Monday, 29 June 2015

Toa Payoh Town Park

What a charming little park! Visiting here as I waited to meet a friend I was delightfully surprised with this park, situated just by the busy road, opposite the enormous bus station and next to the sport complex and swimming pool, but what an idyllic find, why had a never investigated before!

Opened in 1973 it was then known as Toa Payoh Garden Park, until it was temporarily closed in 1999, when part of it was used as a bus station whilst the new bus interchange was built across the road. It reopened in 2002 under the new name of Toa Payoh Town Park. 

It covers 4.8 hectares with gazebos, fountains, waterfalls and wisteria arches. However the two predominant features are the Observation Tower and large meandering 0.8 hectare lake. 

A path surrounds the lake with small islands and picturesque ornamental Chinese style arched bridges. Larger white 70s style hexagonal blocks make up larger bridges and walkways, both have a 70s feel with a hint of Chinese. Edged with weeping willows, bottle brush trees, reeds, bull rushes and creepers. The whole park has a tranquil feel of parks I visited in Hong Kong. A Chinese peaceful zen like park, aided in this feel with the aunties and uncles partaking in their tai chi first thing in the morning. The trees were full of bird song, with mynah birds squabbling and the lake full of fish and the ever present turtles. With damsel and dragon flies darting around you can clearly see why the park was once a popular venue for wedding photographs. 

The other dominant feature, as mentioned, is the futuristic 25 metre (75 foot) tall observation tower. The tower is one of four such observation towers in Singapore that were built between 1969 and 1975. These towers were built in a futuristic, space age style, popular in that era. They take their design ideas from observation towers in Brussels, New York, Osaka and Montreal. The four observation towers in Singapore are found at 

Toa Payoh 


Jurong Hill

Chinese Garden

The tower at Toa Payoh was completed and opened in time for the SEAP Games in September 1974 and the athletes were housed next to the garden. 

Sadly the observation tower although conserved in 2009 was closed in 2011, which is a shame as I would have liked to climb and view the park and the area from above. The tower is however dwarfed by the surrounding HDBs and condos, where many of my friends live.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.

After being closed throughout my time here in Singapore, when this monolith of Victorian grandeur finally opened in July 2014, following its S$180 million restoration, I really couldn't give up the chance of having a look around at this building in the civic district here in Singapore. After a couple of failed visits, when it was closed for private events, last month finally saw me get inside.

From the outside this majestic grey and white building is in fact 2 buildings joined together by a magnificent 54 metre tall clock tower. Home to a 4 metre tall clock, weighing in at 1 tonne, which cost S$6000 when it was built at the turn of the last century. Up until a couple of months ago, following restoration, the exterior was a photographers delight, freshly painted, pristine and set in majestic surroundings, next to the Asian Civilisation museum, the Padang, and the National Gallery, however sadly at the moment and until August 2016, no such photos can be taken without a degree in Photoshop, as the exterior is currently a building site, a mass on heavy machinery, cranes, metal work and of course noise. Fortunately step inside the doors and all is forgiven.

Over its life these buildings have changed and morphed into what we see today.

1862 The Town Hall, as it was then was built, designed by architect John Bennett and built in the typical Victorian style. It was then home to the Town Hall offices as well as a theatre, but in 1863 the offices moved from the building.

Built in 1901 and officially opened in 1905, next door to the Theatre was built the Victoria Memorial Hall to commemorate Queen Victoria. This was designed by Major Alexander Murray. At the time the Memorial Hall was built the Theatre underwent a renovation to give it a similar look. 

During World War II the Memorial Hall was used as a hospital and following the end of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore it was used as the venue to hold the Japanese War crime trials. 

1954 saw it reopened following another renovation and renamed, from the Victoria Memorial Hall to the Victoria Theatre. This year on the 21 November saw the founding of the People's Action Party (PAP) following its inaugural meeting in the building... and the rest is history.

1979 saw yet another renovation where a gallery was added and again a renaming, this time it was to become the Victoria Concert Hall. Throughout the 1980s it was extended and finally on 14th February 1992 the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall was granted National Monument status. It remained until June 2010 until it closed, as mentioned, for its latest multimillion dollar refurbishment until July 2014. I wonder when the next shall be?

It is now home to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, do look out for their concerts. As I walked around the exterior I wasn't able to enter the theatre but was treated to an impromptu concert as a choir warmed up just inside the main entrance. Inside is just as stunning and magnificent as the exterior but thankfully without the construction!

The renovation now blends the old with the new very well. They haven't tried to keep everything in the old style but have the new glass walls and structures sitting right next to the old, not trying to hide their differences. 

Level 3 sees a small exhibition showcasing some of the buildings history, concerts performed and important visitors and the such.

A feeling of timelessness and solidity

Monday, 15 June 2015

Braddell Heights SG50 Mural Project

So another area celebrates Singapore's 50th anniversary. This time it's Braddell Heights, Serangoon. 

Nanyang Junior College, in 2007, decorated the void decks of the local HDBs with 30 murals in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the college. So in February of this year they decided to add another 15, making the total 50 - SG50.

As with the others the themes represent the heritage and history of the area and Singapore. 

So a big 'thank you' to my friend for contacting the college who kindly sent a map listing each mural, on each block, although it's known that a few are within the Colleges grounds, including an extremely large 40 metre long one, which is visible from the exterior. We have been invited to view the schools murals but with time running short I've decided to write this post and if I get the chance I'll add the additional school grounds ones if able.

So on one extremely hot day, a couple of weeks ago, I hopped on the bus and walked what seemed every block in Serangoon!

I'm listing these murals purely by the way I walked the area......

Block 203
Block 204
Block 207
Block 258
Block 256
Block 255
Block 257 
Block 241
Block 243
Block 239
Block 233a

Block 234a
Block 236
Block 235
Block 234
Block 233
Block 232
Block 231
Block 307 
Block 306
Block 305
Block 303
Block 302
Block 318
Block 317
Block 315
Block 308
Block 323
Block 332
Block 333
Block 334
Block 402
Block 410
Block 409
Block 414
Block 427
Block 421
Block 420
Block 415
Block 417
Block 5
Block 6
Block 7
Block 8