Discovering Singapore’s Best Kept Secrets: Visit Old Kallang Airport

11 08 2017

Update
11 August 2017 9.15 am

Registration for the event has closed as of 0906 hours, 11 August 2017, as all slots have been taken up. Do look out for the next visit in the series, which will be to a surprise location being scheduled for 9 September 2017 at 10 am to 12 pm. More details will be out two weeks before the visit.


Old Kallang Airport needs no introduction. Decommissioned since 1955, what remains of Singapore’s very first civil airport has for what seems the longest of time looked out of place right next to Singapore’s very first highway. There is little in what’s left of it that tells us of the part it played in several historical moments including the arrival of a suitably impressed Amelia Earhart in the weeks after it was opened – just weeks before her mysterious disappearance, and also the dawn of the jet age in the few years before it closed. There is a chance to find out a little more of the part the airport – touted as the most modern aerodrome at its opening in June 1937, the part it played in Singapore’s aviation history, and discover some of the lovely spaces that lie within its buildings on 26 August 2017 as part of the third in the series of “Discovering Singapore’s Best Kept Secrets” State Property Visits supported by the Singapore Land Authority.

The details of the visit are as follows:

Date : 26 August 2017
Time : 4 pm to 6 pm
Address: 9 Stadium Link Singapore 397750 (Access via Kallang Airport Way)

(Participants should be of age 18 and above)

Registration will close on 19 August at 11:59 pm, or when the limit for participants has been reached. Do also keep a lookout for visits being organised to other State Property in the weeks and months ahead.


Further information / previous visits in the series:


 

Advertisements




Changing Landscapes: The end of the roadway

29 01 2014

One of the remnants of Singapore’s first civil airport at Kallang, a dual carriageway roadway lined with reminders of a time that has been forgotten, is no more. The roadway, left behind perhaps as a reminder of lead-in and exit to and from the airport for over half a century after the airport ceased operations in 1955, seems now itself one Singapore wishes to forget. It is now cut-off from vehicular traffic that in times more recent, would have used it as an access to or from the National Stadium or Nicoll Highway, with a larger capacity and more direct road having been built to take traffic to the new National Stadium and the Singapore Sports Hub which is scheduled to be completed in May 2014.

The wonderful cover of trees over the old road.

The wonderful cover of trees over the old road.

The former entrance pillars to Singapore's first civil airport.

The former entrance pillars to Singapore’s first civil airport.

The now closed roadway seen today.

The now closed roadway seen today.

Looking towards the former junction with Geylang Road.

Looking towards the former junction with Geylang Road.

The roadway at the airport's opening in 1937 (source: http://archivesonline.nas.sg/).

The roadway to the airport in 1945 (source: http://archivesonline.nas.sg/).





Play it again, SAM

6 05 2011

It did take me a while to go beyond what was on offer at Old Kallang Airport to explore the other venues of the Singapore Biennale 2011. This perhaps, was motivated by a desire to get my fill of the what was Singapore’s first commercial airport before its character is altered by the plans the Urban Development Authority (URA) has for the buildings and the grounds. Having had my feel of the old airport and with a pass courtesy of the Singapore Biennale, I decided to head out to the other venues, which were the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), Marina Bay and the National Museum of Singapore (NAS) recently.

It took me a while to explore what was on offer at the Singapore Biennale 2011 beyond that at the Old Kallang Airport venue.

My first stop was naturally at the SAM, being fond of visiting the magnificent building on Bras Basah Road that now hosts the museum. It was a building that holds many memories for me, having spent four years of the latter part of my schooling when St. Joseph’s Institution occupied the premises. My motivation was of course very different from my previous visits … choosing to have an encounter with what is perhaps some of the more eye-catching exhibits on display at the Singapore Biennale.

The building that now hosts the SAM was one that I have many fond memories of having gone to school there some three decades ago.

I suppose the most eye-catching of the exhibits for me would be a somewhat morbid display of work by Filipino artist Louie Cordero – a set of works entitled My We. This we are given to understand, was inspired by (in the artist’s own words) the “recent spate of murders of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ in Filipino karaoke bars. The works feature a set of figures, impaled by different objects and a videoke machine that repeatedly plays the song with images relating to reports of bar fights and murders supposedly over how the song should be sung.

Louie Cordero's 'My We' features gruesome cast human forms impaled with all kinds of objects.

... as well as a videoke machine, inspired by "the recent spate of murders of Frank Sinatra's My Way in Filipino Karaoke Bars".

Having a taste of the gruesome, the other exhibits seemed mild in comparison. Simon Fujiwara’s Welcome to the Hotel Mumber was disappointingly closed for reasons not stated, with two other exhibits to be found on the main SAM site which is Ryan Trecartin’s Re’Search Wait’S a four part video installation which as the guide would have it, “features a cast of manic characters, played by Trecartin and close friends, in a series of overlapping realities in which identity is endlessly fluid”. The videos feature subjects in frenetic speech that reflect the effect that “the mass media and new technologies” have on “how we imagine and express ourselves” – something that I can certainly identify with. The other exhibit at the SAM that I could see is German artist Julian Göthe’s Popcorn and Politics, afternoon, two sculptured objects that as the guide would have it “combine minimalist severity and baroque excess”, supplemented by rope drawings on the walls that “construct a theatrical environment for his sculptures”, that supposedly were to “evoke moods of glamour, erotism and danger”, something that I somehow didn’t all feel, feeling only a sense of danger that the angular sculptures and the all encompassing net somehow gave me.

