The Forgotten Diamond of Taman Jurong

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.

chartered industries of singapore 1960s

national steel and iron mill 1960s

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.

construction of 1-room flats at taman jurong 1963

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, “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.

jurong industrial estate roads 1972

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.

jurong industrial estate development 1960s

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.

jurong industial estate 1960s

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.

taman jurong 1970s

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.

taman jurong 1990s

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.

yung kuang road jtc flats 2012

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 an 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.

taman jurong diamond flats

taman jurong diamond flats2

taman jurong diamond flats3

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.

An 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 diamond flats4

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

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15 Responses to The Forgotten Diamond of Taman Jurong

  1. 国樑 KL says:

    Thank for the very nice research.
    Peng Kang Hill was a nightmare but also a good training ground.
    Was Peng Kang a harbour back then?

    • David Teo says:

      There are many “kangs” in Singpapore. Lim Chu Kang, Chua Chu Kang, Hougang,etc. We were a fishing village then.

  2. Lee Aik Lam says:

    A very good article give me the history of the place I stay now.

    • Lee Aik Lam says:

      With the launch of Jurong Heritage Trail last weekend at Taman Jurong CC… not sure why this portion of the history was not included.

    • Lee Aik Lam says:

      My impression of Taman Jurong go way back in the 80 while there are a lot of Malaysian workers stay in the estate. I went there with some friends to enjoy the food.
      When I shifted to Block 121 top corner unit in May 1994, I fall in love with the place with all the good food and oldies surrounding.
      I started to put on weight since then… hahaha!

  3. Roland Choo says:

    The diamond Blk has been vacated since Aug 2014. It is undergoing renovation targeted for PPHS (Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme) flats. Fyi please.

  4. I live in Taman Jurong now and went to school at Merlimau Primary at Yuan Ching Road. Was pleasantly surprise to see you’ve written about this. Definitely sharing this with my fellow Jurong friends.

  5. Darren Au. says:

    Thank you very much on the research on Taman Jurong history. at least now I have a better understanding on the “old” Taman Jurong history.
    Good Job and well done !

  6. ujang says:

    I was frm blk 9 yung kuang rd.. seriously I miss that plc… the ppl, the food and every single min of my time there… to bad.. the blk that I used to stay is no longer around had been demolished in 2012 or 2013.. and of course, I nvr forget.. me n my friends call it ‘block diamond’ in malay.. hahahahaaa.. the best place that I’ve grown up…

  7. Bakhtiar says:

    In November 2014, I wrote the following reply to another blog about Taman Jurong.:
    A few days ago,I came across a photocopy of a birth certificate of a person who was born in 1971 and the parent’s address recorded in the BC as Block 41 Jalan Peng Kang,Singapore 22 .For those who are familiar with Taman Jurong, they will definately remember the name of the roads joining the estate such as Yuan Ching Rd, the longest of them all about 1.5km. Others such as Yung Loh,Yung Ho,Yung Kwang,Yung An,Tao Ching,Kang Ching,Ho Ching,Tah Ching are short roads about 200-500 metres long.Lining the short roads were blocks of flats from less than 6 floors to the highest blocks of 21 floors.The highest/tallest block at Taman Jurong,Blk 63,64,65&66 Yung Kwang Rd also popularly known as Diamond Block because of its design and inter connection at the ground floor where Standard Chartered Bank,NTUC Fair price supermarket and other shops operate.Now going back to road names,I recalled that blocks starting with no 40 were located behind Taman Jurong Camp where the present day Yung An Rd is.The Assyakirin Mosque today is where blocks 40-50 used to be.Between 1971-1975,I frequented Taman Jurong as my married brother and sister used to stay at Blk 46 and Blk 118. In between visits to my siblings flat,I secretly visited Jurong Cinema to watch a ‘soft porn’ movie titled Sex and the Animals! It could be be classified as soft porn movie back then but now it is freely available in the National Geographic or Animal Planet channels as documentaries.

    Another landmark of Taman Jurong until the mid 1990’s were its two markets/hawkers centre. One which was cramped, a bit disorganised and many stalls selling wet produce was located at Kang Ching Road . I think this market was referred to as Market 1 . The other one located at Hu Ching Road was a bit more organised with clear demarcation between the wet market and the cooked food stall. This is Market 2 and heavily patronised by factory/shipyard workers coming in by lorries to buy their food before continuing their journey to work in the industrial areas.

    Today I am still travelling to Taman Jurong and thanks to this blog that I learnt that Jalan Peng Kang was renamed to Corporation Road.

    Great job, Blogmaster!

  8. Steven Kee says:

    Thanks for the article. Good old memories, I used to stay at 9E Lakeside Apt along Yuan Ching road during the 1980s. What I remember most of the diamond flats was the NTUC which was one of the pioneer supermarket before Boon Lay shopping came about and someone jump down from there! The poor soul landed on one of the spiral stairway. It was mess, blood was splatted all over and the hand rails was badly damaged. That was what I remember most of that building. Great research, keep it up.

  9. Meeran says:

    Thank you for this article i can share this with my neighbours. ..

    I am currently staying at blk 63 yung kuang road…

    Only one update is that the blk are now currently under Priority Parent Housing scheme and they have been renovated…

  10. Lok Rhuan Zhen Jenny says:

    Where to rent this whole unit?

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