My Alexandra Heritage Tour

Tour Info

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Date
Every second Saturday and Sunday of the month
Time
8:30am to 12:30pm (approximately). Please arrive at 8:15am, 15mins before the start time for registration.
language
English
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Start
Labrador MRT Station (Ground Level).
End
Tiong Ghee Temple, a stone’s throw from Queenstown MRT Station
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Difficulty Level

2.5/5

  • Expect four hours of walking
  • It is compulsory for a parent/guardian to accompany any child of/under the age of 12
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What should I bring
  • Wear comfortable clothes and suitable shoes for a four-hour-long walk
  • Bring along your headphones (compatible with headphone jack) Those without will have be charged S$2 per pair of earphones
  • Bring along insect repellent, an EZ-Link card, a bottle of water and an umbrella
  • Asthmatic individuals are encouraged to bring their inhaler

Description

My Alexandra Heritage Tour visits the military installations constructed by the British troops to defend the naval outpost at Keppel Harbour and follows the war from Fort Pasir Panjang/Labrador Battery to the massacre at Alexandra Hospital and the neighbouring Boh Beh Kang village. Participants will hear a first-hand account of the war from ex-villagers at Boh Beh Kang and come up-close with the former military encampments and fortifications at Alexandra Barracks, Gillman Barracks and Fort Pasir Panjang.

Site 1: Berlayer Creek & Labrador Nature Reserve

Established in 2012, the 5.61 hectare Berlayer Creek is one of the two remaining mangroves in the south of mainland Singapore. Named after a historic rock formation, Batu Berlayer (“Sail Rock” in Malay), Berlayer Creek comprises three kinds of natural habitats including mangroves, rocky shore and mudflats and is home to a myriad of flora and fauna. The creek links Labrador MRT Station to Labrador Park and Labrador Nature Reserve.

Labrador was one of the five designated nature reserves when the Nature Reserve Ordinance was enacted in 1951. Four hectares of cliff-side vegetation at Labrador Park was originally marked for conservation in order to protect the habitat of the primitive fern, Dipteris Conjugata. The fern was growing wild in north-western and coastal Singapore before its distribution was confined to Labrador in the early 1950s. Besides Dipteris Conjugata, Berlayer Creek and Labrador Park are home to 60 recorded bird species, 19 fish species and 14 true mangrove plant species.

Berlayer Creek also has a good variety of molluscs; about 50 species have been recorded. These include the Pythia Scarabaeus, a species of snail found only on back mangrove plants. At low tide, visitors can look out for the Giant Mudskipper (Periophthalmodon Schlosseri), sponges, anemones and other marine animals. Birds such as Brahminy Kite (Haliastur Indus) and Dollarbird (Eurystomus Orientalis) perching among the trees or soaring in the sky.

Mangroves
Along the boardwalk, visitors will get to see the Bakau Pasir (Rhizophora Stylosa) and the Nypah Palm (Nypa Fruticans) — both vulnerable mangrove plants. These mangrove plants stabilise the coastline and prevents coastal erosion with its dense roots systems by filtering out sediments and trapping them from flowing down streams and rivers.

Birds
Some 60 species of birds have been recorded in Berlayer Creek. One of Singapore’s fiercest raptors, the White-bellied Fish Eagle calls Berlayer Creek and Labrador Park home. Tiny and gregarious Ashy Tailorbirds and Common Tailorbirds are ever present to greet visitors to the mangrove with their characteristic repetitive calls.

Site 2: Keppel Harbour

Keppel Harbour is the stretch of waterway between the Singapore mainland and Sentosa island. The water passage has been used by ships and boats sailing from the Straits of Malacca to the South China Sea since the 13th century.

In 1848, Sir Henry Keppel travelled to Singapore and helped the British colonial government to eliminate pirates from the Straits of Malacca. When he was based in Singapore, he discovered a deep, sheltered anchorage in Keppel Harbour for the expansion and construction of a new maritime port. He also recommended that Singapore could be a coaling station.

In 1865, the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company was established. In preparation for the new port, access roads between Tanjong Pagar and Telok Blangah were constructed with the help of Indian convict labour in 1886. In the same year, steam trams that plied along Keppel Road, Pasir Panjang Road and Telok Blangah Road commenced service.

The New Harbour was officially renamed Keppel Harbour by then Acting Governor, Sir Alexander Swettenham during Sir Henry Keppel’s final visit to Singapore on 19 April 1900. By 1912, the Singapore Harbour Board was put in charge of port operations until the Port of Singapore Authority was established in 1964.

Many port-related activities, industrial complexes and storage houses have been situated along Keppel Road for more than a hundred years. A vast area along the stretch is occupied by the Tanjong Pagar Port, the world’s busiest port and an important revenue earner for Singapore. Keppel Road is also a vital link between Singapore’s downtown business centre and the industrial and commercial activities in the West Coast. During the National Day Rally in 2013, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the port would be moved to Tuas. Tanjong Pagar Port’s current site will soon be part of the Greater Southern Waterfront, with housing, commercial and entertainment facilities built in its place.

Site 3: Berlayer Beacon

Built in 1930, Berlayer Beacon is a prominent light beacon at Tanjung Berlayer. Situated on an outcrop at the southernmost end of Labrador Park, Berlayer Beacon and the neighbouring Tanjung Rimau on Sentosa Island serve as a navigational guide for ships and boats approaching Keppel Harbour.

The Berlayer Beacon flashes white light for 0.5 seconds and is eclipsed for the next 4.5 seconds at an elevation of 30 feet. It can be seen from 10miles away, and is unwatched.

In 2005, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the National Parks Board (NParks) planned to demolish the beacon and replace it with a replica of the Long Ya Men (Dragon’s Tooth Gate). Their proposal was met with opposition from the Singapore Heritage Society. Eventually, the replica was built meters away from the beacon.

Site 4: Long Ya Men

龙牙门 (“Long Ya Men” in Chinese) or Dragon’s Teeth Gate, refers to a series of granite outcrops in Keppel Harbour. Known locally by the Malays as Batu Berlayer (Malay: Sail Rock), the historic rock formation comprised of two rocky outcrops near the present site of Labrador Park and its opposite shore, Tanjong Rimau on Sentosa Island. The outcrops served as a gateway to the western entrance to Keppel Harbour.

The origins of its name can be traced to the 14th century when an ancient mariner and trader, Wang Dayuan, was said to have sailed through the passageway. In his travelogue, he recorded that mariners from China’s Fujian province recognised these two granite outcrops as Long Ya Men because they reminded them of ‘the two pegs at the bow of their ships’. These two pegs were known to the mariners as “Dragon’s Teeth.”

