The four blocks at Yung Kuang Road (Block 63-66) used to be the pride of Taman Jurong. Not only that, at 21 storeys, they were the tallest flats at Jurong when they were completed in the 1970s, the unique diamond shape formed by the four blocks (when viewed from the top) also gained them an iconic landmark status in the vicinity due to their easily recognisable appearance.
A New Industrial & Residential Estate
In 1960, the Singapore government acquired around 2,440 acres of land in Choa Chu Kang, Tuas and Peng Kang to be used as part of the planned 5,000-acre Jurong new town and industrial estates. The $45-million project was spearheaded by Goh Keng Swee, Hon Sui Sen and Dr Albert Winsemius to develop the swampy area into Singapore’s first industrial district, completed with different sectors in shipbuilding, steel milling, cement and textile manufacturing.
The Economic Development Board (EDB) was set up to carry out the development plans, although its role was passed to the new Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) later in 1968. To encourage the workers in the industrial estates to stay near their workplaces, Taman Jurong was established in 1964 as a residential site for the rapidly increasing population. A network of roads and public amenities in flats, markets, schools and playgrounds were built.
The early residential blocks at Taman Jurong, constructed in the sixties, were mostly kept below five storeys in their heights. Jurong Town Primary School, one of the earliest primary schools at Taman Jurong, was officially opened in March 1968 at Taman Jurong 4 (later renamed as Hu Ching Road) by Ho Kah Leong, the Member of Parliament for Jurong. The school would merge with Yung An Primary School and Merlimau Primary School to form Lakeside Primary School in January 2003.
To attract the workers to move and stay at Taman Jurong, recreational facilities were also added in the late sixties. In 1967, picnic grounds, a boathouse and an artificial lake adjoining Jurong River were built. Regular events were held at the boathouse, with TV and radio artistes invited for performances and refreshments provided.
Renaming of the Roads
When they were first built, the roads at Taman Jurong were simply given numerical names, such as Taman Jurong 1, 2, 3, 4, up to Taman Jurong 12 (There was no Taman Jurong 11). To suggest “industrialisation” and “progress” in the new industrial estates, and also a bright future for the residents living in their new homes at Taman Jurong, the Street Naming Committee decided, in 1970, to give the roads new names:
- Jalan Peng Kang to Corporation Road
- Taman Jurong 1 to Corporation Drive
- Taman Jurong 2 to Yuan Ching (园景, means “scenery of gardens”) Road
- Taman Jurong 3 to Yung Ping (永平, “eternal peace”) Road
- Taman Jurong 4 to Hu Ching (湖景, “scenery of lakes”) Road
- Taman Jurong 5 to Yung Kuang (永光, “eternal bright”) Road
- Taman Jurong 6 to Tao Ching (岛景, “scenery of islands”) Road
- Taman Jurong 7 to Yung Sheng (永升, “eternal rise”) Road
- Taman Jurong 8 to Ho Ching (河景, “scenery of rivers”) Road
- Taman Jurong 9 to Yung An (永安, “eternal serene”) Road
- Taman Jurong 10 to Shan Ching (山景, “scenery of hills”) Road
- Taman Jurong 12 to Tah Ching (塔景, “scenery of pagodas”) Road
Due to the residential development, Shan Ching Road was later expunged and Kang Ching (岗景, “scenery of ridges”) Road was added.
The “Industrialised” Road Names
The naming of the new roads at the industrial estates beside Taman Jurong came from a different aspect. The names suggested the “industrialisation” and “progress”, and the constant striving for economic success by the new nation in Singapore.
The roads were also named using the four official languages of Singapore in order to also reflect a multiracial and multilingual society. For example, (Jalan) Tukang and (Jalan) Jentera, referring to “craftsman” and “mill” in Malay respectively, were named.
Neythal Road was formerly home to the Singapore Textile Industrial Limited, one of the largest factories in early Jurong. To reflect on the new textile industry, the road was actually named as Nesavu Road, in which nesavu refers to “weaving” in Tamil. However, due to its difficult pronunciation, it was later renamed as Neythal Road. Neythal means “to weave as clothes” in Tamil.
The roads at present-day Soon Lee, Wan Lee, Kwong Min and Fan Yoong were all given auspicious names, as they literally mean “successfully” (顺利), “lucrative”, (万利), “promising” (光明) and “prosperity” (繁荣).
Jurong or Peng Kang?
The Jurong Industrial Estate was in fact developed within the Peng Kang (平港) vicinity, which was roughly situated between West Coast and Tuas. The vicinity of old Jurong, where Jurong West is today, was actually located north of Peng Kang. Jalan Peng Kang, later renamed as Corporation Road, was the main road leading to Peng Kang. Today, the name Peng Kang is a stranger to most Singaporeans, and has largely vanished into history with the exception of Peng Kang Hill at Pasir Laba.
Demolition of Old JTC Flats
When EDB was given the task to develop Taman Jurong between 1962 and 1968, it oversaw the construction of a total of 4,465 housing units and 150 shops. When JTC took over the responsibility in 1968, another 5,021 housing units and 40 shops were built. By the end of 1975, the residential district of Taman Jurong, bounded by Corporation Road, Yung Ho Road and Yuan Ching Road, was considered officially completed.
Out of the total 9,486 housing units, 2,104 were 1-room units, 1,522 were 2-room, 818 were 4-room and only 2 were 5-room. The 3-room units were the most common housing size; there was a total of 4,810 3-room units.
In 1982, the Housing Development Board (HDB) took over the management of JTC flats. By then, the aging low-storey EDB and JTC flats were mostly used as rental units to the lower-income population, and the frequent blackouts and disruptions in water supplies caused great inconvenience to the residents.
In the mid-eighties, Singapore was hit by its first post-independence recession. HDB nevertheless put up a renewal plan to replace the old EDB and JTC flats with new high-rise 4-room and 5-room flats. At the same time, new units at both Jurong East and West were built and made available for the residents. The demolition of the old flats would be carried out in six phases, and more than 100 blocks were pulled down, with the first batch at Corporation Road, Yung Ho Road and Yung Loh Road affected.
Only a few blocks of JTC flats at Taman Jurong still survive today; the most recent to be bulldozed were the H-shaped flats at Yung Kuang Road in 2013.
The Diamond Icon
The four 21-storey blocks at the junction of Corporation Road and Yung Kuang Road, forming a unique diamond shape, were an eye-catching landmark at old Taman Jurong. Constructed at a cost of $4 million, it stood out in the early seventies, as most of the flats at the vicinity were low-storey blocks. The diamond-shaped flats easily became Taman Jurong’s centre of focus in both residential and commercial activities.
Fondly known as the diamond blocks or “ji sap ek lau” (twenty-one storey in Hokkien), the four flats were previously under the demolition plan, but are now used as rental flats for the foreign workers and lower-income families. Most of the shops at the first levels had closed. The NTUC Fairprice, however, is still going strong today. Officially opened in May 1983 by the former Minister for Communications Ong Teng Cheong, it is one of the oldest NTUC Fairprice outlets in Singapore.
A unique feature about the older Taman Jurong flats was that, unlike the new HDB flats elsewhere, void decks were uncommon. Most of the former EDB and JTC flats, due to their low-storey designs, had their first levels occupied either by housing units or shops.
Taman Jurong also had its private hospital. Named Jurong Hospital, it was located at the junction of Corporation Drive and Yung Kuang Road and was the only private hospital in the western part of Singapore since 1970. With an initial 24 beds, and later increased to 46 in the mid-eighties, it served the factory workers and residents at Jurong. Today, it is known as West Point Hospital.
Published: 28 January 2015