Bedok Swimming Complex

Text by Patricia Chia

Bedok Swimming Complex was born from Singapore’s nation-building period, inculcating healthy living and sports excellence amongst all. It exemplified the public swimming pool as a typological signifier of Singapore’s modernisation.

Pre-MRT track view of Bedok Swimming Complex, c. 1982 (Photo credit: Singapore Institute of Architects)

As part of a larger plan to build self-sufficient town centres, public swimming pools became a standard component to be constructed to serve residents living in the neighbourhood. As the 1980s was a peak period of public housing construction, public swimming complex construction paralleled this boom. A whopping 13 swimming pools were constructed within ten years, namely in Paya Lebar, Bedok, Kallang Basin, Bukit Merah, Clementi, Yio Chu Kang, Hougang, Yishun, Bukit Batok, Woodlands, Tampines, Pandan Gardens and Boon Lay. It is no wonder that by the end of the 1980s, Singapore was known to have the most number of public swimming pools per square kilometre in the world. It was not uncommon to see other sports facilities such as badminton halls and running tracks constructed in the near vicinity of these swimming pools.

Plan and elevation of Bedok Swimming Complex

The complex at Bedok consists of a competition pool, a teaching pool, a wading pool and a learners’ pool. It is most identifiable by its strong geometric theme. The entrance, changing rooms and refreshment areas operate as a dividing threshold between the competition and teaching pools, wading and learners’ pools, making these common facilities accessible to all pool areas.

Starting blocks at Bedok Swimming Complex

Entrance to Bedok Swimming Complex

Above this spatial threshold are prism-shaped skylights that funnel daylight through, illuminating the spaces below. These bold geometric forms give a strong identity and presence to the swimming complex – a formal articulation that is appropriate for its social program. Fence grilles along the north end visually extend the space of the complex and allow for pedestrians on the perimeter walkway to take in the wet spectacle of splashes and screams of happy children.

Rear elevation of Bedok Swimming Complex

1996 Sports for Life event at Bedok Swimming Complex

The relevance of the pool as a public sports and recreation venue continues till today. In 1996, Bedok Sports Complex hosted the launching of the Singapore Sports Council’s “Sports for All” campaign, with then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong as guest-of-honour. Schools in the neighbourhood also hold their annual school sports meets at the swimming pool or nearby track.

Aerial view of Bedok Swimming Complex 2013

In January of 2015, the then Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan indicated that there was "potential" for Bedok Swimming Complex to be redeveloped for housing. These plans were put into action in 2017 with the closure and eventual demolition of the pool in August.