Not just grey concrete: 7 HDB blocks with unusual designs

HDB flats with unusual shapes found in (clockwise from top left) Ang Mo Kio, Aljunied, Whampoa and Toa Payoh.
HDB flats with unusual shapes found in (clockwise from top left) Ang Mo Kio, Aljunied, Whampoa and Toa Payoh.PHOTOS: ST FILE

"Diamond blocks" refer to flats built in the 1970s by the JTC Corporation in the western part of Singapore. They are connected to form a diamond with a courtyard in the middle.

A few remain in Yung Kuang Road and Boon Lay Drive. They are one example of an unusual design in public housing before the present-day crop of showcase projects like the Pinnacle and SkyVille @ Dawson.

Here are some estates where you can find Housing Board (HDB) flats which do not fit into the usual mould.

1. Ang Mo Kio

A photo of the circular Block 259 in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 2 taken in 2005. PHOTO: ST FILE

The circular Block 259 in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 2 immediately comes to mind. Made up of four 25-storey circular columns, it has been re-named The Clover @ Kebun Baru.

They are the first and only circular flats in Singapore, and there is an interesting story behind them.

The block, completed in 1981, was meant to be the signature building that marks the start of Ang Mo Kio town.

As the pressure to build more flats quickly eased in the 1980s, the HDB began experimenting with different designs. The idea was to have one unique building at the entrance of each town, but this evolved into having unique design features for each HDB cluster.

There were some complaints from potential home owners then that it would be hard to fit furniture and install fittings into the circular rooms.

2. Aljunied

The two main pitches at the Home United Youth Football Academy (HYFA) in Mattar Road. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

The circular theme was not completely abandoned however. As some blocks from the early 1980s show.

Point blocks with circular balconies and rounded corners can be found in Aljunied Road, and Zion Road.

3. Toa Payoh

The 19-storey "VIP" Block 53 in Toa Payoh Lorong 5 which features a prominent Y-shaped design and has hosted foreign dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth II. PHOTO: ST FILE

Did you know that Toa Payoh means big swamp? That was what it was in the 1900s. In the 1960s, it became the first housing estate planned and built solely by HDB.

By 1972, it was a full-fledged satellite town and saw a young Queen Elizabeth II visiting Block 53 in Lorong 5.

Queen Elizabeth II toured Toa Payoh during her visit to Singapore in February 1972. PHOTO: ST FILE

The 19-storey building was one of the tallest in Toa Payoh, and a rooftop viewing gallery offered guests a great view of what was then a new town.

An aerial view of the block shows its Y-shaped design. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS

It also sported a Y-shaped design that remains unique to this day.

4. Whampoa and Queenstown

Jalan Bahagia, Jalan Ma'mor and Jalan Tenteram together have 199 units of Housing & Development Board (HDB) terrace houses, one of only two such estates in Singapore today. The other estate is in Stirling Road, Queenstown. PHOTO: ST FILE


Rare HDB landed homes in Whampoa and Queenstown were built decades ago by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), HDB's predecessor.

There are just 285 such houses in Singapore. While expensive for public housing, they are some of the cheapest landed homes in Singapore.

In 2015, one sold for $958,000. That works out to $370 per sq ft for the 241 sq m house.

5. Bubble lifts

The new bubble lift with transparent panels at Block 663 Zhujiao Centre (Tekka Market). The lift was installed as part of Tekka Market’s $10.4 million renovation and Lift Upgrading Programme at Blocks 661 to 664. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Some blocks in areas such as Jurong East Street 24, Buffalo Road in Little India, and Sims Drive in Aljunied got bubble lifts when their lifts were upgraded in 2007.

They were faster and cheaper to build, and, certainly, a hit with children.

6. Kampong Silat

The 13 low-rise blocks of flats at Kampong Silat is the second pioneering estate planned by the now-defunct Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) to be a self-contained "village". All of its residents have moved out, after the site was selected for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme in February 2007. The now-vacant area is earmarked for future residential development. PHOTO: ST FILE


Kampong Silat was the second pioneering estate planned by the SIT to be a self-contained "village", after Tiong Bahru.

It was built between 1948 and 1952.

The design is described as "very elegant and well considered in their proportions and visual balance in relation to the undulating terrain" on the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) website.

Five of the blocks have been gazetted for conservation while about 10 were demolished.

7. Tiong Bahru

Block 78 which straddles Moh Guan Terrace and Guan Chuan Street, is designed in the shape of a horse-shoe. PHOTO: ST FILE


Block 78, a art-decor pre-war development, has three street names attached to it. Built in 1936 by the British, the U-shaped, four-storey block is in the heart of Tiong Bahru.

And depending on which side of the block you are at, the address will be different.

Flats in the centre of the block have the address 78 Moh Guan Terrace.

Those on the west side have the address 78 Yong Siak Street, while those on the east have the address 78 Guan Chuan Street.

It was gazetted by the URA as a conservation area in 2003.