Buona Vista District

Talk about the various districts in Queenstown, and Buona Vista is probably one of the districts that few would mention, not because it is not well known enough, but because it has developed such a distinct identity that it is commonly seen as a separate estate on its own.

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Buona Vista district

Buona Vista district was developed since 1968, partially on the former cemetery of Ying Fo Fui Kun. In lieu of the development, the graves were relocated to a much smaller plot of land at Commonwealth Lane, within the Commonwealth District.

Buona Vista menas “good sight” in Italian, and was so named due to the good views that the place offered. The Buona Vista District includes areas such as Ghim Moh, Holland Village and Chip Bee Gardens. In this post, however, I will not be talking about these more well-known spots, but will instead share images and information on the lesser known areas of Buona Vista.

North Buona Vista Road

North Buona Vista Road forms the western boundary of Buona Vista district. It extends all the way from the Buona Vista Flyover (across AYE) to Holland Road. Before the district was developed, the stretch after Commonwealth Avenue turns to connect to the current junction of Holland Avenue and Holland Road. It was only after the development of the district when the road was realigned to connect with Holland Road at its current junction, slightly west of the original. Holland Avenue was then extended from the original junction.

Holland Close
Constructed: 1970s onwards
Status: Found

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A coffee shop at Holland Close

The cluster of flats at Holland Close is the closest to the current location of the Ancestral Hall of Ying Fo Fui Kun. It consists of Blks 1 to 9 (including 3A and 7A), and Blks 30 to 32 (including 30A). These flats were built in the 1970s. From what I could gather, Blks 3, 5, 7 and 30 were demolished in the late 1980s and rebuilt (together with their corresponding -A blocks) in the 1990s. The multi-storey car parks (Blk 5A and 7B) were also built at that time. The newer blocks (with the exception of 7 and 7A) can be easily distinguished from the older blocks by the exposed brick facades that extend from the top floor to the third or fourth floor.

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One of the newer flats in Holland Close
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A sculpture in Holland Close

Blk 4 is situated at the top of a slope off Holland Road. Next to it is a hilly park that serves as a nice recluse from the nearby bustling Holland Village – although accessing it may be a bit tiring for some. Blk 1, facing Chip Bee Gardens, consists of rental flats.

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The small park is located at the junction of Holland Close and Holland Avenue

Some of the blocks also feature giant blue ‘discs’ on top of the lift shafts. The ‘discs’ resemble blue UFOs.

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The blue “UFO” on top of the flat

There also used to be Blks 33 and 34, next to Blk 32 and the Ying Fo Fui Kun Ancestral Hall (technically within the Commonwealth District). Blk 34 was an industrial building, while Blk 33 was the canteen that served both the workers and the nearby residents. They were situated on an open air car park that connected to Commonwealth Lane. Both blocks have since been demolished, probably in the early 2000s, and the car park was converted into a car sales mall.

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Holland Close

Before the flats were built, there used to be an Eng Hoe Road that runs diagonally across this area. It extends from the junction of Taman Warna and North Buona Vista Road (before its realignment). Eng Hoe Road and North Buona Vista Road seemed to form the rough boundary of the cemetery at that time. Ying Sin School (应新学校), a Chinese school opened and ran by the Ying Fo Fui Kun, was located at the end of Eng Hoe Road. The school was opened in 1905 and closed in 1971. Eng Hoe Road was probably expunged around that period as well.

Former Buona Vista Secondary School 建国中学
Constructed: 1960s
Status: Found

ACS (International) (former Buona Vista Secondary School) 01
Former Buona Vista Secondary School – now the ACS International campus

Buona Vista Secondary School was officially opened in 1967. It was located off Jalan Hitam Manis of Chip Bee Garden. As such, it was known as Chip Bee Secondary School until its officially opening in 1968. It has a back door that opens up to Holland Close, and hence was commonly used as a shortcut by residents to travel between Chip Bee Garden and Holland Close (back when security of school campuses was not that much of an issue).