The rocky outcrops became important navigational aids to Asian and early European sailors and traders who used Keppel Harbour to sail past Singapore. Between 1405 and 1433, prominent admiral, Zheng He, made seven voyages to more than 30 countries to establish trade relations with countries west of China. He is believed to have sailed through Keppel Harbour. However, in the 17th century, the passageway was abandoned in favour of the wider Singapore Straits, which lies south of Pulau Satamu.

These two granite outcrops were eventually destroyed by the Straits Settlements Surveyor, John Thomson, in August 1848, to widen the channel for larger vessels to sail through.

A replica of the two granite outcrops was built in Labrador Park in 2005 by the National Parks Board and the Singapore Tourism Board.

Site 5: Fort Pasir Panjang

Fort Pasir Panjang is a former defence battery located within the Labrador Park Nature Reserve, constructed to defend the western entrance to Keppel Harbour. It was one of the eleven coastal artillery forts built by the British in the 19th century to defend Singapore’s waters.

Construction of the fort complex at Labrador was first mooted in 1843 when the British recognised Labrador’s strategic location near the southernmost point in Singapore mainland, which commanded a spectacular view of the entire western anchorage and some of the southern islands.

Between 1864 and 1878, concrete bunkers, underground tunnels, gun batteries, two gun emplacements each mounted with a seven-inch muzzle loading gun, a landing site, a gateway with portcullis and a road connecting the two gun emplacements were built and embedded on the coastal cliff-side.

In 1892, the seven-inch muzzle loading gun at Fort Pasir Panjang was upgraded to a six-gun defence battery. Accommodation for artillerymen, underground storage and ammunition bunkers were also added.

Prior to World War II, Labrador Battery, a secondary battery comprising two six-inch guns that were manufactured in 1900-1918 were installed at Fort Pasir Panjang in response to a possible attack by the Japanese battleships. Operated by the 7th Coastal Artillery Regiment, these guns were supported with searchlights and ammunition storage facilities and they were directed southwards, in anticipation of an attack from the sea.

It was a myth that these guns were bulky and useless against Japanese troops who were invading from the north in World War II. The guns were reversed almost 180 degrees to fire at the advancing Japanese troops along Pasir Panjang Road.
The following section highlights various features found around the fort.

ー Site 5A: Machine Gun Post

Machine Gun Posts were installed along the Labrador coast to defend Fort Pasir Panjang from commando-type units attacking from the sea. Within the gun posts, there were search lights and barbed wires to provide protection for the soldiers manning the gun posts. Nonetheless the conditions in which they operated were very difficult as the position was generally hot and cramped.

ーSite 5B: The Wall of Brick Cutting

The Wall of Brick Cutting at Fort Pasir Panjang refers to the remains of the wall of the old fort. Constructed in 1886, the stone-faced sea wall served as the entrance to Fort Pasir Panjang where ammunition and garrison supplies were transported to the fort from a nearby landing pier at Berlayer Point. Prior to its construction, there was no overland road until a road was built from the landward side in 1892.

The Wall of Brick Cutting is over six feet high and had a portcullis or vertical iron gate spanned across the gateway to close off entry into the fort from the seaward side.

ーSite 5C: The Fourth Gun Position

The Fourth Gun Position refers to the gun emplacement constructed in 1886 as a single position for seven-inch Rifle Muzzle Loading (RML) gun. It was subsequently modified in 1892 with the addition of a six-pounder Quick Firing (QF) gun positioned adjacent to it. This was one of the two six-pounder QF gun placed at Fort Pasir Panjang, with the other installed at Batu Berlayer. A storeroom was constructed specifically at the Fourth Gun Position in 1892 to store the ammunition for the six-pounder QF gun.

Manned by the the Royal Artillery (RA), the Infantry and the Singapore Volunteer Artillery (SVA), the six-pounders were installed to deal with the threat posed by fast motor torpedo boats. Unlike the seven-inch RML gun, the six-pounder QF gun had a longer firing range and could be loaded rapidly. Hence, a second QF gun was held at the Fourth Gun position when the seven-inch gun was removed in 1899.

In 1905, the six-pounder guns were replaced with 12-pounder QF guns. Although the 12-pounders had a slower loading rate (15 rounds/min versus 25 rounds/min), it could fire ammunition at a faster speed (2,257 feet/sec versus 1,725 feet/sec) and longer range (10,100 yards versus 5,500 yards). Installation of the new 12-pounders did not result in further modifications on the Fourth Gun Position as both guns were mounted on pedestals.

ーSite 5D: Gun Emplacement IV

The Gun Emplacement IV refers to the gun emplacement constructed in 1886 to hold a seven-inch Rifle Muzzle Loading (RML) gun and a 9.2-inch Rifle Breech Loader (RBL) gun. Prior to its construction, two 7-inch RML guns were held in Gun Emplacement IV to provide temporary defence for the fort.

ーSite 5E: Tunnel

Built in 1886, the tunnel connects the underground ammunition storerooms to the Gun Emplacement III located directly above it.

The tunnel features an enlarged chamber allowing two-way human traffic before splitting into two. One leads to the cartridge storeroom and hoist area, while the other leads to the shell storeroom and hoist area. A hoist is a mechanical pulley system used to lift the shells and cartridges from the underground rooms to the emplacement above it. The allocation of separate hoists for the shells and the cartridges allows for convenience and a more systematic operation of the gun just above it.

These underground storerooms played important roles in a fort. Firstly, they protect ammunition from being ignited by enemy fire. Secondly, the use of hoists facilitated easy movement and retrieval of ammunition. Thirdly, the tunnel provided protection for the gunners not involved in the actual manning of the guns. Lastly, they helped to protect the gun and gunners above from any accidental explosions in the underground rooms itself.

ーSite 5F: Gun Emplacement III

The Gun Emplacement III refers to the gun emplacement constructed in 1890 to hold one of the to 9.2-inch Rifle Breech Loading (RBL) guns in Fort Pasir Panjang.

Mounted behind a concrete parapet, the 9.2-inch guns had armour-piercing capabilities and were brought in to allow for a longer range of fire. The parapet protected the gunners from enemy fire as only the barrel end of the gun would be visible from the sea.

On each side of the emplacement, there was a hoist recess connecting the emplacement with its artillery storerooms underground. Through the recesses, shells and cartridges were lifted up to the emplacement using hoists.

Observation posts were located on both sides of Gun Emplacement III. These observation posts were used for spotting and determining the range and position of enemy vessels as they approached the western entrance of Keppel Harbour.

ーSite 5G: Casemate

The casemate at Fort Pasir Panjang was constructed in 1886 as an ammunition store for the naval guns and a shelter for gunners and infantry battalions stationed at the fort.

Situated at the highest point of the hill, the casemate served the 9.2-inch Rifle Breech Loading (RBL) guns located behind it. The casemate comprised of four rooms. One of the rooms contains the entrance to a tunnel that led to underground storerooms beneath the first emplacement.

Site 6: Former Pasir Panjang Power Station

Former Pasir Panjang Power Station was the second power station in Singapore, after St James Power Station. Built at a cost of $38 million, the power station was officially opened on 3 July 1953 by then-governor of Singapore, Sir John Nicoll.

It was recognised in the 1940s that St. James Power Station was unable to meet the island’s future electricity demand. In September 1948, the site for the new Pasir Panjang Power Station was approved. The site covers 37 acres and is designed for an ultimate capacity of 150,000 kilowatts. Construction of the new power station, awarded to George Wimpey and company, however, did not begin until January 1951. Some attributed the delay to the amendments in the design for the power station.

Pasir Panjang site may have been selected for the new power station due to its proximity to the sea and St James Power Station. Water was needed by the power station for cooling and there were oil piping and transformers for the interconnection of the St. James Power Station to the Pasir Panjang Power Station.

Due to the prevalence of electricity breakdowns and blackouts on the island during that period, there was an urgent need for the new power station to come into operation. Blackouts was said to be “Singapore’s greatest civic problem” in 1951.

Construction of the power station was not always smooth sailing. For the project to be completed ahead of contract date in 1953, the Special Electricity Committee of Singapore City Council approved the unforeseen increase in expenditure arising from the local purchase of steel, payment of overtime to workers and import of 40 skilled workmen from Hong Kong.

The power station came into operation in December 1952, months before the contract date. The initial approved expenditure was about $27 million, $11 million under the eventual cost. According to Resident Engineer Mr J.W. Marshall, who was in charge of the installation of the plant at the new power station, building the first generator in 23 months was nearly a world record. The first generator, with a capacity of 25,000 kilowatts, was then carrying about two-thirds of the Singapore’s electricity load.

After the official opening of the power station, the Singapore City Council tried to boost electricity sales by offering air-conditioning units for hire at a nominal rate. Concurrently, the Electrical Department cleared their backlog of applications for electric stoves. This was done to prevent them from suffering a loss from the power station project.

Apartments were built in the early 1950s at 5 Pasir Panjang Road for senior officers who worked at the power station. Paul Rodrigues, a former resident, recounted that the first residents were mostly expatriates from England and his father was among the first Asians employed by the power station.

Pasir Panjang Power Station has undergone expansion over the years. By 1992, Pasir Panjang, one of the four power stations owned by PUB, was said to have a capacity of 201 megawatts. The other three power stations under PUB were Pulau Seraya, Senoko and Jurong. The four stations could generate more than 4,000 megawatts of power.

With the expansion of facilities at Pulau Seraya and Senoko and a new power station at Tuas, Pasir Panjang Power Station and Jurong Power Station were phased out in 1997.

Site 7: Former Alexandra Brickworks

Established in 1899, Alexandra Brickworks was the first brickyard in Singapore to produce bricks using modern machinery on a large scale. Owned by the Borneo Company Ltd, the bricks were made by the best-known methods at the time, where machinery and steam power were used for treating the clay and moulding them into form. These bricks were used to construct numerous iconic public buildings including the former National Library at Stamford Road, Tiong Bahru SIT flats and Gillman Barracks.

Located at the junction of Alexandra Road and Pasir Panjang Road, Alexandra Brickworks produced bricks using clay and other raw materials from its hilly five-acre reserves adjacent to the brickyard and a clay mine at Sungei Perpat in Johor. With a capacity of 50 million bricks a year, Alexandra Brickworks produced a range of bricks including pressed bricks, pressed wire cut bricks, hollow bricks, facing bricks, paving bricks, paving tiles, fire bricks, fire blocks and fire clay. A scientific test conducted by an independent laboratory in England showed that bricks from Alexandra Brickworks had a crushing strength higher than cement bricks.

The expansion of Alexandra Brickworks was accelerated by growing demand for multi-coloured sand faced bricks and hollow flooring tiles in the 1920s and 1930s, and the construction of Tiong Bahru estate by the Singapore Improvement Trust to provide subsidised public housing in the 1930s. In 1928, Alexandra Brickworks was incorporated with the Borneo Company but remained a majority shareholder. In the 1930s, branches were opened in Butterworth, Ipoh and Johor.

The growth of Alexandra Brickworks and other brickyards was severely halted after World War II in the 1950s as low-cost housing schemes started a big demand for cheaper concrete alternatives. Cement bricks costed 25 cents each whereas clay bricks were more expensive at 35 cents apiece. Furthermore, concrete blocks could be prefabricated and bought in various sizes. This saved construction companies time and labour for transporting the bricks. The crisis was further exacerbated by competition from cheaper clay bricks produced in Southern Johor brickyards and a decline in public works project in the 1950s. According to Mr EM Telford, general manager of Alexandra Brickworks, several policies implemented in the 1950s discouraged the public from building new houses.

Firstly, high assessment rates were imposed on landed properties. Secondly, a $3000 deposit was initiated on new construction projects before electricity and water supplies were installed. Thirdly, drastic pay-cuts for civil servants had reduced their propensity to purchase new houses. In 1954, brick manufacturers could only sell half of the five million clay bricks produced every monthly. By 1959, production of clay bricks had declined to 38 million.

In 1960, the Housing and Development Board proposed an acquisition for Alexandra Brickworks land for public housing. In November 1972, the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) purchased Alexandra Brickworks Company’s freehold land for $13.5 million. A year later, Alexandra Brickworks ceased production. The former Brickworks constituency and ABC Brickworks wet market and hawker centre were named in commemoration of the brick kilns along Alexandra Road.

Site 8: Former Gillman Barracks

Completed in 1936, Gillman Barracks was one of the three military barracks in Singapore which housed an infantry battalion prior to World War II. Named after General Sir Webb Gillman, a well-known officer of the British army, the barracks were built on a 118-acre swampy jungle to house 692 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment and later, the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment.

Gillman Barracks was situated within the Australian parameter, established in the late 1930s as a ‘defence line’ against possible attacks on important civil and military installations in the city centre from enemy troops. It included barrack buildings, married quarters, messes, regimental institutes and sports facilities.

On 14 February 1942, the 55th and 56th Infantry Regiment from the 18th Division, led by Lieutenant General Renya Mutaguchi, attacked the Allied forces comprising the 1st and 2nd Malay Regiment, 2nd Battalion Loyal Regiment and 5th Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment from the 18th British Division at Pasir Panjang. After emerging victorious from the Battle of Pasir Panjang, the Japanese troops rallied down Buona Vista Road and Pasir Panjang Road towards Keppel Harbour, where a lockdown of the harbour could paralyse the Allied troops’ ammunition and food supplies.

However, at the junction of Pasir Panjang Road and Alexandra Road near Alexandra Brickworks Company, the Japanese troops were ambushed by the 1st Malay Regiment armed heavily with automatic weapons, anti-tank rifles and mortars. This ambush killed 94 Japanese soldiers, stopped them from advancing to Keppel Harbour by Pasir Panjang Road and forced the Japanese to switch their focus to the 2nd Battalion Loyal Regiment housed in Gillman Barracks.

After being ambushed by the 1st Malay Regiment at Alexandra Brickworks Company, the Japanese 18th Division penetrated into Gillman and Alexandra Barracks by infiltrating through the woods overnight and attacking from Tiger Brewery and a nearby quarry. By 5pm on 15 February 1942, the 2nd Battalion Loyal Regiment had fallen back to their final positions just west of Mount Faber.

After the British withdrew from Singapore in 1971, Gillman Barracks was handed over to the Singapore government for a token sum of one dollar. The Singapore Armed Forces moved into the camp and conducted a passing-out parade two months later. The camp’s swimming pool, tennis court, three sports fields and two badminton courts were transferred to the National Sports Promotion Board, which opened the facilities to the public. After SAF vacated the camp in the 1990s, the government allowed the buildings to be used for commercial purposes and the name was changed to Gillman Village in 1996.

In February 2010, the government announced its plan to develop the area into a hub for arts-related activities and businesses such as art galleries and art research centres. The proposal was among the recommendations submitted by the Economic Strategies Committee that was set up in 2009 to look into the country’s long-term economic development. The existing tenants of Gillman Village moved out in the early part of 2011 and the government commenced work on its transformation of the area shortly after.

Site 9: Alexandra Arch

Henderson Waves and Alexandra Arch are two key linkages that form part of the Southern Ridges walking trail connecting Mount Faber, Telok Blangah Hill and Kent Ridge, in the southwestern part of Singapore. Spanning Henderson Road and Alexandra Road respectively, the two pedestrian bridges have striking designs that make them easily identified landmarks. They were completed in 2008 and are part of the government’s plan to enhance the Southern Ridges as a recreational destination.

In 2002, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) launched an Identity Plan that aimed to preserve and enhance the unique qualities of selected areas in Singapore. It held a three-month exhibition of the Identity Plan and members of the public were encouraged to give their feedback through survey forms at the exhibition or online. After considering feedback gathered through the public survey and stakeholder meetings, the subject group members unanimously supported the idea of creating the continuous ridge-to-ridge connection, an idea that was also well received by the general public, with 92 per cent of survey respondents agreeing to it.

In 2003, an international competition was launched to seek designs for the proposed bridges over Henderson Road and Alexandra Road. Two designs were picked from among the five merit award winners. For the Henderson link, a design submitted jointly by Singapore firm RSP Architects Planners & Engineers and British architects IJP Corporation was chosen.

For the Alexandra link, the subject group selected a design submitted by a Singapore team comprising LOOK Architects and ECAS-EJ Consultants. The 274 metre-long and eight metre-wide Henderson Waves connects Mount Faber to Telok Blangah Hill.

The bridge is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore at 36 metres above Henderson Road. Its distinctive wave-like structure comes from seven undulating curved “ribs” that alternately go above and below the bridge deck. Where these “ribs” rise over the deck, they form alcoves that provide shelter to visitors. The deck itself is made of yellow balau wood, an all-weather timber found in Southeast Asia.

The smaller of the two bridges, Alexandra Arch measures 80m long and 4m wide. This steeland- granite structure is designed to resemble an open fig leaf with its curved deck intersecting an arch that is tilted at a 70-degree angle. It is linked to Henderson Waves via two walkways, the one kilometre Hilltop Walk and the 1.3 kilometre Forest Walk. At the other end of the bridge is the Floral Walk, which leads to the Horticulture Park, which in turn is linked to Kent Ridge via the Canopy Walk.

Together, the two bridges and various other walkways provide a seamless link between the three hills of the Southern Ridges. Along the trail, visitors can enjoy impressive views of the city, the harbour and the Southern Islands, and an opportunity to be close to nature as they walk through some of the most forested areas of Singapore. At night, the two bridges are particularly outstanding as they are lit with LED lights daily after 7pm.

Site 10: Former Staff Accommodation for Malayan Railways (KTM)

394 Alexandra Road is believed to have been a family home for a high-ranking official, possibly the railway superintendent, of the former Malayan Railway. Little has been written about this building which is located a distance from the railway line. However, the generous size and the presence of a large outhouse, suggest that the building was used as a family home for a high-ranking official, possibly the railway superintendent.

The need for a rail system in colonial Singapore arose in the 1860s when global demand for primary produce from the Peninsula grew. Materials and goods had to be moved efficiently to Keppel Harbour which was the main point of import/export trade for the Malay Peninsula, of which Singapore was the primary port. However, the construction of the much-needed railway only began in 1903.

The emergence of the railway corridor resulted in the construction of railway structures, as well as buildings to serve the needs of both staff and passengers. Other railway-related heritage buildings that have been protected include the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, gazetted a national monument in 2011, and the Bukit Timah Railway Station that was gazetted for conservation in the same year.

Designed in the Arts & Crafts style, the building features a steeply-pitched tile roof and gable wall arranged asymmetrically. According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the band of brick skirting around the base of the building and its chimney gives an overall impression of the 1930s country cottage. A protruding central bay, balcony and slender concrete ledges are on the front façade of the building, where a low flight of steps bring the main entrance out to the building.

Within the building, the windows are timber framed with small panel glass and the mixture of high- and low-level slotted concrete vents facilitate air movement through the internal spaces.

Site 11: HortPark

HortPark is the first integrated gardening lifestyle hub in Asia. The park is part of the Southern Ridges that comprises Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Park.

Built at a cost of $13.1m, the landscaped garden was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 10 May 2008 as a one-stop gardening resource centre. The garden features 20 thematic gardens including a Herbs and Spices Garden with medicinal and culinary herbs, and a Silver Garden featuring silvery, grey and white plants.

In 2009, locally-extinct butterflies were re-introduced at the Butterfly Garden through a butterfly species recovery programme. The garden serves as a butterfly breeding area and an experimental garden for NParks to research on suitable nectar (food) plants and host plants for breeding for a variety of butterfly species. The locally-extinct species introduced included such as clipper (Parthenos sylvia), common sergeant (Athyma perius) and yellow glassy tiger (Parantica aspasia). NParks will release locally extinct species back into the environment for species with successful trials.

Site 12: Former Alexandra Barracks

Former Alexandra Barracks was constructed in the early 1900s to defend the naval outpost in Singapore and protect British Far East interests. Named after Princess Alexandra, wife of then Prince Wales and later King Edward VII, the barracks complex included military facilities on the east of Alexandra Road and officers’ accommodation to the west at Alexandra Park.

The military estate at Alexandra Park had evolved for over half a century. The earliest houses dated from around 1905 to 1906 while the majority were constructed in the 1930s for senior medical staff in the Royal Army Medical Corps working in Alexandra Military Hospital. Hence, the architectural style ranges from tropical Edwardian at Bukit Damai to Art Deco at 1 Canterbury Road and a series of Public Works Department’s plantation style houses on Canterbury and York Roads.

Have a look at the different buildings below and find out how they have been repurposed for use today.

ーSite 12A: 10 Hyderabad Road – Former Institute of Dental Health

The former Institute of Dental Health at 10 Hyderabad Road was located at the former Officers’ Mess for Gillman Barracks.
Designed in Classical architectural style, the two buildings feature large windows and doors which allow for proper air circulation and kept their occupants cool in the oppressive tropical heat.

After the British military withdrew in 1971, the buildings were handed over to the Singapore government, who converted the officers’ mess into office buildings for the Dental Health Education Unit in 1973

In 1975, the Institute of Dental Health took over the premise and established a centralised training centre for dental therapists, nurses, dental assistants and technicians as well as providing outpatient dental health facilities. A six-storey annex was subsequently constructed in 1976 to house administrative offices, demonstration surgeries, X-ray rooms, dispensaries, laboratories, sterilising rooms and two dental surgery wings.

In 1978, the former officers’ mess housed the Ministry of Health (MOH), which moved there temporarily after a fire damaged its main building at Palmer Road. The building serves as a hostel for SP Jain School of Global Management today.

ーSite 12B: 3 Canterbury Road

3 Canterbury Road is a plantation-style Black and White bungalow constructed by the Public Works Department (PWD). Modelled after PWD bungalows from the mid-1920s, the bungalows feature reinforced concrete frames and whitewashed walls strategically built to combat the relentless tropical weather.

Its foundation borrows from the indigenous Malay architectural style with its high steep roofs allowing ventilation and wide verandas with overhanging eaves to minimise direct sunlight.

ーSite 12C: 1 Canterbury Road

Designed in the Art-Deco architectural style, 1 Canterbury Road was constructed in 1933 by the Public Works Department (PWD). Similar to 3 Canterbury Road, the house replicates – albeit more in concrete than in wood – the half-timbered plantation style black and white houses built by the PWD before first world war.

ーSite 12D: 6 Russels Road - The Plantation House

The Plantation House at 6 Russels Road is believed to be the oldest building within Alexandra Park. It was commonly referred to as the “Plantation House” because it once stood at the centre of a plantation. However, the building has little association with the typical plantation houses constructed in the mid-nineteenth century, being relatively small and compact and built around a L-shaped layout.

The main floor of the Plantation House is elevated off the ground on brick piers while the walls are timber-framed with brick in-fill. The main entrance of the house was located at one end of the veranda which stretched the full length of the front elevation. At the other end of the veranda, a flight of stairs leads down into the garden, where the veranda is extended outwards slightly to create a kind of cantilevered belvedere or gazebo.

According to architect Julian Davidson, the interior of the house is notable for the extensive use of open latticework, which is incorporated into the doors and walls leading from the main veranda into the principal reception room and other parts of the house. The uppermost portion of the internal partitions of the house have also been left open, save for a loose grid of vertical and horizontal bars. Together, these features not only encourage a good circulation of air through interior of the building but also make for a pleasing play of light and shadow.

ーSite 12E: 1 Winchester Road

Built in the mid-1930s, 1 Winchester Road exemplifies how the bungalow evolved in Singapore and the Straits Settlements, more than a century after its introduction from British India.

Many features within the Black and White bungalow were strategically constructed to counter the intense tropical weather in Singapore. For instance, the ground floor of 1 Winchester Road is laid with tiles to retain most of its night-time coolness throughout the day. Furthermore, timber was primarily used as the building material for the second floor because it absorbs solar radiation less readily.

The high-steeped roofs of the Black and White house serve a dual purpose of controlling rainfall while doubling as a chimney-like system, drawing hot air to the roof and creating a well-ventilated space for its occupants.

ーSite 12F: 3, 5, 6 & 7 Winchester Road

The officers’ accommodation at Winchester Road were built between 1936 and 1937 and are typical examples of military-style bungalow of the mid-to-late 1930s. The buildings were clearly modelled on the archetypal black and white Public Works Department bungalow of the mid-1920s.

In this instance, the house was built directly on the road, as few vehicles plied Winchester Road apart from those belonging to residents of houses there. A characteristic feature of the houses is their positioning on the side of the slope, with the front elevation of the house raised on bricks or concrete piers and the rear of the house at ground level.

ーSite 12G: Former Alexandra Barracks Mess – 8 Winchester Road

The former Alexandra Barracks mess was one of the oldest houses at Alexandra Park alongside 5 & 7 Royal Road and the Plantation House on Russels Road.

Completed during the first decade of the twentieth century, all three buildings hark back to the previous century, with their symmetrical plans and Classical detailing. The purpose-built officers’ mess, known as Winchester Place, offered dining and recreational facilities on the ground floor, with accommodation for military officers on the floor above. A series of identical suites of rooms opening into a common veranda that ran along the length of the building on the second floor provided accommodation for junior officers.

