Bishan’s brick-red HDB facade painted over with ugly colours

From ‘Some see red over colourful facade for Bishan’, 17 Sept 2014, article by Melody Zaccheus, ST

A FRESH coat of paint usually brings cheer, but a splash of colour on Bishan’s beloved red-brick flats has upset some people instead. Some terracotta housing blocks, like those in Bishan Streets 22 and 24, will be doused in a medley of colours, with combinations such as grey, silver and golden yellow, as part of ongoing repairs by the area’s town council.

But the mishmash of colours has upset some residents, architects and heritage experts. Architectural and urban historian Lai Chee Kien said the paint job will change the feature of an estate known for its red-brick facade. “Red-brick panels and bands were probably chosen by the estate’s original architects to present a common, unifying aesthetic identity. Today’s town councils must look at this from a larger scale and keep the entire town in mind when making these changes,” he added.

…At Blocks 201 to 219 in Street 23, residents were presented earlier this year with three colour palettes starkly different from the original. They included a pink and purple combination.

Resident Charlene Koh, 27, a designer, was upset. “The rows of red-brick blocks evoke a sense of warmth… They are iconic and distinct. I don’t want to look out my window and see a horrible colour on the next block.”

HDB’s palette used to be restricted to neutral tones of grey, white or brown, but in the eighties some designers decided to boldly go where no bureaucrat has gone before, add a PRIMARY colour to the mix. Red, however, was considered too ‘loud’, and you don’t want a colour that’s universally associated with rage splashed all over your flat. Nor do you want to drop random stripey rainbow colours and end up looking like a rastacap, or some kid’s toy xylophone.

I personally don’t really care what colour scheme my block has unless it’s a genuine eyesore, like yellow polka dots. Some stark combinations like Rochor’s foursome of bright red, blue, yellow and green have become recognisable icons (though rated as one of the ‘worst buildings in Singapore’ by CNN), while others betray a dismal lack of imagination, or if they have no idea what colour to douse your house in, they add an orchid mural, or a giant Cupid. Overdo the cuteness and you’ll have people mistaking your block for a multi-storey kindergarten, especially if it has rainbows splashed all over it.

There’s even an FAQ on the Bishan Town Council page to address ‘awful colours’. The response is typical.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 11.20.59 PM

What ‘experts’, exactly HDB? Are they the brains behind the Teletubbies? Maybe they’re psychologists who specialise in colour-mood matching who’ve done extensive research to determine what are the best colour combinations to lull HDB dwellers into a state of passive obedience. Granted, you can’t get two people to agree on a preferred colour scheme, might as well choose a combination scientifically proven to stop people from leaping to their deaths.

Here’s a quick list of things that HDB’s ugly colour combinations have been compared to:

1) Chocolate cake (brown brick with shades of darker yellow, Jurong, 1985)

2) Old people’s phlegm (green/yellow, unknown, 2008)

3) Menstrual/hospital sanitary pads (pink, green, unknown, 2014)

4) Pigeon coop, Lego, Tupperware

5) Puke

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 10.27.41 PM

6. Disneyland (suggested pink, purple, blue palette for Tiong Bahru, 2008)

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One Response

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