In recent news, the terminus for the high-speed rail connecting Singapore to Kuala Lumpur has been confirmed to be at Jurong East. As one of the regional centres in Singapore, Jurong East has transformed tremendously over the years. It now boasts 5 shopping complexes, a hospital, a hotel, and a network of pedestrian walkways (J Walk & J Link) connected to the MRT station. With the new terminus coming up, the landscape there will be changed drastically. With so much development going on, it is hard to remember how Jurong East was like just 10 years ago.
Jurong East today, with the Genting Hotel Jurong in the background and the temporary bus interchange in the foreground
Jurong was likely have derived its name from jerung, the Malay word for a shark. It was also known to the Chinese as peng kang (秉江), referring to the Teochew name of a gambier plantation located there. Today, the only reminder of the name is in the form of Peng Kang Hill in Pasir Laba Camp. In the 1950s, Jurong was developed into an industrial estate. As the main “gateway” into Jurong, Jurong East boasts many buildings that celebrate the technological and industrial progress of Singapore in the period of independence.
Designed by SAA Architects (extension)
The red space frames at the MRT station
The MRT Station building is perhaps one of the least changed building in that area. Its most distinctive feature is arguably the red space frame that spans under the roof. Space frames were commonly adopted in Singapore in the late twentieth century for canopies with a larger span. There was also a trend in articulating this engineering feat as an aesthetic feature. Exposed space frames are less common nowadays due to advancement in technology and change in aesthetic trends. Interesting, the red space frame was adopted by SAA Architects in the Jurong East Modification Project (which saw the addition of another platform for the NS line), more for consistency of the character of the place rather than structural necessity.
Popular bookshop used to occupy the ground floor space
Other than the red space frame, however, many other features of the station that I remember are no longer around. The large Popular bookstore at the ground floor of the station was replaced by a food court and a Wendy’s fast food outlet (which has since closed down as well). Jurong East St 12, which used to run through the station building, has also been truncated. The shuttle bus pick up point for IMM, which was situated under the station along St 12, was then relocated several times.
The expunged section of Jurong East St 12
The old Jurong East Bus Interchange
I liked the old bus interchange for its continuation of the red space frame from the MRT station (although technically, it’s the other way round, since the bus interchange was built before the MRT station). Before Integrated Transport Hubs became a thing in Singapore, Jurong East probably had one of the most “integrated” transport nodes in terms of design and character.
The old Jurong East Bus Interchange, with its address “Blk 155 Jurong East St 13”
The temporary bus interchange, built in 2011, also has a primiarily red colour scheme, but lacks the space frame.
The old Jurong East Bus Interchange, after demolition
In May 2014, the public bus industry was revamped, whereby the government will own all bus infrastructure and assets, and engage private firms for the bus services on a contractual basis. Bus services from Jurong East bus interchange, together with those from Clementi and Bukit Batok, were the first to be contracted out. London-based transport company Tower Transit won the first five-year contract on 8 May 2015, and will operate Jurong East bus interchange from 2016 onwards.
Jurong Entertainment Centre
Before the rise of the shopping malls around Jurong East, there was just a small, 3-storey shopping centre fronting Jurong East St 13 (today part of the road is renamed Jurong Gateway Road). The Jurong Entertainment Centre housed a cinema on the ground floor and an ice-skating rink on the third floor, leaving very little retail spaces left. Entrances to the cinema halls were located in between small retain shops. Despite the apparent lack of space, the JEC featured a double-volume atrium space which, for many years up till its demolition, contained a number of huge dinosaur display models. JEC also had a much more generous entrance space than its counterpart today, flanked on both sides by fast food restaurants. In addition, JEC served as an informal thoroughfare for visitors heading towards the library and the Science Centre. Today, this role is fulfilled by the J Link pedestrian walkway.
Jurong Regional Library and JCube, replacing Jurong East Community Library and JEC
Designed by Wong Woo Wai of Public Works Department
In August 1988, the eighth branch library of the NLB was opened in Jurong East. The library building as designed to resemble a warehouse, as a response to the industrial town context. It was closed for upgrading in 2003, and reopened a year later as the Jurong Regional Library, the third (and till now, the last) of its kind.
Blk 135 actually resembles cubes more than the adjacent JCube
Blks 131 to 135 are located at the Town Centre of Jurong East, next to JCube along Jurong Gateway Road (renamed from Jurong East St 13). Most of the blocks are 4-storeys high and commercial in nature, housing a supermarket, restaurants and many other retail and office spaces.
Double-volume spaces like this are common in the town centre
The semicircle/arch motif is repeated throughout the town centre
In 2014, a new pedestrian mall called J Link was opened, linking the MRT Station to the Science Centre. It primiarily features a widened and covered walkway along the ground floor corridor of Blk 135, and a heritage corner located between Blks 134 and 135. A new pavilion called the “Canopy” was also erected between Blk 135 and the library.
The heritage corner
The new “Canopy” carries on the semicircle/arch motif
Designed by Raymond Woo
Constructed: 1971 to 1975
Science Centre Singapore
Anyone who has spent their childhood in Singapore in the past few decades should not be unfamiliar with this place. Since its opening in 1977, the Science Centre is the place all teachers and parents would bring their children to learn science in a fun and interactive way.
Science Centre Singapore
The Science Centre was born out of the National Museum of Singapore, as per mooted by the Science Council of Singapore, so that each of them could focus on science and arts/history separately and respectively (funnily enough, 34 years after this separation, the ArtScience Museum was opened).
