25 Owen Road

Text by Eugene Tan

The last building left standing from the Singapore Improvement Trust's Kampong Java 3-year development plan which once stretched from Dorset Road to Moulmein Road, there was a sense of history to this unassuming building.

25 Owen Road before demolition in 2012 (Photo credit: Eugene Tan)

When Singapore’s civil government resumed in 1946 after World War II, The Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), the housing authority of that time, saw new housing as one of its immediate priorities. In the latter half of 1946, various new housing designs and cost estimates were put forward for discussion as the Trust searched for solutions to mitigate high prices, shortage of materials and lack of funds. The 12 shops and 12 flats at Owen Road were a direct result of these new schemes and hence became one of Singapore’s first post-World War II flats.

Top-down view of 25 Owen Road

Backlane of 25 Owen Road

To fund more building projects, this project was undertaken with the intention of being sold. However, when no satisfactory tender was received, the flats were allocated by priority on a points system, and the shops by tender. As part of new implements, the shops and flats were designed on a depth of 70ft from front to back lane. The Trust believed that this would negate the need for airwells, and provided better ventilation throughout the units while achieving adequate shop and living space.

Singapore Improvement Trust Kampong Java Development Plan

Never designated for conservation, it was announced in October 2012 that rentals would cease, and the building was demolished later that year. By that time, it was the last standing building in a greater Singapore Improvement Trust project known as the Kampong Java 3-year development plan which stretched from Dorset Road to Moulmein Road.

25 Owen Road facade

25 Owen Road readied for demolition

While the architecture was of a coarser hand than many other Trust projects, 25 Owen Road remained, for its lifetime, a reminder of the times in which it was built – a shift into the efficient home, a shining beacon of new hope and life. Beyond the vicinity's street names, there is now little trace of SIT's or the colonial imprint on this part of Singapore.