Orchard Road (part 1) – the Overlooked Upper Stretch

Most Singaporeans would be familiar with the history of Orchard Road as an area filled with orchards and plantations (hence its name), and its subsequent transformation into a shopping belt since the 1960s. But its transformations did not end there. New malls sprung up every few years, while older ones gave way or were refurbished. Today’s Orchard Road is a far cry from the Orchard Road ten years ago, and even more so from twenty or thirty years ago. How much has changed? How much has stayed the same?

Orchard Road 02
Orchard Road 01
Orchard Road

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East Coast Park

East Coast Park should be a familiar location to all Singaporeans. This man-made beach has been a popular recreational destination for locals and visitors alike, ever since its completion in the 1970s. However, beyond the bicycle rental shops and the barbeque pits, how much are we aware of the other landmarks in this 15km long park?

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East Coast Park

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The HDB Complexes of Sio Poh

Housing in the central area, including both tua poh and sio poh, had always been a problem in post-war Singapore. The Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) attempted to tackle the problem by building a handful of new housing estates, such as Outram Hill, Winstedt Court and Stamford Estate (mentioned below). In 1960, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) was established in 1960, taking over the role of tackling housing shortage problems from the SIT. With the establishment of the Urban Renwal Unit in 1964 (renamed URD – Urban Renewal Department in 1966) and the kickstart of the urban renewal program, a number of complexes were constructed to house the people and their businesses. These complexes usually include a large number of housing blocks “weaved” together by a commercial network on the lower floors (examples include Outram Park and Beach Road Garden). With the departure of URD in 1974 (to form a separate entity, URA), the subsequent housing complexes became more inward looking. The commercial podium becomes more substantial in scale, while shrinking in footprint, creating a commercial “hub” that serves the residential towers that sit over it. This is the predominant design model adopted by HDB in sio poh.

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Beauty World

With the opening of the Downtown Line Stage 2, the name “Beauty World” is once again brought into the limelight. Located at the spot where Bukit Timah Road continues into Upper Bukit Timah Road, it seems to have halted at its own crossroads of development. After years of changes, from an amusement park to a market, and finally to a cluster of shopping malls, time seems to have stood still since the 1980s, while the rest of Singapore have since moved on.

Beauty World 01
Beauty World, just before the completion of the MRT station

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Taman Jurong

Located to the west of Jurong Lake, Taman Jurong is part of the larger Jurong West housing estate. It was developed in 1964 to house the workers and the families of the nearby industrial areas. Taman means “garden” in Malay, suggesting that Taman Jurong was meant to be a housing estate in a garden, as a contrast to the adjacent heavy industries.

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