Friday, May 20, 2011

Building Blocks

Recently, as I was waiting for my bus to IKEA from the bus stop opposite Queensway MRT Station, I was shocked to find that the apartment block beside it that I have grown so used to awaiting demolition.

Built in the 1970s, such an apartment block is indeed a rarity with apartments above and provision shops below. While I do not go there often, I used to buy snacks and drinks to fill my tummy whenever I am waiting for a bus to go to IKEA. It really feels like seeing an old friend go without you knowing. Hence, I decided to capture some of its features that are no longer seen in the modern apartment blocks.

(Clockwise from top left: A Shopfront, Letterboxes, Old Pawnshop, Sign Spotted at Pawnshop) 

While taking these pictures, I thought to myself: in the face of rapid changes, what is worth preserving? I turned to my aunt and asked her if she thinks if such an apartment block should be preserved or totally demolished. She replied that it should make way for change as it does not have architectural value such as the likes of Raffles Hotel or the shophouses in Arab Street.

While it is a rational argument, the nostalgist in me could not bear to see it go and I struggled internally to find the architectural value in this apartment block to render it worth preserving. After much thought, I realised that while apartment blocks in the '70s are built with practicality rather than aesthetics in mind, it does reveal how one lives way back then. When this apartment block was built, Singapore is still a fledgling nation and a main concern for the government is to find ways to integrate the people. As such, it is no wonder that this apartment block is a self-contained community where housewives buy groceries below and share the week's gossip or the children could play catch in the open spaces while their mothers keep a watchful eye from the corridors above.

In this light, I feel that at least one of such apartment blocks could be preserved for posterity. Singapore's history should not be found only in pictures. Unfortunately, in the hunger to push ahead the physical remnants of history becomes a thing of the past.

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