Friday, August 29, 2014

Singapore Shophouses

Most of Singapore is comprised of enormous post-1960 housing and office blocks, generally neatly painted in various shades of white or pastels.
But since Singapore has been a densely populated city for almost two hundred years, there is in fact a fair amount of historic architecture, which nowadays is mostly lovingly tended and strictly regulated (urban development projects at one time meant massive destruction, in favor of constructing the space efficient high-rises: but this is no longer the case).
Shophouse street
I love the architectural details
I went on a tour late last year of Singapore's "shophouses", one of the unique architectural forms of Southeast Asia. They are mostly two or three story buildings built in rows, open to the street on the first floor (where the covered pavement area in front, or "five foot way", becomes a combination continuation of the building's purpose and public footpath): typically this level would be used as a store, with residential quarters above. They are usually very narrow but deep, and to provide light in these conditions almost always include an interior courtyard open to the sky (same as the Romans! makes my classicist side happy).

Originally the second larger set of doors would have stood open most of the time, for coolness
The back of the shophouses: they run an entire block-length
They are still lived in, though nowadays mostly as luxury and very expensive accommodation (gone are the days when 15 families would cram together in one building, each limited to a single room). We used to go to playdates at one woman's shophouse (before she moved to a luxury condo property for the facilities). I love their historical charm and detail, even if actually living in one is beyond both my price range and my interest in home management (the space is large and requires a lot of upkeep).
It's for rent!
Currently lived-in shophouse
Pretty swanky, no?

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