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27th July 2014

Singapore Real Estate

Heritage trail explores history of Queenstown

My Queenstown Heritage Trail will also chart the evolution of public housing in Singapore through personal stories of older residents and visits to iconic landmarks.

Source: Channel News Asia / Singapore

SINGAPORE: The public can now learn more about the rich history of Singapore's first satellite estate - Queenstown - through the My Queenstown Heritage Trail.

The trail will also chart the evolution of public housing in Singapore through personal stories of older residents and visits to iconic landmarks which have been around for the past 60 years.

The two-hour trail stretching from Tanglin Road to Portsdown Road is broken down into five smaller trails based on location clusters. They include the Commonwealth, Tanglin Halt and Wessex, Mei Ling and Alexandra, Princess, and Duchess trails.

Also adding charm to the estate are the HDB apartments along Stirling Road. These apartments were the brainchild of the Singapore Improvement Trust's New Towns Working Party, which stipulated an optimal residential density of 200 persons per acre. This recommended density was achieved by building high rise apartments housing 400 persons per acre and low rise terrace units housing 150 persons per acre.

Members of the public are also in for a treat as older residents share colourful stories.

"We had a Red Indian circus here last time. There was an elephant here where everybody can touch or feel. It was open space in that corner,” recalled Mahmood Tamam, a resident at Stirling Road.

“When we were kids, we liked to play a fool with the elephant, threw stones at it and gave the elephant rubbish to eat. So I think the elephant was angry. And there was an animal keeper but he did nothing. So I think the elephant got angry, shook its head, grabbed the keeper and bounced him and the keeper died!"

The trail includes stops at Queenstown's first Catholic church, the Church of the Blessed Sacrement, as well as the Sri Muneeswaran Temple, believed to be Southeast Asia's largest Hindu shrine for the Sri Muneeswaran deity.

And at the end of the trail, the public can tuck into scrumptious hawker fare at the Tanglin Halt Neighbourhood Centre, where several pioneer businesses can be found. The centre was opened in 1962 and comprises shop units arranged at a quadrangle and stalls in the wet market. However, the centre will not be here for too long as it makes way for new developments.

The heritage trail is open to the public and interested participants can register for the free guided tour, which takes place on the last Sunday of every month, through EventBrite, or call Queenstown Community Centre at 64741681. 

- CNA/ec

Residents' tales add spice to Queenstown walk

It will be first heritage trail in S'pore to introduce estate with residents' stories

Source: Straits Times / Top of The News

QUEENSTOWN resident Mahmood Tamam was a child when he saw a travelling circus' elephant keeper get killed by the animal in the neighbourhood in the early 1960s.

"When the circus came here, some of the children would throw stones at the elephant or feed it rubbish like plastic and paper," said the 63-year-old. "I guess the elephant got angry that the keeper did not protect it."

Another resident in the estate, retiree Alice Lee, 66, was petrified when she moved to her 10th-floor flat in Tanglin Halt Road 44 years ago.

"It was my first experience in a high-rise building. I clung to my husband and dared not open my eyes when I walked from the lift to the flat," she said.

These were some of the stories shared by long-time Queenstown residents at yesterday's media preview of the revamped guided walk offered by civic group My Community.

To give a better flavour of the estate, tales of its history from the people who have lived there for decades will now be included in these free monthly walks, started in 2010.

Mr Kwek Li Yong, the group's president, said the residents had approached it to offer their participation after the Housing Board said last month that 31 residential blocks in the estate would be redeveloped under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme.

"They wanted to share their stories so people would know more about the area before it is redeveloped," he said.

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, the MP for the area, said the guided walk will be the first heritage trail in Singapore to introduce the estate's history and heritage by having its residents tell their own stories.

"Although Queenstown is small in size, our stories are big in heart and soul, and certainly speak volumes of life in the 1960s and 1970s," he added.

The heritage trail spans a large area stretching from Tanglin Road to Portsdown Road, and takes about five hours. My Community broke it down into five smaller trails.

Its guided walk combines two of the trails, but it plans to offer such walks on all five trails by next year.

The guided walk, which takes place every last Sunday of the month, includes stops at iconic landmarks such as the Queenstown Public Library.

