Adventures of a Wocket

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Architecture’s battle with growing population

Life in Singapore moves along at a fairly steady pace. Due to its climate you don’t really get much in the way of passage of time. The sun rises at 7am and sets at 7pm pretty much without fail every single day. It rises and sets quickly too. Like somebody flicking a light switch. The sun is always high and it’s always hot even if the sky isn’t always blue. It’s like the height of British summer time. (You know that week or two you get between June and September where the days are glorious and bright before everything dies and it starts raining again). Britain only really touches on the humidity though. Here it ranges from breezy and pleasant to stifling and ‘oh god why am I not dead yet!’ as soon as you step outside. I’ve been here six months now and the really hot, humid days I’ve still not adjusted to. Just yesterday I got heat stroke travelling across country on a bus, twice. o_0 Yeah three hour total journey, not even in direct sunlight and I get heat stroke. Typical.

I was actually going to write about the flora and fauna here this entry but I changed my mind as I’ve learned that unlike Australia, not everything here wants to or can kill you. A few things can, they’re normally mosquitoes but that’s for another blog entry. Probably after the Dengue outbreak has subsided so I don’t tempt fate too much. It’s been a while since I’ve updated due to job things and my mastery at procrastination. Related to the climate I’m going to talk about the homes here. 🙂

Oh how boring! Tough. I love architecture and the design of buildings and fitting the country’s almost 2 billion inhabitants into a place barely size of the Midlands in the UK. It’s a feat of engineering. Us Brits could learn a thing or two about making the most of the space around us.

The general consensus of Singapore is that everything is built tall. Many floors, many flats. That is generally true but they aren’t the only homes you’ll find in Singapore. Call me naive or whatever but I was genuinely surprised when I first saw houses here. Actual landed properties! Now houses to me that we’re used to seeing in the UK are generally two up, two down, front door, back door, some with garden some without, some terraces, some semi detached or detached. We do have fancy houses too you know for the uber rich but nothing like the landed properties I’ve seen here.

Now if you walk down any estate in the UK, I think barring the centre of any major city or old country villages, you find the same red brick house lining the streets for miles. Some might have different colours pebbled over the stone but pretty much standard houses. Especially for council houses, which you’d expect really.

NEWHAM COUNCIL ESTATE, CANNING TOWN. councilhouse

These two could be found pretty much anywhere in the UK. The houses are not too dissimilar from the house I was brought up in (except ours was nicer and had a larger garden), my mum lives in a relatively nice one now, in a pleasant estate. Nice garden, quiet street. The flats are typically found in cities or large town and they’re growing along with the population. They look fairly non descript and in some areas they can look downright untidy and ugly. There’s just no thought put into them, except to throw them up as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Which is a shame. The new houses you find in England are much pokier, narrower, creakier and smaller with tiny gardens. It makes sense when you’re running out of space I suppose but then how come a place like Singapore manages to utilise their space so well? They have more people per square meter in the whole country than England does.

Let’s look at flats. I’ve lived in some pretty flats in the UK and I’ve lived in some not so pretty ones, or at least I’ve lived near them. The privately rented ones do tend to be nicer but not always. The respect for any property and the people that live in rented property council or private isn’t high in the UK. Hell we can’t even have a nice clean bus stop without some hellion vandalizing the shit out of it! No wonder we can’t have anything nice, right?

Government flats (HDBs) in Singapore are bog standard sizes and floors. They’re all the same and yet… they’re not.

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The first picture is right in the middle of a HDB estate. Look they have colour and trees! Look at all the green that fills the space and how everything fits together. This is a fairly old estate to be fair and so isn’t as nice as some of the newer ones. The one on the right is newer and with bonus pretty sunset. They don’t give credit to the detail that goes into just the outside of these concrete boxes.

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The two pictures on the left are where I currently live. Look at the colour! Even during a storm they don’t look dull. The ones on the right are taken in China square, they’re pretty much close to the city and they aren’t an eye sore. Well I don’t think they are in comparison to say flats in our cities. They use space and colour and greenery here, something we’re sorely lacking in the UK. We just like to add more concrete to everything, ugly ugly concrete.

Now not all places are like this. There are some beautiful towns and villages and even parts of cities that do this. Yorkshire and the Lake District for example have extremely picturesque housing and landscape. Even parts of London does! In Singapore though, pretty much all the modern (being in the last 20 years or so) are made to a standard which attempts at the very least not to be ugly. Especially seeing as they have to build tall here so it’s going to be noticed. There are ugly places here too, don’t get me wrong but none that make me say, ‘urgh, wouldn’t want to go there on my own in broad daylight’. (Actually nowhere in Singapore makes you want to say that, except for maybe right in the city or in more remote, poorly lit areas and only ever at night. It’s just safe here. Everywhere pretty much.

The prettiest flats tend to be the condominiums. This is not a word we have in the UK. We don’t really have this style of housing. These are flats built for luxury. They tend to be little communities within gated walls. They can have shops, a gym, a swimming pool, just to name a few amenities. These range from affordable to nope just nope in the price range and are usually reserved for business people, expats and the super wealthy. That is unless you’re lucky enough to find a nice one at a decent price to rent. I could rent one but I’d likely have to share with people. It’s like private accommodation in the UK, you rent a room and share the living areas and amenities.

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Look at the shiny! These are in the East part of the country and they do vary. Not all are this nice and some look remarkably like HDBs until you get inside them :p

Now onto housing, landed properties as they’re called here. They’re big! Narrow and long but big. Some can have as many as three or four floors to one house and each floor can have up to five rooms, maybe more. I don’t actually know the exact figures I haven’t counted and haven’t been in many.

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These aren’t the best examples as I was on the bus at the time. In passing here are some landed properties. Even if they have the same design they have different coloured roofs or different shapes and different number of floors. Some are mostly glass and others have multiple balconies. They can be astonishingly pretty from the outlandishly garish. Also there’s this one at the top of the hill:

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That tiny white spec in the top left is a house. A massive massive house ^_^;; They can be beautiful but these really are for people with money. Unless you get to rent a room in one that is.

If you don’t believe me how visually outstanding and downright ugly they can be; then type in ‘landed property, Singapore’ into your search engine and click on images. Some of the architecture and infrastructure of this country can take your breath away and other parts of it can make you recoil. 

I can’t remember the last time modern architecture in the UK made me feel anything other than; ‘Oh it’s another glass building, that’s nice’ or ‘meh’. The most beautiful buildings in the UK tend to be in the couple of hundreds of years old. Singapore still emulates some of our older victorian style buildings but for the most part it’s moving away to embrace more modern styles and forward thinking. They must use all the space they have but it also must be livable, for a country that shies away from creativity, it’s nice to see that it is embraced in a lot of their buildings, even their malls.

Sadly though, like with anywhere in the world with large and fast growing population, with the rate the housing, pretty and otherwise is being thrown up, there’ll soon be very little in the way of landscape left to look at.

I have never really been a city girl and if there’s one thing I’m nostalgic for, it’s Britain’s rolling countryside. Long may it be cherished and protected. Here have a couple of pictures. The one on the left is Britain, the one on the right is Singapore.

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There’s something to suit everyone. 🙂

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