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Evolving Playgrounds
The Straits Times
June 25, 2018

From basic structures to thematic designs, HDB play areas have changed over the years.

Playgrounds, an integral part of public housing estates in Singapore, are set to be reinvented, as the HDB embarks on a new generation of thematic playgrounds that will encourage imaginative play and exploration among children, and draw families and the community closer.

Over the past decades, these playgrounds have evolved in design, form and function.

In the early 1960s and 1970s, playgrounds in HDB estates had functional play equipment such as slides and swings. From the mid-1970s to early 1980s, the playgrounds took on identifiable forms such as dragons and animals.

The mid-1980’ playgrounds were inspired by nursery rhymes and children’s games. By the 1980s, playground designs depicting local fruit and vegetables, such as mangosteens and watermelons, gained popularity.

The early 1990s featured proprietary play equipment with a combination of play structures. And in the 2000s, they became even more inclusive community spaces, with the introduction of the 3-Generation Family Playground which catered to the elderly, adults and children. Recently, the HDB has embarked on a new generation of thematic playgrounds in new housing projects. The use of themes, taking into account the history and unique identity of each town, is aimed at building a stronger town identity. To date, six thematic playgrounds have been completed – in Choa Chu Kang, Sengkang, Woodlands, Sembawang and Toa Payoh. Another nine in Bukit Panjang, Dawson and Clementi will be ready by 2021. To celebrate the history and evolution of playgrounds in Singapore, the National Museum has teamed up with the HDB to hold an exhibition called The More We Get Together: Singapore’s Playgrounds 1930-2030. The ongoing exhibition ends on Sept 30 this year.


The playground at EastBank @ Canberra, located in front of Blocks 121B and 121C in Canberra Street, features a double-decker ship where children can imagine taking command of the seas, in a nod to the area, Sembawang, which was once home to a naval base. Children can slide down from the upper deck or climb up rope ladders to that deck. There are also stilt-like climbing structures with netting, resembling a kelong with its fishing nets.


Military camps once occupied the sites where HDB precincts Keat Hong Mirage and Keat Hong Quad, and the neighbourhood park Keat Hong Garden, now stand in Choa Chu Kang. Paying homage to its roots, the playgrounds in the estate have been designed with hints of a military theme. At Keat Hong Mirage’s playground, children get to climb and “drive” a “military tank”.



The playground at Compassvale Cape, located between Blocks 286C and 287A in Compassvale Crescent, features a “sunken” ship structure with climbing play elements. and blue rubber mat flooring imitating the waves of the ocean.