ーSite12H: 7 Royal Road - Bukit Damai

Bukit Damai (“Peaceful Hill” in Malay) is a Black and White bungalow built for the commanding officer of Alexandra Barracks in early 1900s. The bungalow stands on the crest of a hilly ridge running through Alexandra Park which afforded it spectacular views over the Straits of Singapore.

Sepoy Mutiny
Bukit Damai was besieged during the Singapore mutiny of 1915. At that time, the house was the residence of Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Victor Martin, commanding officer of the 5th Bengal Light Infantry, garrisoned at Alexandra Barracks.

On the afternoon of 15th February, when the regiment mutinied, Martin was holed up at Bukit Damai with three officers and a woman, the wife of a brother officer. It was falsely rumoured that the soldiers were going to be sent to Mesopotamia to fight the Turks, their fellow Muslims. Colonel Martin and his group were subsequently joined by four officers and 81 men from the Malay States Volunteer Rifles. Together, they managed to hold off repeated attacks by the mutineers until the fighting stopped the following day.

Site 13: Alexandra Hospital

Established in 1938, Alexandra Hospital served as the principal hospital for Britain’s Far East Command during World War II. Built at a cost of $265,900, the hospital was the most advanced and best equipped medical institution in Singapore and Malaya. The 32-acre site it was built on was chosen for its close proximity to the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway tracks so that the wounded could be transported to the hospital quickly.

Designed in a stripped-down hybrid of Modern and Classical styles that was typical of hospitals in the 1930s, the hospital compound comprised of the main block, and a number of ancillary buildings such as laboratories, barracks, mortuary and living quarters for staff. The main block could accommodate 356 beds with various medical, surgical and officer wards.

On 14 February 1942, a day before the British surrendered, Alexandra Hospital was violated by “the largest and most awful massacre of British troops in World War II.” Within a short 30-minute span, a Japanese battalion that comprised three platoons sprayed bullets within the hospital and captured more than 200 hospital personnel and patients.

After the war, the military hospital continued to play an important role by providing emergency healthcare services to the wounded soldiers fighting against communist guerrillas in the Malayan jungles during the State of Emergency. In 1954, a helipad was constructed at the hospital and the time taken to transport a soldier from the Malayan jungles was drastically reduced from 96 hours to about 10 hours.

In 1971, the British troops announced a decision to pull out from their ex-colonies due to rising costs of maintaining troops overseas. The hospital was handed over to the Singapore Government for a nominee fee of £1 and later converted into a civilian hospital. As a civilian hospital, Alexandra Hospital performed Singapore’s first ever limb re-attachment surgery in April 1975, and handled 55 severely burned patients from the Spyros Disaster in October 1978.

Today, Alexandra Hospital is well known for its extensive greenery and serene environment. Affectionately known as the “Hospital in a Garden,” Alexandra Hospital was gazetted for conservation in 2013.

Site 14: Former Normanton Barracks and Oil Depot

The Normanton Barracks was established in 1906 as an extension to the Alexandra Barracks.

The original barracks comprised of two barrack buildings and a rifle range. The rifle range extended from Normanton Barracks to Kent Ridge Park, and were demolished in 1921. Thirty-five oil tanks were later erected at Normanton in 1922 to serve British’s Eastern fleet. They were completed in 1924.

On 10 February 1942, the oil tanks were heavily damaged by a series of air strikes. A deep drain running parallel to the Malayan railways became a complete wall of fire and were visible in the harbour. Normanton Camp was said to be the worst prisoner-of-war camp in Singapore. Twenty prisoners of war died in three months due to starvation and neglect during the Japanese occupation.

After the British withdrew from Singapore in 1971, the admiralty-run oil depot was taken over by the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) as an additional facility to promote the bunkering of merchant ships. The new depot had 15 oil tanks, garages and office buildings. These oil tanks were connected to a pumping station in Mount Faber for reserve storage purposes.

Site 15: Queensway Shopping Centre

Queensway Shopping Centre is one of Singapore’s first multi-purpose shopping complexes alongside Golden Mile and Katong. Built at a cost of $15 million, the shopping complex was opened in 1974 to provide shopping and recreational options for residents in Queenstown. It comprised of a four-storey shopping centre, a basement car park, offices, and a 13-storey apartment tower.

Designed in the Modern style, the shopping centre is characterised by its octagonal façade and central sunken concourse which offers maximum and dual frontage shop units with display windows at two levels. There were also provisions for over 200 shops, a large emporium, an exhibition hall, a coffee house and a night club. Singapore’s first public escalators were installed at the shopping centre.

Mention of the name “Queensway Shopping Centre” today and rows of sports equipment shops immediately come to mind. The shopping centre continues to be a favourite haunt for students, families and bargain hunters from all over Singapore searching for sporting goods, engravers, photocopiers and men’s tailor shops.

Site 16: Queenstown Neighbourhood Police Centre

The Queenstown Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) is Singapore’s first neighbourhood police centre. Based on the concepts of community policing and modelled after the koban system in Japan, the original Police Centre at Commonwealth Avenue was officially opened on 20 December 1997 by then Minister for Home Affairs, Wong Kan Seng, to replace the Singapore Police Force’s Neighbourhood Police Post (NPP) system. The centre had 150 police officers.

Before Queenstown Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) was established, community policing fell under the responsibility of the Neighbourhood Police Post. Although the NPP has helped reduce crime rate since its initiation in 1983, its high number entailed extensive resources spread over many installations. Pooling the NPPs into larger entities known as NPCs ensured “faster response, more immediate investigation, better counter service, more frequent patrols and a sharper community focus.”

The Queenstown Neighbourhood Police Centre forges a close relationship with the community through its workshops and activities. Doris Koh, a resident at Strathmore, was one of the participants with the Citizen-on-Patrol (COP) programme. She said: “The former NPC was situated next to Queenstown MRT Station and it was very convenient. They organised frequent sharing sessions to brief the public on crime prevention.”

In 2005, the Queenstown Neighbourhood Police Centre relocated to a $30.6 million complex at Queensway. This complex is the first of its kind which houses both the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Singapore Police Force so as to provide a more integrated response against threats.

Site 17: Alexandra Fire Station

Alexandra Fire Station is Singapore’s third fire station. Built at a cost of $1,500,000, the Fire Station was officially opened on 25 February 1954 by then Governor of Singapore, Sir John Nicoll, to serve a rapidly expanding industrial area in Alexandra and train future firemen for the Singapore Fire Brigade. The station replaced the colonial Auxiliary Fire Brigade which had 15 officers and 60 firemen stationed at the nearby Archipelago Brewery Company.

