SINGAPORE: Hoardings are creeping up on the iconic rainbow-coloured Rochor Centre in the downtown Bugis area - meaning demolition of the landmark is imminent. The 40-year-old estate - now emptied of residents - once attracted Instagrammers from far and wide.
But shutterbugs and architecture buffs still have plenty of other fun HDB haunts to take in - some Tudor-inspired, some with Mondrian-style accents and others with more than a splash of pop art front and centre.
Over 80 per cent of Singapore's resident population lives in public housing apartments and these distinctive blocks not only stand out among soulless prefab HDB neighbourhoods, they also confer bragging rights on residents.
We scoured the island for 10 HDB blocks that are anything but flat:
1. Terraced rice fields in Punggol
The design of Waterway Terraces I and II at Punggol is characterised by its homage to the cascading terraced rice fields of Asia. The undulating ridges of each level not only provide shade from the elements, they also give the illusion of spaces flowing into each other. Arranged hexagonally, the linked blocks have endless corridors that eventually step down to the waterfront view.
Fun fact: In 2016, photos and an article claiming there was a "roof collapse" at the Waterway Terraces went viral on social media. It appeared that the author of the article mistook the angled structures atop the buildings as evidence of damage. The Housing and Development Board quickly clarified it was an online hoax but police and the Singapore were spotted on site investigating the claim.
2. Slanted roofs in Potong Pasir
The sloping architecture of several blocks at Potong Pasir Avenue 2 is a trademark feature of the 29-year-old town. The slanted roofs - visible from nearby expressways - were part of a move by HDB in the early days of its town planning to give neighbourhoods a distinct look.
3. Clover-shaped block in Ang Mo Kio
Many think Block 259 at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 2 is a funky private apartment block, but it was actually an architectural experiment by HDB in 1981. Housing authorities had planned to build unique blocks in seven estates to foster a sense of identity and this was one of them.
Made out of four combined rotundas, it is Singapore’s only block of circular flats. The round design of the flats meant the bedrooms faced either north or south, while the living rooms and kitchens faced east or west, allowing the flats to stay cool throughout the day. The housing block has since been renamed The Clover @ Kebun Bahru.
4. Tudor-inspired blocks in Tampines
The black-and-white colour scheme of a group of blocks at Tampines Avenue 9 is a recent addition to the town’s landscape. Formerly a traditional brick red, a vote by residents resulted in their residences’ new monochromatic veneer. The elegance of the Tudor-inspired blocks stands in stark contrast to the other more conventionally coloured blocks in the area.
5. Endless corridors in Whampoa
Block 34 sits majestically on Whampoa West, a commanding presence in the Kallang district with its continuous 320-metre long corridor. It’s lengthy common corridors run along all 12 floors of the block, but what’s unique about the block’s design is its curved structure.
6. Analogue art in Tampines
You can almost hear the colour bar test tone looking at this facade at Tampines Street 41. The instantly recognisable analogue TV test screen spans six storeys and lends 14 other blocks in the neighbourhood a retro, mod vibe. A regular feature on Member of Parliament (MP) for Tampines GRC Baey Yam Keng's Instagram account (11 posts and counting), the colour scheme was decided by a residents vote.
7. Pinnacle at Duxton
The Pinnacle@Duxton is no stranger to success, given its status as a multi-award winning public housing marvel. Birthed from an effort to completely utilise an oddly shaped plot of land at Cantonment Road, the structure became the country’s first 50-storey public housing venture, and holds the accolade of being the first in the world to incorporate two sky bridges to connect seven towers.
The lower skybridge boasts a jogging track, senior citizen fitness corner, outdoor gym, playground, community plaza, RC centre and two view decks on its 500-metre expanse.
8. Mondrian-inspired in Teck Whye
Call it the primary attraction of Teck Whye Avenue. Blocks there recently ditched their graduated yellow to orange colour scheme and teal accents for a look with more artistic appeal. The new paint job appears to be inspired by the iconic work of artist Piet Mondrian and gives the area more than a pop of colour.
9. Rainbow-bright in Hougang
No need to wait for sunshine after the rain to see this - a cheery block bordering Hougang Avenue 7 stands out with a massive rainbow adorning its exterior. Block 316 is possibly the only remaining HDB block with all the colours of the rainbow splashed across – given that the Eunos Rainbow blocks at Bedok Reservoir road have since been painted over.
10. Rainbow Rochor
Did you know the famous rainbow-coloured blocks of Rochor were initially white when they were first built in 1977, and only painted bold colours in 1994? Although the buildings are on the chopping block for the upcoming North-South Expressway, demolition is a slow process and you can still catch a glimpse of it from a high vantage point at Tekka Centre's HDB flats.