HDB tour and ang ku kueh moulds: Little eye-openers on a walk around the heartland

What do Housing Board flats have to do with shophouses? Or with ang ku kueh moulds?

More than I would have thought, as it turns out. On a recent local walking tour, I also discover that spending a couple of hours ambling around the heartland can be more interesting than I would have imagined. (Yes, even if the new cooling measures may be squelching the property market.)

It is probably not a tour I would have considered signing up for, to be honest. The "Evolution of Public Housing – An Architecture and History Tour through the Everton, Cantonment and Pinnacle Housing Estates" sounds very much like an educational tour, something that only tourists and architectural or history students would be interested in.

Indeed, most of the guests joining tour guide Yeo Pei Shyuan on the walk have tended to be expatriates, students and locals who have not lived in a HDB flat. ("Crazy Rich Asians," we joke.)

But if you are looking for something a little different from the "usual" exploration of historical and heritage areas around Singapore – and a way to use up your SingapoRediscover Vouchers, which you will need to redeem by the end of December – this might be worth considering.

While more than 80 per cent of Singaporeans live in HDB flats, many may not know much about the story behind them or the evolution that they have gone through since HDB was set up in 1960 to provide homes for the bulk of the population.

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Ms Yeo herself finds Singapore-style public housing intriguing. "I've lived overseas for some years and seen public housing elsewhere. There is nothing like this on earth," she enthuses.

She grew up in Tiong Bahru – where the first public homes were built by the pre-war Singapore Improvement Trust – and now lives around Cantonment Road, the site of our two-hour walking tour.

This area, as she proceeds to show us, houses HDB flats from three eras.

The slab blocks in Everton Park reflect the ethos of early post-Independence years of public housing, when the priority was to build as many flats as possible.

"They were all standardised so they could be built quickly, just like this," notes Ms Yeo, holding aloft the ang ku kueh mould.

At the same time, HDB was already giving some thought to building communities, and not just homes. Many of the blocks around Everton Park feature shops and coffee shops on the ground floor. "They're modelled after shophouses," she points out.

Artmotion Asia

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