Julian Göthe’s "Popcorn and Politics, afternoon", features two sculptured objects surrounded by rope drawings on the walls.

There was still some time after looking around to reminisce, walking down corridors that I walked some three decades in the past, it was certainly nice to be able to do that and I am grateful that the magnificent building, that despite the maybe somewhat abstract and gruesome installations that have made a short appearance for the Biennale, still welcomes us in the same way with its seemingly outstretched arms. Time then to head out to the next destination of the Biennale’s circuit – SAM at 8Q, on which I will devote another post to …

Walking down the corridors I spent four years of my life some thirty years ago always gives me a chance to reminisce ...





Taking flight from Old Kallang Airport

5 04 2011

No, it wasn’t flights of fancy that one might associate with the idealistic pursuit of expression that artists are sometimes inclined to have that took off from what was Singapore’s first civil airport, Old Kallang Airport. The former airport, still with us in the form of its iconic terminal building and control tower, along with a few auxiliary buildings around it, isn’t of course capable of hosting flying machines – something that we have not seen in the shadows of the simple terminal building for over half a century, with its runway and much of the land it occupied given to other uses.

The light is shinning on Old Kallnag Airport for the Singapore Biennale 2011.

One that certainly did not take to the skies .... parked where a flying machine might have been seen over half a century ago.

It wasn't just the flying of an imaginary flag up a flag pole that Old Kallang Airport saw on Sunday.

What did take off from the old airport were some of the simpler pursuits we once indulged in during our childhoods, something that both young and old were able to participate in – the flying of simple light paper and bamboo framed kites. It was a simple yet brilliant idea that provided a welcome distraction to many of the younger and otherwise bored visitors at Singapore Biennale Open House, which hasn’t really taken Singapore by storm as it should really have done. The kite flying was part of the craft activities that reached out to the young that included terrarium making, badge making, and paper aeroplane making. Children were allowed to decorate their own kites, have tails fixed on, and with a kite string on a small reel, the kites were ready to go.

The lack of a runway did not deter flights from taking off from Kallang Airport.

A child running with a kite ...

Even the older "kids" had a ball of a time.

Flights from Kallang Airport ...

A kite seen through a dangling cable.

The activities are all part of the Beinnale’s Family Day Out aimed at reaching out to members of the public offering not just a host of activities, but also free admission to all venues on Sundays and Public Holidays in April and May right up to the Beinnale’s last day on 15 May. For more information on the activities and the Family Day Out, do visit the Singapore Biennale 2011’s website at this link.

Despite the manifesto for bad music ....

... there was some good music in store for visitors to Old Kallang Airport with an enjoyable performance by Ling Kai.





Reflections on Old Kallang Airport (Singapore Biennale 2011)

18 03 2011

[Do note that if you are planning a visit to the Biennale at Old Kallang Airport, the entrance is at Stadium Link, off Geylang Road, a short walk away from Kallang MRT Station. A link to a Google Map with the specific location of the entrance can be found at the end of this post].


Glancing at the headline of yesterday’s article on page 2 of the Life section of the Straits Times, which read “Biennale’s Kallang site not ideal. Visitors say that Old Kallang Airport, one of four venues for the art event, is difficult to get to and very stuffy”, and the lack of interest that is apparent at the venue so far with the exception of Saturday’s Open House Opening Party, one certainly can’t help but have a feeling that the choice of the site of the Singapore’s first civil airport, Old Kallang Airport, wasn’t a good one. I for one, did not mind the absence of a crowd, as that provided me with an opportunity to explore the marked historic site at leisure taking in as much as I could, grateful for the opportunity to explore buildings that I had previously only glanced at from behind a fence. In walking around, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a brilliant idea to do so, not just from the perspective of providing the public access to what had for long otherwise been a closed-off site, but also that the site was ideal for such an event, providing the spatial requirements required that does not exist in the confines of the museum buildings and sites in the city centre. Yes, maybe the site does seem a world away from the convenience of the city, but it isn’t really too far away and readily accessible via public transport, with the Kallang MRT station being a short enough walk away from the entrance to the site. Perhaps what is lacking isn’t the convenience that some have voiced their opinions about, but the information that the public needs to know.

The sign at the entrance of Old Kallang Airport.

The entrance of Old Kallang Airport.