Opened in 1970, it is now Singapore's oldest library after the old National Library at Stamford Road was torn down in 2005.

Mr Kwek noted that Queenstown was Singapore's first satellite town, and many social institutions were pioneered in the estate, including a polyclinic built in 1963.

"Although Queenstown has transformed tremendously over the years, there are still many impressive landmarks left," he said.

-By Feng Zengkun

Global Economy & Global Real Estate

Container homes prove a hit with Aussie buyers

They are cheaper, more compact, and can be built in hours

Source: Straits Times / News

In a riverside suburb of Brisbane, Ms Naomi Herzog, her fiance and their two young children watched recently as their new two-storey, four-bedroom house was built from scratch. It took just under five hours.

"It was pretty amazing to see it assembled within a morning," Ms Herzog told The Sunday Times. "There was nothing on the piece of land, and that afternoon there was a house."

But the new family home, complete with study, bathrooms and open-plan kitchen, is no ordinary structure.

It was one of the first in Australia to be built entirely out of shipping containers, part of an emerging global architecture  trend called "cargotecture". 

Using containers can reduce the cost of building a property by 20 per cent and help the environment by recycling used containers. These have been used for everything from bus shelters in the Netherlands to a German-designed Indian research station in Antarctica.

Ms Herzog, a 30-year-old business development manager, said she and her fiance wanted a home that was compact and not too expensive to build and would leave space for a big garden.

"We thought brick homes were ugly and took up too much space," she said. "We wanted something more sustainable and more organic."

So one Tuesday morning last May, they watched as their two-container house was laid down on a piece of land they had recently bought for A$265,000 (S$309,684).

They were particularly excited that the house took up only 100 sq m of their 448 sq m block, leaving space for a garden, a vegetable patch, and even space for a cricket pitch for their six-year-old-daughter and two-year-old son.

The house came with plumbing, electrical fittings, windows, internal walls, and was lockable. It still needed plastering, painting and installation of bamboo floors and an outside deck.

Being one of the country's first such houses, there were some teething problems and the builders learnt some lessons along the way, including the need for extra steel support. 

"It is beautiful - it is gorgeous," Ms Herzog said. "It is really light and open and airy and feels really structurally sound. It is really tall. It will be compact but beautiful."

The house was designed by 34-year-old Australian architect Dan Burnett, who said he spent years searching for a way to build cheap but "beautiful and modern" homes.

"I became convinced that container architecture was the model," he told The Sunday Times.

"It was the holy grail - a product that looks like good modern minimalist international architecture but for a budget price. Then it was a task of how to make these containers look beautiful and palatable in an urban environment."

A property and planning expert, Professor Douglas Baker, from Queensland University of Technology, said cargotecture derived from  research into disaster relief and ways to find fast cheap housing.

But the first homes are now being built from scratch in Australia, particularly in cities such as Brisbane, which have been moving towards higher density living with smaller lot sizes.

"It is really taking off," he told The Sunday Times.

"The price of building is very expensive in Australia. These homes are fast to build, they are efficient, they are cheap and they don't take up much space."

But the containers have not dented Australia's soaring home prices. A Brisbane house built with 31 containers, making it the largest in Australia, sold earlier this month for A$1.42 million.

Mr Burnett said a shipping container in good condition which has been used for only one shipment costs about A$6,000. The total construction cost for a shipping container house is about A$1,500 to A$1,800 per sq m, compared with A$1,130 to A$1,750 for ready-made houses and A$1,690 to A$2,100 for uniquely designed houses.

Mr Burnett said his firm, Future City Architects, has had commissions and requests from around Australia and the world. 

He said the design aim is to ensure the house does not look too brutal or too much like shopping blocks, while preserving the aesthetic qualities of the containers.

"You don't want to lose their inherent industrial beauty," he said.

Prof Baker said the architectural style suited Australia, which had a tradition of tinshed cottages dating back to the 1930s and 1940s.

 "Right now, the technology, the innovation and the design are there, combined with the downsizing of lots and the potential for much cheaper building prices," he said.

"With the rustic look, they look great - like a modernist tin shed."

-By Jonathan Pearlman, for The Sunday Times in Sydney