With flats dating back nearly half a century, Circuit Road stands as one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore, though its reputation as an urban ghetto is perhaps why its public prominence is overshadowed by the likes of heritage towns like Queenstown, Tanglin and Toa Payoh.
Unlike the soon to be demolished flats of Tanglin Halt, the chap lau (10 storey) flats at Circuit Road remain happily occupied by a constantly evolving array of residents that live in mainly 2 and 3-room apartments.
The design of the flats here exudes character beyond what many of today’s condominiums and BTO flats struggle to find. Hints of Art Deco punctuate at just the right spots throughout the array of flats, while the alternate colouring of jutting parapets in soft pastel colours give a positive vibe to a neighbourhood that was once better-known for shady activities that include frequent drug users.
Initially I had assumed Circuit Road was named because it was used as a racing track by illegal drag racers in the past. Thankfully this was corrected by a friendly resident who informed me that the old name Persiaran Keliling (Circuit Road in Malay) refers to the circuit the road forms together with Jalan Pipit (Pipit Road) around the estate. At the same time, he points out his neighbour’s Balonglong (ambarella) fruit tree that I can’t help but associate more with its Singlish terms to describe an idle wandering.
The estate also holds the honour of having Singapore’s largest HDB Block in Block 37. This 16-storey, 570 unit flat contains three adjacent wings that connect via what seems to be an endless stretch of common corridors to form an architectural gem that allows for a greater appreciation of angles and spaces.
Like many estates, Circuit Road is also perhaps best known for its food that’s spread out between two separate block of 79 and 80 that combine to form the Circuit Road Hawker Centre, a gathering point where many resident while their time away while enjoying the picturesque Pelton Canal that runs alongside it.