The station comprised a garage for four fire engines and an ambulance; repair workshops to replace the ageing facilities at Hill Street Fire Station; staff quarters for one officer-in-charge, two senior officers, 12 sub-officers, 50 married firemen and 24 single firemen; an imposing 164 feet fire tower used for hose drying, radio communication and as a look-out post to locate fires; a 20-foot deep well for testing the lifting powers of engine pumps; and recreational facilities for both firemen and their families. The curved frontage of the station was also specifically designed to give an easy turnout to engines rushing out to answer fire calls.

Firemen from the station took part in many rescue operations. In May 1961, fire fighters from Alexandra Fire Station went to the site of fire at Bukit Ho Swee and rescued villagers from the squatter settlement. The devastating fire had left 16,000 villagers homeless and destroyed more than 2,200 attap houses. In April 1972, five reported explosions at the Diethelm Aluminum Factory along Alexandra Road injured two workers and damaged property worth $100,000. Fire fighters from the Station took four hours to bring the fire under control.

In 2002, Alexandra Fire Station relocated to a temporary site at Tanglin Halt to facilitate the construction of a $30.6 million complex to house both the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Singapore Police Force. In 2005, it returned to its present site at Queensway, where it is home to the headquarters for the 1st Civil Defence Division.

Site 18: Alexandra Industrial Estate

Constructed between 1930 and 1959, Alexandra Industrial Estate was one of the first two industrial estates planned by the British to generate employment and reduce Singapore’s reliance on entrepot trade.

Check out some of the industries and factories that operated in the estate below, ranging from breweries to publishing houses and hardware manufacturers.

ーSite 18A: Former Malayan Breweries Ltd

The former Malayan Breweries Ltd (MBL) at Alexandra Road was Singapore’s first brewery. Established in 1931, the brewery complex was a joint venture between Fraser & Neave and Heineken to build “a model brewery in tropical conditions.”

Under the direction of experienced German brew masters, MBL launched Tiger Beer in 1932, which became Singapore’s first locally brewed beer.

In 1960, a modern beer canning plant was added to the brewery. The $150,000 canning plant was the first and only canning machine in Southeast Asia.

In 1987, it was announced that MBL’s two existing breweries in Alexandra Road would be replaced by a new $164 million plant in Tuas.

ーSite 18B: Former Archipelago Brewery Company

The former Archipelago Brewery Company at Alexandra Road was Singapore’s second brewery. Built at a cost of $2,250,000, the brewery complex was opened on 4 November 1933 by then President of the Municipal Commissioners, W Bartley, to produce the well-known Anchor Beer. The site at Alexandra Road was chosen for its close proximity to the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway tracks, which provided convenient transportation for the export of its beer.

Designed by Heinrich Rudolf Arbenz, the brew master building is characterised by the streamlining of classical motifs into simple geometric patterns where its roof is high-hipped and pyramidal. The complex, which comprised of the main factory, brew master house, canning line and a warehouse, was capable of producing 450,000 gallons of beer a year. Brewing took place at the main plant where Anchor Point Shopping Centre now stands. Bottled beer was then transported via a wooden conveyor belt across an overhead bridge to the canning line, where IKEA stands today.

In 1939, the Archipelago Brewery Company was annexed by the British Government as enemy property. In 1941, Malayan Breweries, a joint venture between Fraser & Neave and Heineken, took over the assets of Archipelago Brewery Company and the Anchor Beer brand. However, during the Asia-Pacific War, the Japanese Army expropriated all the production facilities of Fraser and Neave, and ordered Dai-Nippon Breweries to produce beer at the Company.

The Archipelago Brewery Company expanded rapidly in the 1950s when Fraser and Neave came under the control of the Oversea-Chinese and Banking Corporation (OCBC). An additional plant was added and procedures were gradually mechanised. Production ceased in 1990 when operations were relocated to Tuas. The brew master house was gazetted for conservation in 1993.

The Archipelago Brewery Company was popular among job seekers for its employee welfare and good work culture. Ng Moey Moey, 79, who had worked in ABC for 38 years, recalled, “My father was extremely thrilled when my application to work in ABC was approved. The company paid well and there were many recreational activities after work.”

ーSite 18C: Former Nanyang Siang Pau

Nanyang Siang Pau was established on 6 September 1923 by philanthropist, Tan Kah Kee, to further Chinese businesses and promote education in a knowledge-starved country. Its first headquarters was located at Robinson Road.

In 1968, Nanyang Siang Pau shifted its operations to Queenstown and became the first publisher in Singapore to use offset printing. Offset printing is a printing technique where inked images are transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket before offsetting to the printing surface.

The popular Chinese daily became the center of controversy during the 1970s for its alleged slant towards glamourising communism and stirring up communal and chauvinistic sentiments over language and culture. Four executives and editorial staff were arrested under the Internal Security Act on 28 April 1971.

The decade of upheavals at the Chinese daily was ended when the shocking news of a merger between Nanyang Siang Pau and their bitter rivals, Sin Chew Jit Poh, emerged in 1982. The amalgamation of the two opposing Chinese dailies was completed in 16 March 1983. Operations continued at Alexandra Road for a further two years before moving to Toa Payoh.

Although the iconic building had made way for automobile showrooms, many residents possessed fond memories of the popular Chinese daily. One of them was ex-resident, Liang Wern Fook. He said, “My father was a former reporter at Nanyang Siang Pau and he would return home in the wee hours, after a long day out reporting.”

ーSite 18D: Lea Hin

Lea Hin Co (Pte) Ltd is one of the major suppliers of steel casement windows, window grilles and roller shutters in Singapore. Established in 1935 by entrepreneur Woo Kai Lea, Lea Hin expanded into manufacturing in the early 1950s after purchasing a plot of land at the junction of Alexandra Road and Leng Kee Road.

In the 1950s, Lea Hin manufactured kerosene-fuelled lanterns under the “Butterfly” and “Tingkwong” brands and high quality steel casement windows under the “Star” brand.

ーSite 18E:Queenstown Singtel Exchange

Built at a cost of $2.8 million, the Singapore Telephone Board (STB) exchange in Queenstown was opened on 8 September 1957 as part of a $15million plan to develop telecommunication networks in Singapore between 1957 and 1959. New numbers beginning with 51, 54, 61, 63 and 691 were operated from the exchange.

