centre, the end of an era.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Exploring and documenting Dakota Crescent Estate

Dakota Crescent HDB estate, tucked away in the Eastern part of Singapore, just on the edge from the outskirts of the wider Central Business District of Singapore. A unique name that actually came from a Dakota aircraft and the links to Kallang Airport from the early aviation days in Singapore. Her flats were built by SIT (Singapore Improvement Trust), the predecessor of the Housing & Development Board (HDB) in the 1950s. With her roots going back to the British Colonial days, Dakota Crescent had an aura and charm, surrounded by fellow HDB blocks of different generations around her and also private housing not too far away from her too.


What’s the history behind the name Dakota Crescent? Researching on Google, a result came out on Wikipedia’s article – Kallang Airport. On 29th June 1946, one of the Dakota aircraft belonging to the Royal Air Force Police crashed with 20 NCOs on board at the Kallang Airport in a storm with no survivors. The nearby Dakota Crescent was named in commemoration of this disaster. Something for the history and aviation buffs, the Old Kallang Airport control tower is still around and it is located along Nicoll Highway, you can see from my photographs here when I visited it during Singapore Biennale 2011. There is a road named Old Airport Road that connects to Stadium Boulevard road, ending up at the new National Stadium and Indoor Stadium where the Kallang Basin is. This was part of the Old Kallang Airport runway if I am correct, I am still trying to find the maps/images for them!


I had been exploring Dakota Crescent over the years, visiting once in a while to this quiet and charming location. First and foremost, the one factor that attracted me that was the Old Dove Playground, that I went to visit, explored, photographed and documented in 2011. This was the most memorable Old Playground that I grew up playing in because it was right below my block of flats in Clementi when I was staying at my Auntie’s home during my primary school days. Whenever I visit and explore Dakota Crescent, I will always make a point to visit the Old Dove Playground and just climb up and down, to bring me back to my childhood days that were carefree and fun, without the stress and pressure.


This small housing estate is very interesting, not just the Old Dove Playground, Dakota Crescent had some wonderful and friendly cute cats! The lift that serves the Dakota Crescent block of flats is very special, so old and retro, if you are visiting Dakota Crescent, remember to take one of the old lifts and go up to the top floor to have a bird’s eye view of the whole area and landscape! Don’t be too scared by the old lift, it’s still working fine! There was an Old Provision Shop, Tian Kee & Co, that closed down not too long ago, I took a photograph of the exterior of the Old Provision Shop, the front porch of the shop after they closed their doors. Today, Tian Kee & Co is revived and brought back to life as a rustic cafe, do check them out on Facebook! I will visit them soon, to sit down and relax in the rustic, retro and quiet old Dakota Crescent estate! When I visit Tian Kee & Co, I will take the opportunity to take more photographs of Dakota Crescent and adding it to my Flickr collection!

What lies ahead for the future of Dakota Crescent? With Singapore’s thirst for land, redevelopment, commercialisation, modernisation and building taller skyscrapers, many places were gone forever. I hope that this part of Singapore’s history, the SIT flats can survive and we have a physical and tangible presence to tell the nation building stories to our future generations and beyond. Oh yes, we have to keep the Old Dove Playground, it is the lone surviving Old Dove Playground in Singapore currently!

Do visit Dakota Crescent estate and explore, it’s like going back in time!

Created with flickr slideshow.

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.

The Start of the End of Rochor Centre

An area on the edge of the Central Business District, near to Singapore’s early settlement days of shipping traders, with 4 colourful Housing Development Board (HDB) public housing flats, known as Rochor Centre, with bustling shops below them. Built in 1977, even today, with her 4 different colours, Rochor Centre is no doubt a unique icon in Singapore’s landscape.

Rochor Centre, her physical presence will soon disappear from Singapore’s landscape, having to make way for the North-South Expressway southern stretch,more details of the news here. The surrounding areas around Rochor Centre would be affected too, they would disappear together with Rochor Centre.

Counting down to the end of her days, she has fallen into my category of Old Places, disappearing Old Places, heritage, history and landmarks. Armed with my camera gear, I started my exploration of Rochor Centre, having a feel of this beautiful place, searching and finding locations within locations of Rochor Centre.

I will be starting to document more photographs and stories of Rochor Centre before it’s gone … This is the start of my documentation of Rochor Centre …


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Growing Up with this Old Playground

Do you remember this song, “This used to be my playground (used to be), This used to be my childhood dream, This used to be the place I ran to …” by Madonna, this particular song perfectly syncs in tune with the Old Playground that I grew up with, playing and running on the playground with my friends, when we were young, free from stress and pressure.

Today, not many of these Old Playgrounds had survived the modern economic growth and expansion, it might be too old and ugly for some, even too dangerous for the young kids today to play in. Back during my time, it was a lot of fun for us as kids playing there. The Old Playground that is featured here, is the type that I played at regularly back in Clementi HDB Estate and it had been demolished, lost forever….

For this surviving Old Playground, located somewhere in Dakota Crescent, the bridge is now fixed and bolted tightly, in the olden days, it’s a swinging bridge and we loved to run across and back this swinging bridge. Those were the childhood memories, those were the days. As much as we know about and understand the need for growth and economic expansion in this fast paced ever changing environment, there would definitely be places, history and culture that would be inevitably be lost and/or destroyed along the way. There are still some surviving Old Playgrounds and Old Places in Singapore, let’s hope that they will be able to stand the test of time and history in Singapore.

Cherish these memories of Old Places and Old Playgrounds, looking forward to share more in my personal documentation and photojournalistic adventure of them!

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

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.