The Science Centre building was designed in the modernist style, and its massive concrete form was deemed befitting, aesthetic wise, of the building being in the forefront of scienfitic education. The modular nature of the building drew inspiration from the Metabolist movement, allowing it to replicate and grow (evidently from the Annexe Builidng, opened in 2000 as part of the Science Centre’s expansion plans).
The dull, monolithic form of the Science Centre
Today, the main building houses relatively permanent exhibits, while the Annexe Building has housed various temporary exhibits, such as Bodyworlds, “Dinosaurs-Live!”, the Transformers 30th Anniversary exhibition and so on.
The colourful wall on the right is a more recent addition, probably added to hide the dull, monolithic building while giving a more vibrant and attractive appearance on the visible side of the Science Centre. It also doubles up as a support for the sheltered walkway leading to the Annexe Building
In 2007, the Science Centre launched “Our Solar System”, where sundials are erected at 9 different parks around Singapore. Each sundial represents one of the 9 planets in the Solar System (before Pluto got “demoted”), while the Science Centre itself represents the sun. The relative locations of the Science Centre and the 9 sundials are proportional to that of the sun and the planets. The sundial representing Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, is located right in front of the Science Centre, at the Fibonacci Terrace.
The Mercury Sundial at the Fibonacci Terrace
Science Centre Road was named after the Science Centre. Before the Science Centre was built, Kampong Tebing Terjun was located in that area.
Designed by Raymond Woo
10 years after the opening of the Science Centre, the Omni-Theatre was opened, housing an IMAX dome theatre and an Observatory (opened in 1989). It is connected to the Science Centre main building via a long and narrow corridor.
The long corridor connecting the Omni-Theatre to the Main Building
My impression of the Omni-Theatre building has always been this dark, mysterious and forgotten corner that emerged (quite literally) from the main building, where all the fun and vibe are. The building used to house exhibits on the solar system and other heavenly bodies (most likely in lieu of initiatives by the Observatory), contributing to the dark nature of its interior. However, since mid 2014, the Omni-Theatre building has been revamped to house KidsSTOP, aimed at children below the age of 8. The colourful and noisy environment today is a stark contrast to the dark and quiet extra-terrestrial exhibits of the past.
The colourful Omni-Theatre building today
The expansion plans of 2000 also saw the opening of Snow City, Singapore’s only indoor snow centre. When it first opened, it was like a dream come true for all children who grew up on this tropical island, who never had the chance to experience snow. However, more and more kids today get to experience real snow in a temperate country via school or family trips, and a trip down to Snow City has become more irrelevant than ever.
Designed by Architects Team 3
Preserved: Since 2015
Conserved: Since 2005
Jurong Town Hall
For many years, Jurong Town Hall is one of the most prominent buildings when viewed from trains approaching Jurong East from Clementi. Its design was the result of a competition conducted in 1968, and the modern style adopted symbolises the economic and industrial progress of Jurong and Singapore in general.
Jurong Town Hall
Today, the building is known as the iHub Building, and is an office building not open to public. It was declared a national monument on 1 June, 2015.
Jurong Town Hall
Jurong Town Hall Road was named after the Town Hall building. Before that, the road was known as Jalan Bahru Utara and Jalan Bahru Selatan, meaning “north new road” and “south new road” in Malay respectively. A junction with Jalan Lama (literally “new road” in Malay) divides this road into the north and south sections.
Designed by Tay Joo Teck
Constructed: 1976 to 1982
The Enterprise is another building located along Jurong Town Hall Road, near the junction with Science Centre Road. The 8-storey building was known as Unity House when it was first constructed, and was meant to be the headquarters of the Pioneer Industries Employees’ Union. However, construction was delayed, and the union was restructured together with Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation into 10 smaller industrial unions in 1981. The incomplete building was then bought over by National Iron and Steel Mills, and renamed McDermott House. An additional storey was also added in 1982. In 1996, JTC bought the building over from NatSteel, and renamed it The Enterprise.
The French-Singapore Institute
The French-Singapore Institute (FSI) and German-Singapore Institute (GSI) were 2 of the 3 institutes of technology opened by the Economic Development Board (EDB) in the early 1980s. The GSI, the first to be opened in 1982, ran a program modelled after training programs for technicians and craftsmen in Germany, hence the name. The FSI opened 1 year later, specialising in the training of electrical and electronic manufacturing technicians. It received contributions from the French government in the form of machinery, equipment, and expertise.
The French-Singapore Institute
The FSI and GSI were transferred from the EDB to Nanyang Polytechnic in 1993, to form its School of Engineering. The buildings then became the Jurong Campus of the polytechnic – one of its 5 temporary campuses that lasted until 1998, when the permanent campus opened in Ang Mo Kio.
The Informatics Campus
The vacated buildings were then occupied by Pioneer Junior College in its initial years, from 1999 to 2002, before it moved to Teck Whye. From 2005 onwards, it became known as the Informatics Campus, operated by the Informatics Academy.
The German-Singapore Institute in the background. The empty field in the foreground is now the Genting Hotel Jurong
In April 2015, Genting Hotel Jurong opened its doors at a corner of the vacated campus ground. While the campus buildings were spared, they are likely to be demolished in the near future in view of the development of the high-speed railway terminus.
File Last Updated: May 28, 2016