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Ghost town in Commonwealth Drive comes alive

Now empty, Singapore's chap lau chu in Commonwealth are the highlight of a quirky showcase

Published on Jul 6, 2014 11:47 AM

They do not look any different from their neighbours in the vicinity, but seven blocks of flats will be the subject of a photo exhibition to be held later this month.

A group of recent Nanyang Technological University (NTU) graduates have zoomed in on the chap lau chu, Singapore's first 10-storey flats, built in 1962 by the Housing Board in Commonwealth Drive. These are the latest heritage buildings to be memorialised by young Singaporeans, as the flats have been vacated following an en bloc redevelopment scheme announced in 2008.

The project is the students' attempt to look at history in a fun, offbeat manner. Titled Chap Lau Chu: The Reopening Of Commonwealth Drive, Tanglin Halt, it will display five photos, two videos, a soundscape, a magazine and props used during shoots. It will be held at the Objectifs Centre for Photography and Filmmaking from July 24 to Aug 18.

The exhibition stars karung guni man Chua Thiam Seng, 60, who lived for 30 years in a three-room flat in one of the blocks earmarked for redevelopment. He moved into a four-room flat nearby in January.

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Background story

"Previously, people gave Mr Chua Thiam Seng their trash and didn't really talk to him. Now, with the estate vacated and almost ghost-like,  he can be almost anything he wants  to be." 

MS MALVINA TAN on getting the karung guni man and former resident of the chap lau chu to star in the project, Chap Lau Chu: The Reopening Of Commonwealth Drive, Tanglin Halt