ーSite 18F: Former Thye Hong Biscuit and Confectionery Factory

The former Thye Hong Biscuit and Confectionery Factory at the junction of Alexandra Road and Tiong Bahru Road was one of the oldest biscuit manufacturers in Singapore. Built at a cost of $250,000, the 40,000 square feet factory was opened in March 1935 to modernise biscuit manufacturing and expand production through automation.

The factory comprised of two fully automated plants which weighed 65 tonnes each and measured 300 feet long. In this stretch, conveyor belts would pass the carpets of dough from which the biscuits were stamped, baked, cooled and packed in tins. In the 1960s, the factory employed more than 200 workers and produced 1,500 tonnes of biscuits every month.

A wide variety of biscuits were churned from the factory each day, ranging from Marie Cream Crackers, Horlicks biscuits to Jam De Luxe cookies, a popular shortcake with pineapple jam sandwiched in between. The factory also produced the famous Torch brand sweets which were served to air travellers abroad Malaysian Airways flights. The factory exported biscuits and confectioneries to Hong Kong, Fiji, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and even Mauritius.

Tay Cheng Tar had worked as an accountant at Thye Hong from 1947 to 1981. He recalled,” There were many departments within the factory – production, packaging, marketing and so on. The machines would operate through the night so as to meet the massive demand from overseas markets.”

In 1981, a British firm Huntley and Palmer bought Kuan Enterprises, which owned Thye Hong, for $12 million. The factory ceased operations on 7 January 1982.

Site 19: Former Buller Camp

The former Buller Camp along Alexandra Road was constructed by the colonial Works Department in 1938 as a training institution for the Singapore Army Service Corps (SASC). The military camp comprised an underground petrol storage tank, military transport sheds and accommodation for the SASC.

Prior to World War II, the 12th Sikh Police Contingent (SPC) and 42ndRoyal Army Service Corps (RASC) were housed at the camp to provide transport and logistical support for the infantry units at Tanglin, Gillman and Alexandra Barracks.

On 14 February 1942, a day before the fall of Singapore, Buller camp was set ablaze by enemy fire. The Japanese soldiers occupied and expanded the camp to incorporate office accommodation, cook houses and dhobis. Buller Camp was subsequently converted into a Prisoner-of-War (POW) camp in June 1942 to house surrendered Indian soldiers.
After the war, Buller Camp was used as living accommodation by the British forces for the 61st General Transport Company and 223 Base Ordnance Depot.

In 1952, Buller Camp was demolished for the construction of the new satellite town, Queenstown.

Site 20: Tiong Ghee Temple

Tiong Ghee Temple (忠义庙) is Queenstown’s oldest Taoist temple. The current temple at Stirling Road was built in 1973 to replace the old village temple at Boh Beh Kang village (“Tailless River” in Hokkien) which was demolished in 1968 for the development of Mei Ling estate.

Designed in the traditional Chinese architectural style, the Temple features a gabled roof with a sweeping curvature that is topped with a ridge of tiles and ceramic figurines for both decorative and structural purposes. In addition, the pair of dragon figurines and lion statues at the entrance of the Temple are meticulously carved and arranged so that they are bilaterally symmetric. The main deity, 关公(“Guan Gong” in Chinese:), is located in the main hall and the lesser deities are placed in the back hall and at the side of the temple.

The history of Tiong Ghee Temple can be traced to 1931, when an altar was installed in an attap hut of a villager living in Boh Beh Kang village. A few years later, a storage house in the village was converted into a temple and was named Ghee Tiong Temple (Chinese: 义; righteousness and 忠; loyalty). Dedicated to the Taoist deity, Guan Gong, the Temple provided an avenue for villagers to seek spiritual comfort and consult mediums on health and husbandry matters. During festive occasions, troupes were invited to perform puppet shows in Hokkien and Teochew. After World War II, the villagers constructed a bigger temple at Hong Yin Hill. The Temple was later renamed Tiong Ghee Temple in 1966.

Today, the Temple remains a gathering point for former Boh Beh Kang villagers and serves as a lasting reminder of Queenstown’s past.

Site 21: The First Point Blocks 160 & 161 Mei Ling Street

Blocks 160 & 161 Mei Ling Street are the first point blocks constructed by the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Built at a cost of $2,500,000, the sale of the 20-storey Point Blocks were presided by then Parliamentary Secretary for National Development, Ho Cheng Choon, on 8 April 1970. The two blocks contained a total of 456 units consisting of 342 three-room and 114 four-room apartments.

Before the Point Blocks were constructed, early HDB residential blocks conformed to a standard slab design of uniform height and were arranged equidistant from one another. Within the block, each row of apartments was served by a common corridor on every storey. These Point Blocks were designed with an eye to reduce homogeneity in public housing and provide more privacy to cater to different tastes and preferences. Instead of a long common balcony, the tower blocks had four units on each level and contained a central staircase on every storey.

Karen Lum (b. 1972) and her family live in an apartment at Block 160 since 1970. She recalled: “The point blocks are built on a small hill. Hence, we can enjoy an unobstructed view of downtown Singapore from my house. On every National Day, we can even see fireworks from my window!”

Following the success of the pilot project at Blocks 160 & 161 Mei Ling Street, the Housing and Development Board went on to build more point blocks across the country. Point Blocks are extremely popular with younger Singaporeans and they set the trend for more privacy in public housing.

Site 22: The Butterfly Block 168A Queensway

Block 168A Queensway is one of the first curved-shape blocks constructed by the Housing and Development Board (HDB). The sale of the 20-storey Curved Block was inaugurated by then Member-of-Parliament for Alexandra Constituency, Dr Wong Lin Ken, on 18 October 1973. The curved-shape façade earns the Block an interesting colloquial name from the residents, “the Butterfly Block,” for its striking resemblance to the holometabolous insect.

Before the Butterfly Block was constructed, early HDB residential blocks conformed to a uniformed slab design that was devoid of any aesthetics. The first two Five-Year Building Programmes focused on the elimination of squatters and the provision of low cost public housing. Hence, the first curved-shape block was designed with the intention to reduce uniformity in public housing and provide more aesthetically pleasing design features to cater to the different tastes and preferences. Instead of building a long and drab housing block, fanciful curvatures were added to the design of the Butterfly Block.

Following the success of the pilot project at Block 168A Queensway, the Housing and Development Board went on to build more curved shape blocks across the country. Curved shape blocks break the monotony of homogeneity in housing estates and allow for more aesthetics to be incorporated in public housing.