I guess I am one for old places, especially the few that reamin that I can identify in some way from the childhood I had in a Singapore time has erased. The distinctive terminal building of the old airport with its control tower, which by the time I arrived in the world, was used by the People’s Association (PA) as its headquarters, had always been one that I had associated with Kallang and the Nicoll Highway, rising on the left of the east bound carriageway of Singapore’s first highway built after the airport had ceased operations. That would be the approach to the old Guillemard Circus and the wonderful neon signs that I somehow associate with the roundabout. There were many times that I had passed the building on foot as well, cutting on the side of it through from Kallang Road on the way to the National Stadium to catch a match or in the two months that I would have walked by on an almost daily basis on the way to Jalan Bennan Kapal. The tower adorned with the rings of the PA’s logo, had always caught my eye, rising somewhat defiantly and proudly to remind us of its past as Singapore’s first civil airport all those years back.

The distinctive terminal building which is a landmark in the area.

Another view of the terminal building.

The entrance gate to the terminal building.

Perhaps the inspiration for this set of photographs ... a work on display in the terminal building.

The reminders of its previous role had been everywhere, with names such as “Old Airport Road” and Dakota Crescent around. So even with me not having seen it used as an airport, I had been aware of it since I could remember … The airport had I was to discover, was built as an airfield on the site of land reclaimed from the swampy Kallang Basin in 1937 at the cost of S$9 million. It was opened very grandly by the then Govenor of Singapore, Sir Shenton Thomas, who flew in from Seletar for the occasion with some 70 aircraft there to mark the occasion. The location next to the Kallang Basin proved useful as it also allowed seaplanes to land. It was used by the Japanese who built a paved runway during the occupation, and refurbished by the British on their return. And although there were plans to expand and upgrade the airport the the end of the 1940s and early 1950s, it was thought that effort involved would prove too costly and Kallang was abandoned for a new inetrnational airport at Paya Lebar. Paya Lebar started operations in 1955 and that saw the last of Kallang as a civil airport, with the PA moving into the site in 1960. On the evidence of old photographs, the hangars were used by the Public Works Department (PWD) after the airport closed. The bulk of the location of the main runway was then transformed into Kallang Park one which the Oasis Restaurant, Wonderland Amusement Park and later the National Stadium, Indoor Stadium and Kallang Leisuredrome was built.

The main hangar next to the West Block.

The West Block and the main hangar off the window of the terminal building.

A smaller hangar, once used as a second hand car showroom.

An auxiliary building.

Another view of the smaller hangar.

It was certainly nice to walk around the old site and reflect on this, and hence the theme of this post … much of the old airport grounds that are left have been left in not so much its original state, but in a state that perhaps the PA had left them in – which I thought wonderfully complemented the exhibits. That also meant a lot of the wear and tear was evident from not just the use of the buildings by the PA, but the hangars by used car dealers at some point in time – I remember seeing them still at the end of the 1990s passing by after a concert at the Indoor Stadium. That provided me with an alternative view of the buildings – reflected off puddles of water and off windows and mirrors. I certainly did not get enough of it on the two occasions that I visited and I will certainly return for more.

A Toast Box cafe set up in one of the smaller hangars.

The side of a hangar.

The roof of the smaller hangar.

The main hangar.

Ventilation openings on the side of the main hangar.

The inside of the main hangar.

Roof of the main hangar.

Windows on the side of the main hangar.

Windows on the side of the main hangar.

Some of the auxiliary buildings on the premises - I understand that these were used by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra in the 1990s.

A newer auxiliary building ... perhaps added in the 1950s as an expanded air traffic control centre.

A peek under a marquee.

Another view of the terminal building and an auxiliary building.

A reflection of the East Block on a mirror mounted on an auxiliary building.

A last look ....

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


What’s to become of Old Kallang Airport? Thankfully, we should see that it is conserved for our future generations – it would be nice to see it turned into some kind of aviation museum though:

URA Letter to the Strait Times, 5 Mar 2010

URA has plans for old Kallang Airport site

I THANK Mr Edwin Pang for his Forum Online letter last Friday, 'Turn site into civil aviation heritage centre'.

The former Kallang Airport is located within Kallang Riverside, which is envisioned to be a new lifestyle hub at the fringe of the city area under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) 2008 Master Plan.

The former Kallang Airport passenger terminal building with its distinctive art deco structure, as well as the office buildings, former hangar, Old Airport Square and other historical structures, was designated a heritage area and conserved in 2008 to preserve memories while allowing for a new lease of life.

In future, they will be adapted to new uses as part of a future development centred on the conserved Old Airport Square, offering a wide range of lifestyle, entertainment and retail facilities.

In January, the Singapore Biennale committee announced that it was considering the former Kallang Airport as a venue for the festival next year. URA and the Singapore Land Authority are glad that the artistic community has found heritage buildings to be suitable venues for contemporary art events. Past editions of the Biennale were also held in heritage environments.

The synergy between heritage buildings and contemporary arts is useful in bringing the awareness of our conservation buildings to the wider public and helps to endear our heritage buildings to Singaporeans.

Hwang Yu-Ning (Ms)
Group Director (Physical Planning)
Urban Redevelopment Authority


Getting to Old Kallang Airport:

The entrance to Old Kallang Airport is located at Stadium Link, off Geylang Road and is a ten minute walk from Kallang MRT Station. Please click on this link for the specific location.









%d bloggers like this: