Queenstown MRT Station signage and HDB flats flanking the MRT station in the background
Picture adapted from : http://shutterventures.wordpress.com/

 

Queenstown was the first Satellite new town to be proposed in Singapore. It the proposed site for Queenstown was an amalgamation of acquired land from the Commissioner of Lands in 1926 and the villagers. The resultant 1150 acres bounded by Ridout Road, Kay Siang Road, Tanglin Road, the Malayan Railway, North Buona Vista Road and Holland Road, was to be Singapore’s first Satellite estate, named in commemoration of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.

Postwar Singapore was troubled by severe housing shortages caused primarily by a surge in the population due to baby boom. While funding and manpower shortages were problems within the SIT, the Trust had other responsibilities such as constructing new roads and open spaces. A Housing Committee was therefore set up in 1947 within the SIT to tackle the severe housing crunch in Singapore.

The British SIT planners acquired these farmlands at Margaret Drive in the late 1940s and early 50s, these Boh Beh Kang villagers put up resistance by joining the Singapore Attap Dwellers Association. The Association was led by a Labour Front politician and delayed the clearing. Princess Margaret Esate was not completed until 1956.

In 1954, there was an estimated number of 400,000 Singaporeans living in squatters then. A New Towns Working Party was therefore formed to lay out the principles for the design and construction of the proposed new towns. These principles covered the planning, urban design and architectural standards for new towns and the facilities required to support the community. Though SIT did not implement these plans fully, they have actually planned the finest details for Queenstown estate such as working out the ratios of amenities to the number of residents.

For example, planning for 50,000 residents, the SIT proposed to build one shop for every 150 residents; 18 primary schools for 10600 pupils; every neighbourhood was to have one market, one small community centre and a shopping centre consisting a few shops. The main town centre would have a comprehensive health centre, shopping complex and cinemas. This plans eventually was transplanted to future HDB New towns planned in the later stage.

This idea to create a whole new town away from the city was borrowed from a British, Ebenezer Howard. It was to ensure that Queenstown could function as a self contained and balanced community with a unique identity.

A total of 5 neighbourhoods were initially planned for Queenstown, namely Princess Estate (present day Dawson & Strathmore estates), Duchess Estate (where Blk 6C and the Terrace Typology HDB flats are located), Tanglin Halt Estate (next to Commonwealth MRT Station), Commonwealth Estate and Queens’ Close Estate (comprising of present day Alexandra hospital). A principal commercial centre was located in Duchess Estate, Thus Duchess estate was also known as Queenstown Central.

When HDB took over, they intensified SIT’s planning norms by building higher to house more residents in the estate. While SIT was concerned that going high would increase costs of lifts, HDB resolved the issue by getting cheaper lifts which they designed to stop at every four floors. Two more neighbourhoods, Buona Vista and Mei Ling were planned.

Queenstown quickly became the pioneer of many firsts in public housing history in Singapore. Besides being the first estate to Launch “Home Ownership Scheme” in 1964. The First Blocks by Housing and Development Board (HDB) 45, 48 and 49 Stirling Road. They were also the blocks first equipped with lifts. The First 14-storey (Forfar house) and 16-storey public housing blocks (Block 81, Commonwealth Close. These blocks of flats were also known as VIP Flat due to the number of dignitaries who visited these place). Block 160 and 161, Stirling Road in Meilling Estate were in Point Blocks constructed in the year 1970. Block 168A, Stirling Road was the First aesthetic Block constructed in the year 1973. This block is also known as butterfly block. Queenstown also remains as one of the 2 HDB estates to have double storey terrace flats at was built by SIT in the 1950s to attract the well to do.

In the next few years, Queenstown will embark on another first. As quoted from HDB promotional material on Skyville@Dawson and SkyTerrace@Dawson “With the concept of Sky Villages will be introduced to retain the “kampung” spirit within Queenstown. Skyville@Dawson and SkyTerrace@Dawson” These development, Slated for completion in 2015 will feature 20 fifty storey superblocks, each with sky villages. These Sky villages will feature parks, barbeque pits and gyms on a cluster of 80 homes each and encourage community bonding among residents. Sky parks also allow non-Dawson Queenstown residents to mingle with their loved ones while absorbing Queenstown’s famed breathtaking sceneries of Orchard, Singapore Harbour and the West.

Would this new typology of flats really promote and bring back the “kampong” spirit that was seen lost over the year due to the change in residents profile and lifestyle be brought back at Dawson? Only time will tell in 2015 when residents move into the blocks.