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How Buona Vista Secondary School looked with before its makeover

The school was closed in 2000, and the campus was then taken over by Anglo-Chinese School (International).

ACS (International) (former Buona Vista Secondary School) 02
The old school buildings were fitted with new windows and other facilities

Blks 14 to 17, 22 & 23 Holland Avenue / Holland Drive
Constructed: Around 1974
Status: Lost
Demolished: 2013

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Holland Avenue 03
Holland Avenue 02
Blk 14 Holland Avenue, before it was demolished

Behind Holland Village is a cluster of flats that have just been demolished. Blk 14 Holland Avenue and Blk 17 Holland Drive were slab blocks while Blk 16 Holland Drive had an angled “U” shape plan. Blks 22 & 23 Holland Drive were point blocks overlooking the swimming complex.

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1 of the 2 point blocks to be demolished
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Holland Avenue / Holland Drive flats

Blk 15 Holland Drive was probably the most unique of them all. Situated along a slope, this 5-storey block gradually “reduces” its number of storeys to 3 storeys at the top of the slope. A “half spiral” staircase was located at every jump in ground floor. A FairPrice outlet was located at the lowest ground floor of the block, but it closed down long before the block was demolished.

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The “half spiral” staircase of Blk 15 Holland Drive
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After demolition; notice what’s left of the “stepping up” of the ground floor

SERS for these few blocks was announced in 2005. They moved across Holland Drive to the new Buona Vista Courts in 2010.

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Blk 15 Holland Drive, after the FairPrice outlet closed down
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After demolition

Next to this cluster of demolished flats stand 4 more HDB flats – Blks 10 & 12 Holland Avenue, and Blks 11 & 13 Holland Drive. The original topography of the cemetery was more or less maintained in this area. As such, Blks 11 and 12 stand on the top of a small hill.

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Open-air-turned-multi-storey car park at Holland Avenue

The car park next to Blk 12 made news some time ago for being the first open air car park to be converted into a multi-storey car park by adding on a new level. The ground floor parking space remained almost the same, except a few parking lots which had to give way for the support structures and staircases.

Buona Vista Swimming Complex
Constructed: 1976
Status: Lost
Demolished: 2014

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Buona Vista Swimming Complex

The Buona Vista Swimming Complex had served the residents of Buona Vista since its opening in 1976. It consists of one competition pool, 1 teaching pool and 1 wading pool. Like at many other neighbourhood swimming complexes, many parents brought their children there for weekly swimming lessons.

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Buona Vista Swimming Complex
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Such circular openings can be found all around the complex, providing ventilation

When the nearby flats were chosen for SERS in 2005, residents feared that the swimming complex would have to go as well. A petition was signed and submitted by the residents, but was unable to change the fate of the complex.

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The main pool
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The kids pool
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The canteen area, where parents would wait for their kids during their swimming lessons

On 28 February 2014, the swimming complex opened its gates for the last time. A farewell event, Hasta La Vista Buona Vista, was organised. Many returned for a final swim, or to capture the last moments of the complex.

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Buona Vista Swimming Complex

The complex was eventually torn down in 2014, and the entire area will be redeveloped.

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The swimming complex bites the dust

Blks 18 & 19 Holland Drive
Status: Lost
Demolished: Early 2000s

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Buona Vista Courts, with the shorter (and older) point blocks

These 2 10-storey slab blocks were chosen for SERS in 1996. If I am not wrong, they were demolished in the early 2000s, and in 2005, construction for the Buona Vista Courts began at the same site. It was in conjunction with the construction of the new Buona Vista Community Centre. The Buona Vista Courts consists of 3 tower blocks of 40 storeys and 1 tower block of 36 storeys, all towering over the remaining 2 point blocks, Blks 20 & 21 Holland Drive.

