Out in the old | Dakota Crescent


I have a cousin who just moved out of Dakota Crescent, the old ’50s housing estate which is about to be razed to make way for further redevelopment. Originally built to accommodate a growing population without adequate housing, it also housed many whose homes went up in flames in the kampung (village) fires in ’58 and ’59 respectively.1

The last time I visited said cousin at her flat was when I was a little girl (only yesterday, surely!), and would have forgotten all about the old estate if not for its soon-to-be-demolished status. Aside from the handful of stragglers waiting to leave, it’s mostly empty now, save workman removing the debris of old life, and those who weave through on their way elsewhere.

A playground of the times. I played in playgrounds much like this as a kid (this particular one was built a year before I was born). It’s funny to look at it through rose tint, now that so few of these remain. This one is slated to be demolished, along with the old housing estate surrounding it, very soon. Dakota Crescent, Singapore, July 2017

I visit more often now that it’s almost empty, especially in the middle of the day, before the MRT (local metro) stations and buses disgorge the post-work and -school masses. It’s an hour’s bus ride from where I live, longer after the traffic builds at rush hour. Mostly, I go there for its quiet and space, a rarity in this packed city-state. There aren’t a lot of low rise flats with broad open areas left in Singapore. They certainly don’t build them now, in this tiny island where every inch of space is expensive as all hell, and therefore utilized with maximum efficiency. I have no attachment to the old Dakota estate, but it is a reminder of the Singapore that still existed while I was still very young, which remains a useful reference point to navigate the Singapore I am still lost in, on many levels.

And if I am honest, I will admit that I get a kick out of its faded pastel hues. It’s one of the few places near where I live, that actually looks like an old photograph, an aesthetic I associate with American small towns. And while it still stands, I get it all to myself.

Signs of life. Dakota Crescent, Singapore, July 2017
Ready to go. Block 12, boarded up. Dakota Crescent, Singapore, July 2017
Bush sculptures. Dakota Crescent, Singapore, July 2017
Laundry through the ages: Clothing on bamboo is still how we dry our clothes today. Dakota Crescent, Singapore, July 2017
Portent? Dakota Crescent, Singapore, July 2017
Faded flag, because National Day (9 August) is coming. Dakota Crescent, Singapore, July 2017
Not quite the beach :) Dakota Crescent, Singapore, July 2017
Ornamental bougainvillea. Dakota Crescent, Singapore, July 2017
Last light. On this particular day, all of my batteries quit on me, just as the light got good. Dakota Crescent, Singapore, July 2017

Random Factoid: Dakota Crescent was named after an American aircraft called Douglas DC-3 Dakota, which commonly landed at Kallang Airport before it was closed. It also commemorates an aviation disaster which happened on 29 June 1946, which killed all the passengers on board, when one of the Royal Air Force’s Dakota aircraft crashed at Kallang Airport in a thunderstorm. from Wikipedia.


  1. True North Mark says:

    Cool story Treasure!

  2. True North Mark says:

    I have jumped out of a few Dakota’s in my day as well! :)

    1. Charlene says:

      I bet you have Markie! I’ve never seen a DC-3 with my own eyes. Closest I’ve come is taking a joyride in a Charlie 130 at an airshow. Didn’t jump out of it though… for some reason they wouldn’t entertain the idea ;)

  3. Erin Wilson says:

    The pastel colours and the strong lines are really something. I’m sure some details are singular to Singapore, but this felt like Miami too. Maybe that’s the magic with honing in on details…so many specifics are universal.

    Really lovely series, Charlene. Sorry that it will soon be gone. That said…I wonder if I’d find the place quite as magical if it was still filled with people and their things.

    1. Charlene says:

      Things change so rapidly here. It’s one of the hallmarks of this city. Come back after a couple of years away and the differences can be rather mindblowing, so I’m still coming to grips with 15 years of non presence, what all the new stuff means, and try not to get lost when on my way to meet people (so far, not too successfully).

      On the bright side, everyone i know who’s left, feels the same when they come back, so I’m not alone / crazy… yet ;)

    2. Charlene says:

      Oh, and in reponse, Erin: I think you might find it like Miami (I’ve never been, only seen pictures) when populated. A different kind of magic… but maybe not quite stillness, despite the rest of the city roaring around you.

      Hope you are having a wonderful time home. Much love from over here.

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