Located right in between the famous Sophia Flats and Rex Cinema is the architecturally vibrant yet peaceful stretch of Niven Road. Unlike many pre-war shophouse enclaves that can’t wait to bustle with commercial excitement, Niven Road, which is located within the Mount Sophia conservation area, is home instead to a blend of offices, designer studios and many residential apartments both new and old, that provide a colorfully calm atmosphere that help rein in the beautiful elements of each building’s beginnings.
A walk along the pathways reveals the unmistakable presence of Peranakan styled architecture through the presence of pintu pagar (half-doors for ventilation and privacy) in front of the usual front doors. You would be hard-pressed to find any units that look similar be it in design or colour, with the presence of uniquely shaped doors, window grills, windowpanes, and even tiles around their buildings, lending a culturally rich mix of both colours and personality to the row of about a seventy shophouses.
Historically, Niven Road also has a strong association with the Sikhs of Singapore, as visible through the many devotees visiting the Khalsa Dharmak Sabha, a three-storey Sikh temple that was built back in 1936. There are also a number of shophouses down the stretch still owned by Sikh businessman, indicating a strong presence of the Sikh community here back in the day.
Pedestrian and traffic flow along Niven Road is almost non-existent, providing a relaxing connection between Bukit Timah and Selegie Road. Of the few people that I observed walking by, many just seemed to be getting from one place to another but with a sense that they took this route to get away from it all, and be inspired however little, by the charm, the culture and the stories that the buildings in the area are able to provide.