With its vintage IKEA like tones of blue and yellow, Katong Shopping Centre sits stoically on the edge of East Coast Road. Like the many businesses along Katong and Joo Chiat, it has had to keep up with the times, but thankfully still manages to retain elements of an old world charm within its unique architecture.
Built in 1973 between the period when the likes of Odeon-Katong and Roxy Theatre made Katong the vibrant heartbeat of the East, Katong Shopping Centre was the first air-conditioned mall in Singapore. The centre played host to an array of businesses from textiles to shoes, the most memorable of which would have to be Oriental Emporium, its previous anchor tenant. At one point there was even a bowling alley up on the top floor!
By the late 1990s and early 2000s, Katong Shopping Centre became known for the many domestic helper agencies that dominate the first floor, many of which still greet first-time customers to the centre today.
At the basement level, the famous Katong Chicken Rice plays host to snaking queues even on weekdays, while the Dona Manis Cake Shop that’s been around for 20 years, churns out the most delectable homemade pastries, from butter buns to raisin scones, as well as its world-famous banana pie!
Yet what attracts me most to Katong Shopping Centre is undoubtedly its design and architecture, which to me adopts somewhat of a minimalist style influenced by the Art Deco and Modern Shophouses we find in Singapore.
The bulk of the building sees blocks of varying sizes stacked atop one another, punctuated by columns that support the structure from below. From the carpark, one even notices a mini-inverted shaped pyramid connecting the upper floors, while the decorative yet practical holes sit on two separate levels (Carpark and Rooftop), giving a spatial depth and uniqueness to the centre that interestingly only had its recognisable coat of blue and yellow painted in 1997.
Today, Katong Shopping Centre remains one of the few old shopping centres like Queensway Shopping Centre that have managed to keep up with the times, with crowds still regularly patronising the mall for various necessities. Talk of it going en-bloc has been on and about since 2012, but lets just hope it doesn’t get to that stage anytime soon.