Hong Leong Gardens Shopping Centre was made up of six large hexagons. This was easily perceived from above: five regular hexagons, containing apartments on the 2nd to 4th floors, connected at ground level by commercial functions in an elongated six-sided volume. This aesthetic purity ran throughout the building. The floor tiles, for instance, were also hexagons, while staircases eschewed banality, designed so one moves between floors in an analogous polygonal path.
At the Shopping Centre, one could sense the reciprocity between form and function. The multiple applications of this geometry lent itself to various planning opportunities which the architect was keenly conscious of. The lining of hexagons in a row, for example, creates ‘receiving’ spaces which were fittingly used as inviting entrances, while remnant zones between volumes were designed as landscaped courtyards.
First built as part of Hong Leong Group’s redevelopment of the West Coast belt in the 1980s, the architecture of the Shopping Centre was characteristic of its time. Formally, it shared a clarity with renowned buildings of the late 1970s such as the Subordinate Courts, The Singapore Science Centre and Pearl Bank Apartments. Its clever interpolation of geometries lent it a richness not unlike notable apartment buildings of the 1980s such as The Arcadia and Balestier Point.
Here at Hong Leong Gardens, the plaster and paint finishes of famous precedents made way for bands of blue tiles of strong oriental resonance. Seen by some as a distinctly Japanese architectural feature, these finishes alluded to the building’s social significance – close to the Japanese Kindergarten and Japanese Secondary School, the Shopping Centre once played host to as many as five Japanese restaurants, serving as an important node for Singapore’s Japanese community. The tiles also softened the possibly harsh forms and lent a domestic quality to the architecture, befitting of its location at the edge of residential neighbourhood.
In September 2011, Oxley Holdings bought the shopping centre in the largest en bloc sale of that year, and the Shopping Centre was demolished soon after in late 2012. While a new building may reinvigorate the West Coast area, the Shopping Centre’s charm will be difficult to replicate. To local residents or anybody who frequents the AYE, its distinctive, yet polite architecture of old will be greatly missed.