Sunday, 15 July 2012

Toa Payoh Play Area

US blog names a Toa Payoh play area one of the world's amazing playgrounds

One of Singapore's oldest playgrounds - a dragon- shaped structure winding above a sand pit in Toa Payoh Lorong 6 - has been picked by a New York culture blog as one of 15 amazing playgrounds in the world.



Flavorwire.com's design-related post in April, titled 15 Amazing Playgrounds From All Over The World, also featured The Blue Whale in Plikta park, Gothenburg, Sweden, designed by Danish design firm Monstrum, and The Forest of Cherry Blossoms at Moerenuma Park in Hokkaido, Japan, designed by Isamu Noguchi, which has seven play areas.

Posted by the website's literary/weekend editor Emily Temple, the slideshow-list is not meant to be exhaustive and readers are invited to suggest their own favourite playgrounds in their comments to the post.

The Toa Payoh dragon is one of the few concrete play structures built by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) before the 1990s that remain standing here.

Many of the structures were designed by Mr Khor Ean Ghee, 77, an interior designer with HDB from 1969 to 1984.

An HDB spokesman says: 'Generally, from the 1970s till the early 1990s, the playgrounds were designed in-house by HDB.

'From 2003 onwards, playgrounds in HDB estates were designed by consultants appointed by HDB.'

In the early 1970s, playgrounds came with functional play equipment such as slides, swings and see-saws. By the mid-1980s, they were inspired by themes such as nursery rhymes and Singapore's multiracial heritage.

The late 1980s saw playgrounds inspired by local fruit, vegetables and vehicles such as lorries.

Materials used included concrete and brightly coloured Italian mosaic tiles, which have withstood the test of time - and the wear and tear from countless eager small hands and feet.

In the 1990s, playgrounds were built to cater to different age groups instead.

For example, equipment designed for those aged three to six are lower in height and encourage imaginative play.

These days, playgrounds cater to the entire family, with user-friendly gym equipment.
Reminisce with Life!Weekend and take a play trip across the island to explore five vintage playgrounds before they are gone.

Tip: Some of them still have sand pits, so arm yourself with sturdy cardboard sheets to serve as makeshift toboggans in case the slides get too sandy.

Where the children play.

1 THE MINI DRAGON AT CIRCUIT ROAD, BESIDE BLOCK 58

Sadly, the vintage watermelon structures at Block 92, Pipit Road have been removed to make way for a new playground. Still, a mini dragon slide remains standing just a short walk away, in Circuit Road.

A landmark in the estate, it has gone through upgrading: The sand pit around it has been replaced by rubber mats.

2 THE DRAGON AT TOA PAYOH LORONG 6, IN FRONT OF BLOCK 28

This playground (right) in Toa Payoh Lorong 6, which was chosen as one of the most amazing playgrounds around the world by Flavorwire.com, was designed by Mr Khor Ean Ghee, 77, when he was an interior designer with the HDB, and remains one of Singapore's most iconic playgrounds.

He says the emphasis of such playgrounds is the sand pits. 'There were pipes below the sand to drain water away, something which foreigners praised us for.' He also remembers the glass mosaic tiles imported from Italy, which were easy to maintain. It is likely to have been completed in 1970 and he says the dragon head became the 'template' for other dragon structures.

According to the HDB, between the mid-1970s and early 1980s, 'elaborate playgrounds with distinctive identifiable forms' such as dragons, elephants, spiders and bullock carts were introduced.

The dragon is majestic up close, with a rib cage comprising metal bars to climb through. Take a peek through its eye before descending the concrete slide

3 THE ELEPHANT AT HOMETEAMNS PASIR RIS HOLIDAY CHALETS
Slide down an elephant's trunk at this stylised elephant structure (right) at HomeTeamNS Pasir Ris Holiday Chalets.

Looking like something pixellated out of an Atari game, it has two slides which make up its trunk. It is flanked by other play equipment, such as tunnels for the kids to climb through.

4 THE DOVE AT DAKOTA CRESCENT, BETWEEN BLOCKS 10 AND 16
This blue dove (right) sits prettily in the quiet Dakota Crescent estate. Designed in-house by HDB and estimated to be completed in 1959, it has all the elements of an old-fashioned playground: an elevated bridge, sand pit and swings made of rubber tyres - the last a rare sight in playgrounds these days

5 THE BUMBOAT NEAR ELIAS MALL IN PASIR RIS

A Chinese bumboat marooned in the middle of Pasir Ris? This ship-shaped playground is estimated to have been completed by the HDB by 1994. It reflects the estate's theme of 'resort by the sea'

The play-boat's mosaic tiles still retain their beautiful colours and it has rubber tyres attached to it for kids to grab and climb on - a nod to the tyre-padding that protect the sides of bumboats plying the Singapore River when they berth.

The HDB says that in the mid-1980s, it introduced many playgrounds 'with themes inspired by nursery rhymes, children games, daily experiences and Singapore's multiracial heritage'.

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