Mesmerising photos show how Singapore housing changed over the years

Mesmerising photos show how Singapore housing changed over the years

Have you ever stopped to notice how densely populated Singapore is? In this land-scarce country, the majority of residents would have lived in dense, high-rise apartments for most, if not all of their lives.

The rise and rise of apartment buildings in Singapore has often been seen by outsiders as remarkable, especially since many of its residents were still living in squatter huts and sheds less than 60 years ago.

The Housing Board's first seven-storey residential blocks were completed at Stirling Road in 1960, and since then, public apartments as high as 50 storeys (Pinnacle @ Duxton) have been built.

According to the Department of Statistics' General Household Survey conducted in 2015, more than 80 per cent of people living in Singapore reside in HDB flats. Another 14 per cent of the population live in condominiums and other apartments.

For civil servant Lim Meng Jin, the residential density in Singapore has become a telling feature of the culture and lifestyles of people living in this busy yet organised city.

The 36-year-old finds the residential situation here so interesting that he has taken on a personal project to document these high-density, high-rise apartments in a series of photographs.

Titled 'Residensity', the project began in early 2016 and is still ongoing. In an e-mail interview with AsiaOne, Lim says he was inspired by photographer Michael Wolf's 'Architecture of Density' about the dense urban living conditions in Hong Kong.


Although he has found it difficult to juggle his personal project while holding a full-time job, Lim says that he looks forward to the challenge of capturing each photograph whenever he gets an idea for one. And the positive response to his photos on social media so far certainly act as a form of encouragement.

"I had a delightful comment on one of the features, saying that the colour that this feature brings as compared to European buildings is very stark, where in European countries, the buildings are mostly just drab and grey," he says, adding that he hopes to show off Singapore to the world and prove that "we're not so boring after all".

Lim has captured apartment buildings of all sorts in his photographs; from the sleek and cool to brightly-coloured blocks with artistic paintings on them.

He also hopes, that through these photos, Singaporeans will take notice of the buildings they live and work in, and be able to see their own 'faces' in the kind of lifestyle or culture each photo portrays.

On the absence of human bodies in most of his photos, Lim explained that that the absence of human subjects puts these buildings into a different perspective.

"In a way the omission of human bodies, provides a stark contrast to some of the buildings. Yet at the same time, you notice that there are pertinent signs of human life somehow that still exists," he says.

He chooses to shoot his photographs in the morning, as he believes the way natural light falls onto his subjects gives them particular depth and character.

And of course, Lim has learned a thing or two about Singapore from his project.

"I've seen the slow shift of our human architecture from a lateral form (e.g. long corridors that were designed to enhance interaction) to a more multi-tiered, multi-functional environment that integrates many functions and facilities within a space," he says, noting that social and communal spaces have slowly overlapped into functional spaces.

Not only that, the way Singapore's residential blocks are designed have also changed drastically to include what he calls "breathing spaces".

"That is one very deliberate feature that has been built into our livings space: the presence of a garden of some sort, or greenery to balance the concrete spaces. And with the super-high developments, the creation of 'sky-gardens' is one very obvious shift from the older block designs to the current newer developments."

He also noticed that Singaporeans have adapted to the changing designs of their living spaces over time, and have learned to be more practical in their use of space inside and outside of the home.

One example is the shifting of open-air carparks to basement carparks in newer developments, and the use of integrated facilities in newer blocks.

"It's really a mirror of the shift due to the reduced time we have because of our working hours, everything becomes very meticulously planned and thought out," he says.

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