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.
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.
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.