Refreshed look for Geylang Serai seeks to appeal to all while retaining cultural identity

A Festive Plaza at Joo Chiat Complex will serve as a sheltered event space for key festivals. PHOTO: BDP ARCHITECTS (SOUTHEAST ASIA) PTE LTD
Visitors to the popular Geylang Serai Market will be able to get there via new cycling lanes. PHOTO: BDP ARCHITECTS (SOUTHEAST ASIA) PTE LTD

SINGAPORE - Visitors to the popular Geylang Serai Market will be able to make use of sheltered rest points and get there via new cycling lanes when improvement works to the area are completed.

They can also attend cultural events at a festive plaza in front of Joo Chiat Complex, and take in a landmark structure on Changi Road that symbolises the transition of the area from a former Malay settlement to a vibrant community precinct.

These new developments, part of a rejuvenation project to strengthen the area's cultural identity and make it a more vibrant place for all visitors, were unveiled on Friday (July 16).

Ideas for designs were gathered through a competition organised by the Singapore Institute of Architects, and the winning proposal was from a multidisciplinary team led by BDP Architects (South-east Asia), and comprising SC Consultants, W2Square Consultancy, DK Outsource and Savills (Singapore).

They will be commissioned to develop the design and oversee the project's implementation with several agencies - the People's Association, the Housing Board, the National Environment Agency and the Land Transport Authority.

"Geylang Serai is an important cultural hub," said BDP architect director Andrew Loke. "We wanted a place where people can come together, that appeals to both Malays and non-Malays, at the same time making sure that the space is activated by community activities throughout the day."

Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, who chairs the steering committee for the Geylang Serai Cultural Precinct and announced the winners, said: "Our multicultural fabric is priceless and we must make every effort to preserve it - creating spaces for each cultural community to showcase its rich heritage for others to appreciate and celebrate."

He added: "Developing the Geylang Serai Cultural Precinct is more than just physical upgrading and architectural streetscape. Physical spaces must be activated through dynamic cultural programmes that celebrate the rich heritage of the place and continue to breathe life to Malay culture."

The event also saw the ground-breaking ceremony of Anjung@WGS, a 1,820 sq m hard court located beside Wisma Geylang Serai and fronting Geylang Road and Changi Road.

The space will be used for ceremonial occasions, social meetings and sports activities, and is expected to be completed by mid-2022.

National Development Minister Desmond Lee, who was guest of honour at the event, said: "Places like Geylang Serai are not just spaces where certain ethnic communities thrive and flourish, but are also spaces where different races can interact, and learn to appreciate each other's cultures."

A Landmark Gateway will represent an interpretation of Malay Kampong house stilts built with modern material. PHOTO: BDP ARCHITECTS (SOUTHEAST ASIA) PTE LTD

Such areas, which include Little India, Chinatown and Kampong Gelam, are important cultural anchors for the identity and heritage of Singapore's ethnic communities, he noted. "These places remain and continue to be important cultural anchors, as a result of the integrated approach we take towards our city planning," he said.

"But beyond the hardware and the planning, we also want these places to capture the vision and identity of our local communities. And that is why we invite members of these communities to step forward, work with all of us to continually refresh these places, and keep them vibrant and yet continue to express our cultural identities, be true to our heritage, even as they evolve over time," Mr Lee added.

He also said that care is taken to make sure that such places are inclusive and accessible to everyone, regardless of their backgrounds.

"We make sure that these places are also well served by public transport to make them easy for anyone to come and visit. And this is the outcome of integrated, long-term planning, where inclusive neighbourhoods and communities are built, where the diverse heritage of our nation is valued, and where everyone is welcome."

Correction note: This article has been edited for accuracy.

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