Post-war Civil Service Quarters (Monk’s Hill Flats) at Windstedt Road

 

Built during the early 1950s to house employees of Singapore’s newly formed City Council, the black and white flats along Winstedt Road represented a unique shift towards the “architecture of economy” during the early post-war years.

Designed by City Architect D.C. Rae, a total of two four-storey and two eight-storey flats were constructed, with the latter having the honour of being the tallest housing block in Singapore for a short period of time. Each floor contained a total of four units (a large number at that time), but was more than spacious enough to fit the families of subordinated ranked officers who called the space home.

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Located at the start of Windstedt Road sits one of the four-storey flats that were built to house officers of the subordinate rank back in 1953.

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Once the tallest housing block in Singapore, this eight-storey flat adorned a more art-deco style to its design.

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A closeup of one of the eight-storey unit reveals portholes that served as a window to the world via the common corridors of each floor.

Design wise, the flats retained many modified features of the colonial black and white bungalows. Balconies took over verandahs, stairs were now located along common corridors, and overhanging eaves replaced strata-tiled roofs, features that would go on to lay the foundation for public housing in Singapore.

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In place of the elongated verandahs that were common in colonial black and white bungalows, smaller and more compact balconies were introduced to the flats in the area

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Every unit was home to not one, but two balconies each!

By and large, one the City Council’s main goals in the new Code of Practice for Low Cost Housing (1950) was to streamline the typologies that reflected class and seniority, something that is perhaps best reflected in the construction of the City Council flats designed by W.I Watson along Clemenceau Road.

Built to house lower-ranked civil servants, these strikingly similar flats to the ones more commonly seen today along Tiong Bahru Road, are home to features such as elongated corridors and winding stairways that represents a perfect hybrid of today’s modern public housing and the pre-war colonial style.

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With its striking resemblence to today’s public housing flats, the City Council flats along Clemenceau Road were built to house lower-ranked officers in the civil service.

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The curve-shaped stairwells at the City Council flats bear a striking resemble to the ones along Tiong Bahru Road

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In 1950, architects in the government service adopted a new Code of Practice for Low Cost Housing, that on top of standardising materials and size, would help to streamline the typologies that reflected class and seniority. While the units for high-ranking officers were still larger and more spacious, this picture is evident of the gradual gap reduction between the two parties.

Despite being located within walking distance from the bustle of Orchard Road and Newton Hawker Centre, the estate, which is surrounded by an abundance of greenery, retains a quiet charm with nodes of interesting features like metal swings and overhanging gardens done up by the residents themselves.

Currently the land on which the estate sits is owned by the state, and while no immediate plans have been made for the resident’s impending departure, the area’s proximity to the city may lead to its inevitable end in the near future.

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Greenery shrouds much of the open spaces in the estate, enabling a peaceful charm to permeate through the area.

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