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A civil defence demonstration was held in front of the vacant Blk 19, before it was demolished

When the SERS for the Holland Avenue / Holland Drive flats across the road was announced, some residents of Blks 20 & 21 were upset that they were left out of the scheme. They feared that the value of their flats would drop as the near flats would be more sought after. However, while I was there, I met a resident who said that she was glad to keep her unit in the old point block, as it has a much larger floor area than the new ones.

A sheltered overhead bridge spans across North Buona Vista Road and the old KTM railway, connecting the old Blk 19 to Blk 10 of Ghim Moh Estate. During the construction of Buona Vista Courts, this connection was still in use (Holland Drive residents had to walk around the construction site to reach the bridge to get to Ghim Moh). However, soon after the completion of Buona Vista Courts, this connection was disrupted again with the demolition of the Ghim Moh flats.

Buona Vista Community Centre
Constructed: 1982, 1997, 2009
Status: Lost, Lost, Found

Buona Vista Community Centre 01
The donation plaque at the Buona Vista CC features photographs of all 3 past and present buildings

The Buona Vista CC has been established on its current spot since 1982. However, it was demolished and rebuilt twice to meet increasing needs. The current building was completed alongside the Buona Vista Courts, and houses various commercial outlets on its ground floor, including a FairPrice outlet. It is also significantly larger than its predecessors, most notably from its minimal setback from Holland Drive.

Buona Vista Bus Terminal
Constructed: 1970s
Status: Found

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The Buona Vista Bus Terminal, with the Buona Vista CC in the background; the new expansion of the bus terminal is on the right

The Buona Vista Bus Terminal is one of the many bus terminals located in Buona Vista in the 1970s and 1980s. Among them, only the Ghim Moh Bus Terminal is still operational (although there are speculations that it will soon be closed down too, in lieu of the en-bloc of the flats around it).

Boarding and alighting of buses do not take place in the terminal, but at the nearest bus stops along Holland Drive and Commonwealth Avenue instead.

Construction work is currently ongoing at the bus terminal, most likely to accommodate the bus services that will be redirected here from Ghim Moh Bus Terminal. A new structure and new lots are being constructed over existing parking lots for heavy vehicles.

Commonwealth Avenue Bus Terminal
Constructed: 1970s
Status: Lost
Closed: 1980s

The car park in front of the Blk 44 Market and Food Centre used to be the Commonwealth Avenue Bus Terminal. After its closure, the bus services were probably redirected to the adjacent Buona Vista Bus Terminal.

Blks 40 to 47 Holland Drive
Constructed: 1970s
Status: Found

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The red-brick flats at Holland Drive; notice the new ramps

This cluster of 4-storey flats stands out from the rest of the district due to their exposed red brick façades. This choice of material was probably in response to the nearby Holland Village (despite it not being named after the country). Despite this “mistake”, these flats have become an iconic feature of this area. Residents often refer to the flats as hong zhuan wu (红砖屋; Chinese for “red brick houses”).

Right in the middle of this cluster is Blk 44, which houses the Holland Drive Market and Food Centre. The current building was built in 1999, and has a blue roof in contrast to the surrounding red. It is currently being upgraded, and will be reopened in January 2014.

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Blk 44 Market and Food Centre, under upgrading; the car park in the foreground is the former Commonwealth Avenue Bus Terminal

The flats were recently upgraded, with lifts and ramps added to allow for barrier-free access. However, similar bricks were not used in the construction of these additions. Instead, a slightly different shade of red was used to paint the lift cores, while the ramps were left white.

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Holland Drive “red brick” flats, after the lift upgrading programme

Like the rest of Queenstown (the rest of Singapore, in fact), Buona Vista is slowly transforming. With 3 SERS sites within this district so far (1 completed, 2 in progress so far), I wonder how long more we will get to see the familiar places such as the red bricks flats, the UFO flats and the swimming complex.

File Last Updated: August 4, 2015

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