I paid a visit to a piece - or should I say four pieces - of architectural heritage in the west of Singapore: The Diamond Blocks of Taman Jurong.
Blocks 63 to 66 Yung Kuang Road were completed in 1973 by Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) to house workers who staffed the fledgling Jurong Industrial Estate a short distance away. JTC later handed the blocks over to the Housing and Development Board (HDB).
At 21 storeys, the 456-unit development was the tallest landmark in the area; the unique diamond footprint formed by the four blocks gave it added iconic status.
However, as newer residential blocks with more spacious flats (the Diamond Blocks comprised mostly three-room rental flats) came up around Taman Jurong, Blocks 63 to 66 gradually fell out of favour.
From 2001, HDB began relocating tenants to other nearby rental blocks. From 2009 to 2014, the blocks were offered as low-cost housing to people without permanent homes; from 2015, they were used for HDB’s Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme, in which families received temporary housing while they waited for Build-To-Order flats.
The COVID-19 pandemic gave the Diamond Blocks a further lease of life - last year, they temporarily housed healthy migrant workers in essential services. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen to the blocks once the pandemic is brought under control.
From the outside, the blocks look pretty drab. The architecture is simple and utilitarian, reflective of the times in which they were constructed.
Once inside the quadrangle, though, look up for awe-inspiring views!
I can imagine the quadrangle as a community space in the past. All common corridors face inward towards it, meaning residents could watch activities or performances from their common corridors. Want to speak to everyone in all 84 floors? Stand with a loudhailer in the middle of the quadrangle!
The first floor is for shops, the second for commercial spaces; residential units start from the third floor. Unfortunately, access to the third floor and above is closed.
A view of the third-floor units from behind the locked gate.
All spaces on the second floor are shuttered.
On the first floor, a handful of shops remain open - a bakery, barber, minimart, and eatery, among others.
There is also an NTUC Fairprice supermarket open since May 1983, when it was officially launched by then-Communications Minister Ong Teng Cheong, later the fifth President of Singapore.
Minister Ong (left) at the launch of the supermarket.
In front of the Diamond Blocks...
As the sun set on Taman Jurong, I also realised the sun was setting on a historic landmark.