Making a connection at Circuit Road

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 many present-day flats, the openness and thought into design is well reflected in the flats of Circuit Road.

Unlike many present-day flats, the openness and thought into design is well reflected in the flats of Circuit Road.

One half (Block 79) of the two famous Circuit Road Hawker Centre. In the background sits the wide-oepn Pelton Canal.

One half (Block 79) of the two famous Circuit Road Hawker Centre. In the background sits the wide-open Pelton Canal.

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.

A rarity aside from a few select mature estates, bird singing corners make themselves heard right beside Block 37.

A rarity aside from a few select mature estates, bird singing corners make themselves heard right beside Block 37.

Peppered through the estate are hints or design architecture that seemingly reflect movement such as that of the Art Deco architecture. This particular building kind of reminds me of the former facade of the Cathay Cinema.

Peppered through the estate are hints or design architecture that seemingly reflect movement such as that of the Art Deco architecture. This particular building kind of reminds me of the former facade of the Cathay Cinema.

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.

A long-time resident of Circuit Road, this man has been here since the 1960s. He tells me to try the fruit from the balonglong tree belonging to his neighbour, reflecting a distinct kampong vibe still somewhat present in the area.

A long-time resident of Circuit Road, this man has been here since the 1960s. He tells me to try the fruit from the balonglong tree belonging to his neighbour, reflecting a distinct kampong vibe still somewhat present in the area.

Like in many neighbourhoods, cats and humans learn to live harmoniously together.

Like in many neighbourhoods, cats and humans learn to live harmoniously together.

A sleepy estate, many residents put a leg up literally to take in the surroundings.

A sleepy estate, many residents put a leg up literally to take in the surroundings.

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.

Blue skies and blue pastel colours make for great pictures.

Blue skies and blue pastel colours make for great pictures.

Two of the three adjacent corridors that make up Singapore's largest HDB Block, Block 37 at Circuit Road.

Two of the three adjacent corridors that make up Singapore’s largest HDB Block, Block 37 at Circuit Road.

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