Friday, May 26, 2017

Spooner Road HDB Flats

Upon riding at Kampong Bahru Road, I have passed by a pair of two HDB apartment buildings numerous times. Though they look like the typical 70s era HDB flats. The thing that caught my eye is the name on the blocks, "Melati" and "Kemuning" and the surrounding fencing.
Spooner Road flats as seen from Kampong Bahru Road
Since I had some free time, I decided to do some urban exploring and research. And I found quite a few interesting facts and articles on it.
Sponer Road street sign.
Spooner Road, the short minor lane that leads into the estate is named after Charles Edwin Spooner, a British engineer who later became General Manager of the Federated Malay States Railways in 1901. Upon research, the Running Bungalow, (located along Spooner Road before the flats) were built in the 1930s together with the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. I had assumed that Spooner Road was built during this time to to commemorate his passing in 1909.
The carpark of Spooner Road estate.
With a typical 70s era HDB design and format, the two apartment buildings with a total of 318 units of 1, 2 and 3 rooms, were built in the 1970s by the HDB for the Malaysian Railways, and are named after the flowers; "Kemuning" and "Melati" meaning "Orange jessamine" and "Jasmine" from Malay respectively. 
Block 1 "Kemuning", Spooner Road.
Despite being built by Singapore's HDB and had a typical design of that era, it was very much under Malaysian land and sovereignty. It had remained so until the land swap deal in 2011. 
Block 2 "Melati", Spooner Road.
The flats were formerly the quarters to house personnel of Jabatan Kastam Diraja Malaysia (Royal Malaysian Customs Department) and Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) (Malayan Railways Limited) stationed in Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. It is currently used as rental apartments for the low-income.
The front facade of Block 2.
1st floor corridor of Block 1.
Unlike most of the HDB flats, which were subjected to periodical upgrading and addition of amenities such as lifts in every floors, playgrounds ect, these pair of flats seemed to be landlocked in time as they were in control of the Malaysian government and were not subjected to any kind of upgrading.
Lift lobby of Blk 1.
Lift Lobby of Blk 2
The mailboxes of Blk 1
Blk 2 ground corridor.
From the above photos, you can really see that the place is seemed to be stuck in the 80s. Due to the fact that these flats are under the jurisdiction of the Malaysian government, it has resisted the changes that other HDB flats go through over the years.
The view from the 7th floor from Block 2.
The former railway yard now overgrown with vegetation.
SIT Flats of Kg Bahru Road can be seen across from blk 1
When the site was handed over to Singapore on 1 July 2011, the area became the responsibility of the Singapore Land Authority. For a while, the flats were left vacant, and in December 2012, the flats were handed over to HDB for rental with the Public Rental Scheme for lower income families and Interim Rental Housing for families facing a transition in their housing arrangement.
Blk 1 Lift Lobby at level 7
The lifts stopped on the floors 1, 4 and 7.
The unkept staircase gives off a 70s feel to the place.
The level 7 common corridor of Blk 2
The level 7 common corridor of Blk 1

The carpark viewed from level 7 of Blk 2
Blk 2 as viewed from Blk 1.
Rear of Blk 2
As with HDB flats built during that era, the apartments on the first floor feature poles for drying of laundry. Most flats built after that era feature a void deck for communal activities and gatherings
An abandoned building next to Blk 2 
The above abandoned building may have served as the control station of the former train yard of the KTM. The building has since been closed off and abandoned.
MSF Social Welfare office at Blk 2.
Looking around, there really isn't much amenities, shops, food stalls or even a supermarket. One has to walk a distance to the nearest shopping area at Jalan Bukit Merah.  
The estate management office.
As a HDB rental estate, it mostly caters to low income and less well off families. There is a Ministry of Social and Family Development Social Service Office at the ground floor of Blk 2. Managed by CPG Corporation Pte. Ltd, it has an office in Blk 1, unique to this estate. There is also a security office next to the Management Office.
Cats are also the many residents that roam around the estate.
The Spooner Road flats are currently being tenanted out to HDB from the SLA for a period of 10 years till 2021. Till then, we may not know the fate of these historic flats.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mereka Utusan - Imprinting Malay Modernity (Part 1)

I stumbled onto this exhibition on Facebook and for a few weeks, I wanted to come down and see it for myself. My schedule was quite packed but I happen to found some time on a Saturday.
Mereka Utusan - Imprinting Malay Modernity
"Mereka Utusan" - Imprinting Malay Modernity; according to the guidebook, the "Mereka" in the title does not mean "They" but rather "The act of creation". "Utusan" means "Messengers". Directly translated to English, "Mereka Utusan" literally means "Creating Messengers".

Exhibition description in Gallery 1
As stated in the title, the exhibition shows the development of Malay modernity and identity and the progression and evolvement of the Malay Language thru publication of the 1920s till the 1960s. This exhibition also preserves the legacy of what the Malay identity and language was back in the day.
Gallery 1 of the exhibition.
The temporary exhibition Since October 16th 2016 till June 25th 2017 is housed within the temporary galleries 1 and 2 of the Malay Heritage Center.

