Category Archives: Streets

Orchard Road (part 3) – the Sandwiched Zone

”Sandwiched” between Orchard and Somerset MRT Stations, the developments along this stretch of Orchard Road have yet to be integrated with the sprawling underground and aboveground networks extending from the 2 stations. While it may be years before the physical integration takes place, they are definitely well-integrated into the overall history of the Orchard shopping district, which pre-dates the MRT network. Each of these developments has a history to uncover, and a story to tell.

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Orchard Road (part 2) – the Underground City

In 2012, URA unveiled the underground master plan for Orchard Road as well as other parts of the central area. Before the master plan was drawn up, underpasses between developments were constructed on a more ad-hoc basis, usually by including the construction of underground pedestrian links as a requirement for the development of specific land parcels. An incentive programme was also launched by URA in 2004 to encourage the construction of underground links. However, today the underground network is still restricted to the areas near the MRT stations. The network around Orchard MRT Station, in particular, allows shoppers and visitors to reach 7 different malls without being exposed to the weather.

Orchard Road 03
The busy junction of Orchard Road, Scotts Road and Paterson Road – an underground network has grown beneath its surface

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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?

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Orchard Road 01
Orchard Road

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The Seven (or Eight) Roads of Little Town

Back in the colonial days, most of the roads in Singapore were given English (or more colloquially referred to as “ang moh”) names. Most of the locals were not fluent in English and were unable to grasp the road names properly. Hence, they gave variant names to the major roads – names that were much easier to remember. To the north of the Singapore River, known as sio poh (小坡; “Little Town” in Hokkien), were a series of parallel roads. These roads were referred to numerically by the locals, according to their relative distances from the sea.

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Telok Ayer Street

In Malay, telok means “bay” while ayer means “water”. Hence, Telok Ayer Street is named after the bay that was once situated along this street. It continued to mark the coastal line until 1878, when land reclamation began. Mount Wallich and a few other hills along the coast were levelled to reclaim Telok Ayer Bay to extend the coastline to Robinson Road.

Under the Jackson Plan in 1823, Telok Ayer was demarcated for the Chinese community, and the Hokkiens became the primary group to settle there (evident from Amoy Street, named after Amoy – now known as Xiamen – where the Hokkiens originated from). Indian Muslim immigrants also congregated around the area. These immigrants set up numerous places of worship along the coast. Hence, Telok Ayer Street today holds the record for the highest number of national monuments along one street – 6 in total.

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