Tiong Bahru‘s charm has largely survived Singapore’ sweeping modernisation because the country ‘s Urban Redevelopment Authority designated it a conservation area in 2003 and carefully policies any changes to its buildings
New York Times
Tiong Bahru – One of the 50 Most Stylish Neighborhoods in the World
Complex ( New York-Based Magazine)
Do You Know …
- Tiong Bahru Estate is one of the oldest heartland in Singapore and even though over the years, upcoming new launch condos like Highline Residences, are being built in that region, the entire estate will be conserved for its unique art deco architectural styles and historical value.
- The construction style of the houses and building in the Tiong Bahru estate is a mixture of Streamline Moderne and local Straits Settlements shop-house architecture.
- It was the first housing estate project by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) and is the only housing estate that was not built by the Housing Development Board (HDB).
Below is a nice article from http://www.challenge.gov.sg/print/life-style/tiong-bahru-tales which tells us more about Singapore’s fabulous art deco architecture in the Tiong Bahru Estate
Beyond Tiong Bahru’s Hip Cafes
The hip cafes and eateries in Tiong Bahru are located in pre-war flats that were marked as conservation buildings in 2003. There are 20 of these 2- to 5-storey blocks built by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) in the 1930s and 1940s.
According to the National Heritage Board, architect Alfred G. Church was entrusted to design the flats between 1936 and 1941. His designs emphasised the clean, curved lines and rounded corners of Streamline Moderne, a late development of the Art Deco movement that was inspired by travel and technology of the 1930s.
Block 81 on Tiong Poh Road resembles an airship while Block 82 looks like an ocean liner: Spot the ship’s decks and nautical semi-circle windows. The flats were cleverly designed for the tropics, says Tiong Bahru resident Mr Kelvin Ang, who is Director of Conservation Management at the Urban Redevelopment Authority. He notes that eco-friendly features like air wells and air vents in every unit help to reduce indoor temperatures while introducing light. “There are [also] ledges above windows that prevent rain from splashing in so we can keep the windows open to cool down the flat,” he adds.
Old world charm
Tiong Bahru has become a much sought-after place to live and work in. With rentals escalating, many old-time shop owners have decided to retire and collect rent instead. In June, Hup Seng, the oldest provision shop, and Hua Bee, the oldest coffeeshop, called it a day. Still, there are those who have tales to share, for those who care to listen.
Mr Rodney Goh runs Pin Pin Piau Kay & Co, a minimart in Block 71, Seng Poh Road. His grandfather opened it in 1938. Mr Goh recalls buying meals from roadside hawkers who plied the streets outside, including the founder of the famous Tiong Bahru Pau, who used to “park his tricycle and sell one pau for 15 cents, seven for $1”.
The nostalgic Mr Goh shows off some wooden food crates from the 1960s that he still uses today. He then reaches up to a shelf and carefully unwraps his vintage baby blue leather school bag from the 1950s. “I used to sit on it while waiting for my father to take me home,” he grins.
Further down the road at Block 58, Ms Nei I-Ann runs Nelson’s Tailor, which was started by her parents in 1951. Nelson’s was originally where the current Link Hotel is. The youngest of four, Ms Nei spent her childhood days in the shop where she picked up her parents’ knack for tailoring.
Long-time residents share that Nelson’s made the first batches of Singapore Airlines’ uniforms in the early 1970s. When asked about this, Ms Nei opens a drawer and pulls out a set of the Pierre Balmain-designed kebaya. “The collar, with the intricate pleating, was the hardest to sew,” recalls Mdm Lau Hong Cheng, who has worked here since 1971 and remembers sewing uniforms for “five matchsticks” (colloquial for Rolex). Today, Nelson’s makes bespoke cheongsams for regulars but alteration requests are increasingly coming from clients who shop online.
The oldest block in the estate is Block 55 along Tiong Bahru Road. For 15 years now, residents have been enjoying mouth-watering Peranakan treats like kueh dadar and lemper udang from Galicier Confectionery. Run by Madam Soh Kee Chin and her husband, the bakery is keeping up with the times by constantly innovating. Galicier now offers German-style black wheat bread, brownies, apple pies and even jelly cakes.