Monday, 25 May 2015

Colouring Banda Street 2015

Carrying on with the theme of SG50 and the artworks decorating Singapore HDB areas, another community to get involved has been Kreta Ayer 'Chinatown'. Here the Kreta Ayer Residents committee got together with the help of PricewaterhouseCoopers and using support from the SG50 Celebration Fund decorated the Banda Street HDBs and shops. They might not set the art world alight but they get people talking and brighten up otherwise drab walls.

So today I took a short bus ride to take a look......

Entering from block 335 China Complex the bridge across is the first one I found decorated.

Springtime in Banda

'Spring is a time for celebration. As depicted by blooming flowers, it signifies new beginnings that are full of hope and happiness. Oriental-looking cherry blossoms are illustrated along with local birds (like sparrow and yellow oriole) to add vibrancy to the neighborhood'.

Bridge over Calm Waters

'This mural is in honour of those who have remained calm and resilient through tough times and hardships of life. A turtle is depicted to symbolise longevity and nine koi fish to symbolise prosperity, The number nine in Chinese belief signifies 'permanence'.

Back Lane  

Sadly these 2 were hidden behind boxes and racking. 
'multi-generation families used to live under one roof in the past. These 2 murals (in fact 1 mural but I had to split to get the whole picture in) depicts a grandmother and her grandchildren standing outside their house where she is seen pasting a red piece of paper with the word "fu" (which means "good luck" in Mandarin) on the wall her young ones look on earnest. This is a tradition in many Chinese households even up till today. The grandfather playing the er-hu (a Chinese instrument) next to them watches on happily as his family prepares for New Year'

Welcome to our world

'Samui women, together with the coolies, contributed to Singapore's development. They broadly refer to a group of Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore between the 1920s and the 1940s in search of construction and industrial jobs, and were identifiable by the trademark red cloth hats that they wore. Known to be fiercely independent, resilient and hardworking, they embody qualities of a nation Singapore strives to be.
The Aranda Lee Kuan Yew and Vanda Kwa Geok Choo orchids are also illustrated here in remembrance of the country's founding father Mr Lee Kwan Yew and his wife, Mdm Kwa Geok Choo (who passed away in 2015 and 2010 respectively). The Tanjong Pagar GRC was originally led by former Minister Mentor Lee who was Singapore's first prime minister from 1959 to 1990'.

The Cool Dude 

'A coolie was a term for an unskilled labourer during the 19th and 20th century. They were mainly from southern China or the Indian subcontinent, and formed the early backbone of Singapore's labour force. These impoverished immigrants came to Singapore seeking a better life but served instead as indentured, unskilled labourers. They were employed in almost every sector of work including construction work, plantation work, in ports and mines and as rickshaw pullers. They were as resilient as Samsui women and generated growth for Singapore's economy in the past.

Our Past, Present and Future

 'Samui woman and Skylines are the reflections of Our Past, Present & Future. The juxtaposition of the past with the present brings to bear the relevance of the spirit of tenacity embodies by the Samsui women that will lead Singapore into a better place'.

Everybody is King Fu Fighting 

'Two men in their respective Tai Chi poses face each other. The water and the rocks in a natural setting add up to invoke a sense of 'balance' - the Yin and the Yang - making Singapore a harmonious place to live in. 

Little Guilin

'Builing on the theme of nature, painting Little Guilin was a natural choice with the lake and the trees in abundance. Various activities one can enjoy at this scenic location include fishing, exercising, cycling, or simply just strolling in the park. Childhoods of the past were carefree and stress-free. Children would run freely playing catch, and line their own chairs to watch outdoor plays and Chinese operas. they played and visited each others' homes without being invited, and would play hide-and-seek amongst wild Lalang fields. It was definitely something worth reminiscing'.

Tai Chi Uncle

'Tai Chi Chuan, or 'Supreme Ultimate Force' when translated from Chinese is the main exercise for the elderly in Singapore. This old gentleman beneath the tree in the shade is keeping himself busy and fit by ding what he does best in the mornings.- Tai Chi. He can be a 'part of them' and serve as a daily reminder to the elderly folk to keep their precise regime going for as long as possible'.

The path to peace and serenity

'The main concept behind this mural is to grow old gracefully and stay active while still being close to nature. A picturesque countryside kampong scene is depicted with flowers along both sides of a winding path. It leads to a waterfall in the distance and has a guesthouse for travellers to rest at night after a long day's journey. The next scene portrays two cyclists peddling through the lanes to another village. As cows (not in photo but seen in the one below) roaming freely were a common sight in the past, the street was therefore named 'Buffalo Street'. Two cows are painted to relive this memory along with that of the Indian milkman with his cow journeying the village streets each morning'. 

The way we were

'The large tree on the right is a durian tree and sugar canes grow abundantly at the front of the house. As such housing factitious no longer exist, this depicts how people used to live and what Singapore looked like in the past. It also serves a a message to the generation to continue working hard and reminding ourselves of how far we've come'.

Ageing gracefully

'As the saying goes, health is wealth. With an increasing ageing population, active ageing is the new way of life. An elderly woman exercising is painted to showcase the older generation partaking in various social/physical activities'.

Chess Mates

'Playing Chinese chess is another common past time especially amongst the male community. A common sight even until today, it is a game which enjoyed by all and transcends age, race and culture. It fosters friendship and stimulates the mind as well'.

Grandma & I

'Actual small windows and air-conditioners sit on this wall panel at the extreme far end. Instead of painting over it, a scene of  single house with a large window overlooking the street below is depicted. In this window, there sits a grandma peering out. Beside her is a curious six-year-old girl peeking out and wondering what her grandma is looking at. Whether she is looking at her husband playing chess below, or whether she is just taking rest and resigned to her fate of being a domesticated wife is left to the viewer's imagination'.

