I’ve spent many a day trawling streets and alley ways in search of murals and street art in Singapore, but did you know there are some pretty impressive murals adorning the sides of Singapore’s HDB blocks in Hougang? I spent an afternoon wandering around for a closer look at the huge murals on the side of Hougang’s Housing Development Blocks (HDBs) and put together this guide on where to find murals in Hougang if you want to do a big of heartland street art hunting.
I’ve found several similar street art residential estates on my travels: Zaspa in northern Poland is a favourite because the apartment blocks remind me so much of our Singaporean HDB estates, as well as the barracks-turned-living-gallery Weiwuying in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and while I’ve not dedicated a complete post to it, Tor Marancia in Rome was my latest residential street art find in 2020. I was pretty surprised to learn that we had such large scale building-high murals in the Singapore heartlands as murals in HDB estates tend to be found in the void decks.
There are 22 murals in total painted by the students of Xinmin Secondary School over 2 phases in 2006 and 2014. Unfortunately there isn’t available information on the specific names so I can’t credit accordingly. Overall I think it’s a pretty impressive job given that these students are just teenagers. It’s also a great community initiative that allows the school to give back and brighten up the community that they are in – the works are in the blocks that face and surround the school compound.
It probably also explains the varying quality of the designs and the ‘National Education‘ sentiment of the works. It feels like a Singapore National Day pep rally theme – golly the number of Singapore flags and Merlions. I couldn’t find info on what brief the students were given for these murals (If you were one of these students, drop a note in the comments please!), but it’s safe to say that it probably had to do with icons of Singapore and loving Singapore as our home and community.
I think it’s a great initiative and the murals really give the Hougang neighbourhood a distinct character. HDB tried to do that with the architecture and you’ll see some of the more experimental-style HDB blocks around here with curved balconies and columns (read more on this in NHB’s Hougang Heritage Trail Booklet), but I’m hoping in future they can open up similar large-scale murals in other estates to Singapore’s plethora of street artists and muralists. Something like what they’ve done in Taman Jurong and Ang Mo Kio but on a much larger, HDB-high scale. And also I would love to see broader themes – Singaporean culture and history is much more than our social studies textbooks and the Merlion.
Count the number of these ‘Singaporean icons’ that you spot and compare them to my Singaporean Icon Count at the bottom of the post:
Random side note: This song was playing in my head as I was putting together this post and now I want it to get stuck in yours.