Humble Beginnings - Permulaan

Beginnings of an Industry
The beginnings of Malay related publication started from the Straits Settlements during the late 19th century. Kampong Glam became an important publishing center sometime later in the 20th century and initially catered to the publication of religious texts. It soon expanded to newspapers, magazines and novels.

First Malay Publications - Penerbitan Melayu Pertama

The front page of "Jawi Peranakan".
Description of the item above
Jawi Peranakan is the first ever Malay newspaper, forming the basis of the Malayan identity. Also, in the early years, publications are usually reserved for religious and conservative publications due to the influence of Islam and its conservative nature onto Malay Culture .

Hot off the Press - Berita-Berita Terkini

Hot Off the Press
With the introduction of sophisticated printing presses from the Dutch and British, a Malay newspaper with regular circulation was made possible thru "Utusan Malayu" (Jawi: اوتوسن ملايو; Post-1972 Spelling: Utusan Melayu) or Malay Mail in English. Eunos Abdullah was the paper's first editor. This publication further sets the standards for the writing of the Malay Language.
A page of Utusan Malayu.
Description of the Above
Hikayat Munshi Abdullah
Munshi Abdullah learning how to print in "Hikayat Abdullah"
As above, in Malay

Printing Technologies - Teknologi Percetakan

The Technologies of printing made it possible for publications to reach the common man and played a major role in standardizing the Malay Language. This include Lithography, Letterpressing and Color Printing. 
A letterpress plate stating "برساتو"
The above, as printed on paper.
"Bersatu" Music Scoresheet by Zubir Said.
With the rise of Malay nationalism, there were several efforts to united the Malay population for independence against colonialism. Here as seen above is a letterpress plate in Jawi; "كماجوان دان كقواتن داڤت دچاڤاي دڠن برساتو" (Rumi: "Kemajuan dan kekuatan dapat dicapai dengan bersatu"; English; "Progress and strength can only be achieved thru unity") The theme of unity can seen today in many Malayan contexts such as Malaysia's state motto, ""Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu" ("Unity Is Strength")
Hiboran Magazines in the 40s and 50s.
Color printing, a milestone back in the day.
Color printing was a huge accomplishment in early publications. But it was a tedious process as it had to be printed several times to achieve more colors. As seen above, misalignments may occur resulting in misprints.

Across the Straits - Di Seberang Selat

An invoice to The Royal Press.
Adana Machine
Description of the above item.
Adana Machine, is a printing machine typically used to print typically used to print small items, particularly leaflets, involves, brochures and in come cases, books. It was manufactured in the UK from 1922 to 1999. It also may have been used to print the invoice in the above picture.

Written with Erasure - Ditulis Dengan Coretan

A panorama of Za'ba's mock-up office
In the 1950s, the Malay Language went for a pivotal change with the implementation of "Tulisan Rumi" (Roman script), the script that defined the typography of the Malay Language today. The reason behind this was to reach out to non-Jawi literate audience; such as immigrants and the British as Malay at that era was the lingua franca of the archipelago. It was an effort spearheaded by renowned Malay scholar Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad (Better known as "Za'aba") who supported this change 
A quote by Za'aba not to disregard the Jawi script.
Despite spearheading the change from Jawi to Roman letters, in the above quote in 1957, Za'aba advised the Malay community to retain the use of Jawi as it is still our heritage. This is also a quote that I highly regard myself.

Setting the Standard - Menetapkan Standard

Size and Design.
With the advent of World War 1, publications became an increasing demand. Magazines and newspapers sought to use this opportunity to gain readership for their respective publications and increased the pages, featured covers with models and celebrities. Because of this, there is an increase in literacy of the Malay population in the Straits Settlements.

Mastika Magazine

"Mastika" Magazines in the 40s and 50s
Description of the item above.
Some info on Masika Magazine and the changes it went thru.
Majalah Mastika (Jawi: مستيك) a magazine that is still in publication till today, mainly concerned with local and regional socio-political affairs. It went thru many drastic changes to attract its readership.

Hiboran Magazine

Hiboran Magazine issued during the 50s
Info on the items above
Some info on Hiboran.
Hiboran (Jawi: هيبورن) translates to "Entertainment" from Malay. From its name, the magazine covers entertainment related news. It also features political, social and cultural issues. Unlike Mastika, Hiboran's existence spans slightly over a decade.

Content - Kandungan

Introduction to Content
A page off Hiboran, "Will Malay Culture be Lost?"
The contents of publications evolved overtime, beginning with shipping movement and exchange and commodity rates; lacking the discussion. From the 1920s onwards, serious subject matters such as religious, socio-political and social issues were brought into the publications. With the evident of decolonialism and the push of Malayan independence, issues of independence, nationhood and even the discussion of the loss of Malay culture as seen in the above photo made their way into publications.

Due to the length of this subject matter, will be continued in Part 2.