The Window

'The idea was to portray a large house as houses in the past were spacious like the one Grandma used to live in. It has spacious rooms and a large kitchen with aluminium awnings that made a lot of noise when they had to be drawing. Flowers were included to add some colours to the old building with paint that seemed to have peeled off the wall'.

Now these were the murals painted to celebrate SG50 but as I wandered passed I came across a few that were painted beforehand and felt they should be included as well, after all they are are artwork and are brightening the area up, and they depict many images of Singapore we all are familiar with.

All descriptions have been taken from the plaques on each mural.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Old Changi hospital (OCH)

This substantial, classic colonial style building on top of Barrack Hill, alongside Netheravon Road and Halton Road, sits among the old forces buildings that once made up Fortress Changi. Built by the British in the late 1920s as the main defense, they wrongly believed that any attack would come from this area. The hospital sitting on the hill was originally built as the command HQ and Barracks but it became RAF hospital in 1935. Post 1935 the Royal Engineers used one of the blocks as a weekly cinema.

The hospital covered 3 blocks, 24,37 and 161 and looked after the servicemen from Kitchener Barracks, Roberts Barracks and Selarang Camp. 

Between 1942-5 during the Occupation the hospital, along with the other buildings, was taken over by the Japanese and its believed the Kempeitai used it to torture many prisoners. In total there were over 50,000 POWs kept at Changi. Due to this part in its history the building is supposed to be haunted, just search Old Changi Hospital and you find link after link on its hauntings!!

During the Occupation, with the large influx of POWs, the hospital wasn't large enough so it was moved temporarily to the larger Roberts Barracks, further South East, before returning to its original buildings after the war. 

It continued after the war, as before until 1971 when, with the reduction and finally withdrawal of the British military, it became known as the ANZUK Hospital as it was taken over and served the commonwealth serviceman from Australia, New Zealand and UK.

1975 it was finally handed over to the Singapire Air Force and became the SAF Hospital 

1976 it merged with the Changi chalet hospital which looked after civilians. With this merger new premises were found at Simei and it was run by the Ministry of Health (MOH). This is when it finally became known as Changi Hospital. It finally closed on 15 Dec 1997 when it merged with the hospital at Toa Payoh and has been left empty ever since. 

2006 the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) put the site up for sale/lease but come 2010 it had fell through and ownership was passed to the state.

Now derelict and in disrepair the building has become somewhat of a legend. As we wander the roads around the building we can see renovation of the other buildings nearby has, and is, taking place. Along Halton road blocks 33 and 42 have been turned into plush restaurant Raintr33 and further up the hill blocks 36 and 35 belong to the French bank BNP Paribas. Block 49 is currently in wraps and is undergoing its restoration, whilst sitting next to the hospital on the brow of the hill block 36 remains derelict. 

Recently restored and now part of the Raintr33 Hotel Block 33
Block 42 part of the hotel
Blocks 35 and 36 are now training facilities for BNP Paribas
Block 49 undergoing renovation

The whole area is fenced off (although there are gaps within this) with no entry signs, security cameras apparently watching over the buildings. The main gates at the top of the hill are locked with recent signs warning of asbestos in the buildings and states awaiting removal. Indeed as we were leaving workmen in a lorry arrived with all the asbestos removal paraphernalia, good too see things appear to be moving forward, although I expect Singaporean ghost hunters may disagree with me!

Holland Close sculpture

Just a photo post this time as I can't find anything about this.

Its strange I can't find anything out about this, nothing at all. Why was it built? Why chose this location? Who was the artist? The thoughts behind it? 

Some people seem to find it disturbing, I think it interesting, a talking point, it makes you want to bring your book, sit down in the shade and enjoy a good read with this fellow!

Can anyone shed any information on him? 

Want to see him? You can come and view him or read a book with him at 2 Holland Ave

Monday, 18 May 2015

Goodwood Hill - Black & Whites

Just minutes from the bustling, hectic, modern, consumer age world that is Orchard Road and just a 5 minute walk from Newton MRT, sitting on a small hill, is a tiny piece of 'Singapore past', Goodwood Hill Estate. Coming along Scott's road you first walk by 4 colonial Black & Whites, 2 ornately  decorated bungalows with columns and arches and 2 other plainer Anglo Malay style bungalows. These are now home to restaurants but were built in the 1920s in grounds of earlier larger homes, something that was done often. Passing these homes turn right as you reach the rise and enter into the secluded circular drive where you will find the homes of Goodwood Hill.

35 a Scott's rd. Indo Cafe 

35 Scotts rd. Indo Cafe 

29 Scotts rd, now a Japanese restaurant.

These homes were some of the earliest built in Singapore by the Public Works Department (PWD) for the civil servants of the colonial era. Many were home to High Court Judges and those of a similar ilk. Built from the turn of the century and around 1910 although definite dates cannot be confirmed due to records being lost or misplaced. The bungalows you see along your way are newer constructions from around the 1950s and built in the grounds of their larger relations.

No. 3a

No. 3 Goodwood Hill is the oldest pre World War One PWD house built around 1900 for senior officials of the Malayan civil service. No date is confirmed although it was known to be in existence already in 1910. It is built in what is known as the 'Plantation style' with a veranda running along the sides of the building and has a mainly wooden upper storey.

No.3 the oldest of the homes on Goodwood Hill 

House no.7 originally had red Chinese roof tiles but these have now been replaced. Houses 4, 6 and 10 are all of the same design and are larger than the others on the estate. These would of been home for senior officials. No. 10AB is the grandest on the hill.

No. 10
No. 1

No. 9
No. 11
General facts on Goodwood Hill.......

Goodwood Hill was named after Goodwood Hill Park, the Sussex Estate in the UK belonging to the Duke of Richmond and Gordon.