When in Singapore, visits to attractions like Gardens by the Bay and savouring local hawker cuisines are a must. But for an alternative itinerary, we suggest taking a peek at the charming vestiges of its past – like these mosaic playgrounds of yesteryear.
Iconic Dragon Playground
Arguably the most iconic playground in the country, the dragon playground was the brainchild of Khor Ean Ghee, then an interior designer with the Housing Development Board (HDB).
Built in 1979, the figure of the mythical creature, in its red-terrazzo glory and its colourful steel spine, still stands proudly along Toa Payoh Lorong 6. The HDB has plans to revamp the mature Toa Payoh estate, but the playground will be preserved, with a heritage marker to be installed at the site.
Nearest MRT station: Toa Payoh
There is more than one dragon playground in Singapore. You can find the others located in Pipit Road and Ang Mo Kio too!
Block of flats no higher than seven storeys surrounds the dove playground at Dakota Crescent. Most of the estate’s residents had lived here since the blocks were constructed in the late 1950s, but the flats are now deserted after the HDB declared that residents had to move out by the end of 2016 to pave the way for redevelopment. The fate of this playground remains uncertain.
Nearest MRT Station: Mountbatten
This fruit-themed playground at Tampines Avenue 5 was constructed in 1989, and designed by then HDB architect, Lee-Loy Kwee Wah. A slide is hidden in a slice of the red, green and yellow mosaic-tiled watermelon while the wedge features a ting swing an adult could only dream of sitting in. Also located nearby are two hollow mangosteens with drawn-in doors and windows, “decorated” by kids over the years.
Nearest MRT Station: Tampines
Sampan (bumboat) Playground
Local heritage elements are seen in some playground, like this bumboat. The sea barges were a common sight along the Singapore River for more than 150 years, ferrying cargo from offshore ships, before there were moved away in 1983 in an effort to clean up the river. A simple playground with just a slide and trye ladders, it stands in the middle of a Pasir Ris housing estate just behind Elias Mall.
Nearest MRT Station: Pasir Ris
The Cuckoo Clock Playground
There are fewer than 20 mosaic playgrounds left in Singapore. This clock version next to the Bishan bus interchange was part of a series of designs based on children’s nursery rhymes. This colourful mosaic-covered playground with a sandy floor comprises of a cuckoo clock with a ladder, and a slide behind the alarm clock. These days you are more likely to find modern plastic sets with rubber flooring.
Nearest MRT Station: Bishan
Four-carriage train Playground
By 1993, HDB stopped designing playgrounds and started to import them from suppliers overseas. This playground in a sand-pit, circa 2000, is a leaning train in Tiong Bahru Park. The four-carriage train boasts ladders, rungs and ramps, but what makes it special are the obstacles of ropes and webbed nets in the tilted interior. The large playground also has swings, two flying foxes, a maze and a merry-go-round. There is also a fitness and recreation area.
Nearest MRT Station: Tiong Bahru
Bonus! The Dinosaur Playground
Nearest MRT Station: Toa Payoh