Saturday, October 07, 2006

International Malls: Singapore Shopping Malls

I really want to thank esteemed MOA reader, Cora Buhlert, for taking the time to send me these great photographs and accompanying commentary recently (she also contributed Edgewater Plaza pics here). It's truly fascinating stuff and I really appreciate it! :) Take it away Cora...

"Hi Keith,

I found a few photos of Singapore shopping malls at my parents'. Since you occasionally do non-American malls on your blog, I thought you might be interested. All photos were taken in 1982/83, when my Dad was working in Singapore.

People's Park Complex, Singapore

My Mom and me (above) standing in front of a mall called People's Park Complex. People's Park Complex was located near Chinatown and frequented mostly by locals. This mall was less flashy than the touristy malls on Orchard Road. There were no fountains, just a maze of narrow hallways with tiny shops, the vast majority of which were fabric shops. The mall was partly open to the outside (in the pic you can see an open gallery on the second floor), not air-conditioned and perpetually stuffy. And since it held nothing of interest to a ten-year-old, I didn't like it.

No idea if it still exists.

People's Park Complex, Singapore

This is the inside of People's Park Complex. The entire mall looked like this. The red-haired lady in the picture is my Mom. I'm there as well, standing behind her, because I was probably bored out of my mind by that point. You can just make out my shoes.

Far East Plaza, Singapore

Exterior of the Far East Plaza with fountain and myself, aged nine or ten. The Far East Plaza was newly built at the time (that would have been 1982) and already open for business, though construction work was still going on in some parts. It was billed as the largest mall in Asia with 800 shops and had four or five stories of retail space (Singapore being a small island state, malls like everything else are built high). Inside was a spectacular court with a huge fountain and strings hanging down from the ceiling. No idea why no one snapped a photo of that. The windows in the background with the red banners belonged to a department store called Metro.

Tang's Department Store, Singapore

The spectacular Asian styled building is Tang's department store in Orchard Road, the main shopping and hotel mile in Singapore. Tang's was an upscale department store. The adjacent Dynasty Hotel (not in the photo) was owned by the same family and also done up in Chinese style and topped by a pagoda roof. The Tang building was new at the time (built around 1980, I guess). The old Tang store was located round the corner and was being demolished at the time. It was also a Chinese styled building, though the colour scheme was more subdued. Blatantly Asian styled buildings such as this were (and probably still are) surprisingly rare in Singapore (much to the disappointment of my ten-year-olf self), most malls, hotels, office blocks, etc... were built in modernist international style.

The tan building to the right of Tang's is Lucky Plaza, another multi-storey shopping mall. It was less spectacular than Far East Plaza, though it also had a courtyard and glass elevators. According to their website, it was built in 1978. Far East Plaza was on the other side of Lucky Plaza, by the way. The tenants of both Far East and Lucky Plaza were mainly jewellery and upscale fashion shops. I think Lucky Plaza had a department store anchor as well, though I'm not sure what it was called.

Apparently, both Tang's and Lucky Plaza still exist. Not sure about Far East Plaza.

I hope you like the pics and the look into a slightly different shopping culture. Keep up the good work with the blog.

Best greetings,


Anonymous Trimac20 said...

Great pics, thanks for sharing Cora...

I've actually visited this mall several times while holidaying in Singapore, and can say it looks virtually unchanged from the pics above (sure sticks out from all those super-modern complexes), and a photo of the interior of the mall I saw from 1971 in one of those old tourist guides. I do know the mall opened in 1971, and I believe was the first (or one of) fully-enclosed shopping malls in Singapore.

Sat Oct 07, 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous didi said...

The photos all look great!

The one that has the inside shot with the clothes reminds me of a mall I went to in Europe this past summer.

Sat Oct 07, 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Cora said...

Nice to hear that People's Park is still there and largely unchanged. I would probably enjoy it a lot more now I'm older and fabric stores are more interesting than they were when I was a kid.

By the way, Singapore also boasted the creepiest mall I've ever seen, a place called Capitol Shopping Centre. Capitol Shopping Centre was perpetually gloomy, largely vacant and so run down (a rarity in tidy Singapore) that the ceiling was leaking in places and bits of concrete were falling from the walls. It looked not unlike Dixie Square, except that it was still open. The center was apparently torn down shortly after, which was probably for the better.

Sat Oct 07, 06:10:00 PM  
Anonymous ming said...

Hi, I'm a Singaporean and Far East Plaza still exists! It still looks the same but it now contains many small shops catering to the youth here. Metro has moved out and the basement has been also converted into a youth hang-out. Some of the older shops selling electronics and tailored suits still remain though! Even though it looks old compared to the newer shopping centres it still draws much of the youth population there through its large number of shops which sell (relatively)affordable stuff.

Tangs and Lucky Plaza still remain, Tangs still remains an up-market departmental store, but Lucky Plaza now consists of an assortment of shops selling electronics and other things. I'm not sure, because I don't usually go in there.

Do come back here if you have the time, Orchard Road has probably changed loads since you were here! I wasn't even born when you were here lol. And there are even more plans now to build revamp Orchard Road, they are going to build a new shopping centre directly opposite Tangs. :)

Fri Oct 13, 05:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Jonas Clark-Elliott said...

The fountain nut has to ask: Is that a Waltzing Waters or similar "dancing" or "musical" fountain, the sort with arrays of nozzles that sway or spin around?

Fri Oct 13, 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Cora said...

Nice to hear that Far East Plaza is still around, Ming. From pictures I have seen, I can easily imagine that Singapore has changed a lot since I last saw it.

No idea whether the fountain played music or did anything else, sorry Jonas. I think the nozzles did spray around, but after 24 years I'm no longer sure.

I did find another Singapore fountain photo, but I didn't scan it because I could not remember whether the fountain was in a mall or a hotel lobby. My parents couldn't remember either.

Fri Oct 13, 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger Boris the Red said...

Greetings from Singapore.

Just thought to mention that Lucky Plaza today is a big hang-out for the Filipina community - basically Philipino foreign workers (mostly), many of whom work as domestic help, who spend their weekends at the mall.
As such, it has a wide variety of food and services that cater to their community.

The photo shows Peoples Park Complex. Next door (or some blocks away?) is Peoples Park Shopping Centre... a slightly newer, more modern air-conditioned mall. Built in the early 80s, I think...

Mon Mar 12, 01:04:00 PM  

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