It's a walk through the path of dreamers

One of the works introduced to me by my Asian literature professor in class was a poem by a Singapore writer. It talked about Singapore’s fast-changing landscape but, unfortunately, I can’t remember the title or the author. Was it by Lee Tzu Pheng or Edwin Thumboo or Goh Poh Peng? It was easy not to forget the point of the poem because, at that time, it was incomprehensible for me to grasp the idea of a fast-changing landscape. How fast can Singapore’s landscape change?

I soon realized what it meant when I found myself residing in the Garden City. What you saw several months or a couple of years ago wouldn’t be there anymore – be it a café, restaurant or hotel. Hotel Phoenix, which was adjacent to the old John Little department store, used to stand on Somerset Road, but both hotel and mall were demolished some time back to make way for the swanky, eye-catching 313@Somerset that, admittedly, is a mall I favour over Orchard @ Central with its confusing layout. 313@ Somerset was under construction before I left for a stint in Indonesia, its wooden walls promising a myriad shopping and dining options. It was in full operation when I flew in for a visit and was given a full tour by a friend sometime at the end of 2009.

Giant drops right before your eyes

ION is another eye-catching-in-a-not-so-pleasant-way architectural feature dotting the mall-crowded area of Orchard Road. The colossal mall flattened that nice hill where festivals and bazaars were once held.  I was told that from a condominium on Patterson Road you can admire the early morning rays tap-dancing on the greenery. Now, one’s gaze is met with a building that doesn’t blink until the setting of the sun.

Of all the new structures dotting Singapore’s skyline, I am awed by the architectural splendour of Marina Bays Sands, its three-column structure topped by an elongated disc standing strikingly against the blue, or black, backdrop. I never imagined that the pre-construction ground I was able to visit when I was still a journalist would yield this massive edifice that exudes elegance.

Of all residential areas, Hougang was one area I swore never to set foot on again. Chalk it up to bad memories and a tiring journey. But I broke that promise and journeyed to Hougang to attend a breakfast party, discovering that it no longer was the sleepy, far-flung, barren area next to the Woodbridge Mental Institution that everyone considered as an absolutely déclassé neighbourhood to be residing in. Getting to Hougang was not long and tedious. Its new Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) station is fast and, like all new MRT stations, immaculately clean. Noticeable in the architecture is the high ceiling that doesn’t make one feel claustrophobic unlike in the red-line trains that plough the routes of Dhoby Ghaut to Jurong. Even the bus interchange has been transformed into a busy hive of commuters arriving, departing and waiting.

The seats of champions

MRT stations are the most obvious signs of changes to the landscape apart from the conspicuously ubiquitous malls. The stations have made travelling faster, which you’ll only realize after you’ve mastered the layout of the new stations that isn’t hard to do since all stations are more than adequately fitted with signs and directories. Promenade station caught my eye because of the installation art dangling from the ceiling that I was gawking at for several minutes after alighting. For one, the tremendous art piece seemed to weigh tons so thoughts of forklifts trundling in to assemble it skittered through my mind. Second, the representation of drops was refreshing, capturing it in slow motion as a newly formed one prepared to jump to the floor.

Deloitte and a mini Mount Olympus welcome visitors

Another eye-catching (the pleasant kind) architectural feature, from the walk  out of Promenade to the Singapore Flyer then to the Helix Bridge, greeted me as I crossed Bayfront Avenue. That the Youth Olympic Park actually existed stunned me because only Singapore in Asia seems to be able to pull such feats of creating structures in honour of grand events. The grand event in this case is the much-awaited Youth Olympic Games that they’ll be playing host to this August.  The park was a welcome respite from Orchard Road and its malls although sitting on one of the concrete cube seats would have resulted in serious sunburn.

Singapore has come a long way from the swampy kampong that Sir Stamford Raffles stumbled upon.  Through its 45 years, it made its way to the centre of the global stage of development.  The signs of further advancement are rife if changing landscapes are the gauge of progress – what’s next after the malls and MRT stations?

Photography by Fistri Abdul Rahim


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Fistri on August 1, 2010 at 4:33 am

    m not too sure if every changing landscape is a good thing..i feel lost sometimes..somehow in its need to stay “relevant and up to date to the minute” I find Singapore losing its identity every passing second, Thus becoming nothing but a shell for play..its nothing sort of a theme park actually..with no soul


  2. Posted by thejellyfarm on August 8, 2010 at 2:24 am

    Agreed with fistri…hardly any memories left for those of us who grew up here…strangely such rapid changes to the island’s landscape is alienating, rather than comforting. Anyway, I for one, hate city life. I’m more of ‘kampong’ girl and enjoy the solitude of nature.


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