Rochor Centre is a place I’d only been to twice before, to visit the bank and post office because I happened to be in the area. Next thing I knew, a friend informed that the place was up for demolishing in the near future to make way for a new expressway. I’d always only heard of such projects when it’s days from happening (the demolishing), but this time I had many months. So I took the chance to attempt to capture the beauty of a landmark that would soon be gone from the map.
It’s not a particularly pretty place – Rochor Centre is simply a set of old HDB blocks that were built together in 1977, conjoined at the first four storeys with a base block made up of shops and amenities (take a look at the embedded Google Map above, switch it to Earth view to see a 3D model). You could say it was an early sample of a self-sustainable concrete skyrise village, with a supermarket, banks, a post office, coffee shops, other regular local shops, and also a simplistic park with a playground.
I had to finally whip out my tripod for the lock-gates shot above. The environment was really too dim to allow sharp images on handheld. I’m so glad I did bring my Manfrotto; when I got home to review, this particular shot turned out to be so unnaturally sharp compared to all my other photos on this outing. Required extremely little post-processing.
Despite a rather normal ground floor – open shops, people in and about the place – it was pretty quiet and lonely on the second and third storeys. I imagine it’d even be a little creepy in the dark of the night, with so many abandoned shops, while those that are still in business look just as old and slightly unwelcoming. Like a place that has grudgingly resigned to its due fate of being gone forever.
I was glad to finally move up to the fourth storey, the real void deck of the residential apartment blocks. To my non-Singaporean readers, void decks are communal spaces on the lowest storey of a public housing apartment block (called HDB, after the authority that builds these houses), which is typically the ground floor. But in the case of a ‘self-sustaining concrete village’ like Rochor Centre (another example would be Bras Basah Complex), the void deck would be on top of the commercial base block, where the residential area begins. Rochor’s fourth storey is where you start to really appreciate the colourful blocks it has come to be known for as a landmark; it’s even possible that the colours are the reason Rochor Centre is a landmark; before I learnt what this place was called, I used to call it “the colourful HDB blocks near Sim Lim”, which I’m sure many others did too.
So that was it! It took up around 1.5 hours on a gentle Saturday morning. I’m glad I’ve gone there to document the place; too many places are slowly being forced to give way to newer developments, and Rochor Centre will soon be just a part of local public housing history. I hope my photographs do the to-be-memories of the estate some justice.
As usual, thanks for dropping by! Any general comments, feel free to leave them below, or if you have any specific photography or post-processing technique comments/critiques, do click on the individual photos to leave a comment there :)