Museum geek alert! Now that I’m working at the HDB hub, I have many opportunities to check out the HDB gallery. This gallery showcases the development of the Singapore public housing over the years and is open to the public.

HDB Gallery

(frankly, I probably wouldn’t have known of this place if it wasn’t for a fellow museum geek. And he doesn’t even work at HDB!)

With approximately 80 percent of the Singapore population living in flats, HDB has come a long way since forming in 1960. Today, HDB also plays a consultant role in housing issues to countries such as Hong Kong and those in the Middle East.

Pin model of HDB housing blocks

The first display that visitors see in the gallery is this pin model. It has a panel of metal pins placed upon a giant book.

Pin model of HDB housing blocks

At the touch of a button, the book slowly lowers, leaving behind several “blocks” of pins in varying sizes and heights. They reveal the shapes and designs of HDB housing blocks. It actually looks pretty neat!

Map of Singapore with various housing estates

The colourful map shows the various housing estates in Singapore. Each estate lights up when you press the corresponding button on the input panels.

Passageway with television screens lining both sides

This “memory lane” passageway is lined with television screens on both sides. Beyond this, lies the main exhibit area where scenes of life back in the yesteryears are depicted.

From the early 1900s, people lived in crowded slums and squatter settlements with no proper sanitation, lighting or ventilation. Houses were built using attap leaves, old boxes and scrap metal.

Slums and squatter settlements before the 1950s

Several families had to share a communal kitchen that was often dirty. (at a recent trip to the Chinatown heritage centre, I was able to get a better look and feel of this, and of what life was like back then. For those who are interested, do ask me to blog about it later!)

Communal kitchen in old housing

The pots and pans and the kitchen walls have been blackened from soot.

Communal kitchen in old housing

What a stark contrast to the Singapore of today! And it wasn’t even that long ago. Not only was such housing unsanitary, it also posed health and fire hazards.

Slums and squatter settlements before the 1950s

In 1960, HDB was formed to address the critical housing shortage. I’m sure many of you Singaporeans have heard about the infamous bukit ho swee fire that broke out in 1961. (I have heard a certain conspiracy theory about this but I shan’t state it here, for obvious reasons.)

That massive fire rendered 16,000 slum dwellers homeless overnight. Over a period of just 8 months, HDB managed to build sufficient emergency flats to house these people.

Old flats in Tiong Bahru can still be seen today

Look at these old flats in Tiong Bahru. They are still around today!

Model of the eco-precinct, Treetops @ Punggol

Moving on to modern times, this is a model of the eco-precinct, treetops @ punggol. As its name suggests, this is an eco-friendly precinct that will incorporate a range of green technologies and innovations for effective energy, water and waste management. We’re talking solar panels, centralised recyclable refuse chutes and a rainwater collection system.

Skybridge that simulates the view from 50 storeys up

The skybridge above simulates the view from 50 storeys above the ground, with skyscrapers, moving vehicles, and a sky that changes according to the time of the day. The concept was good, but the CGI was pretty bad.


In the near future, technology would be very much integrated into homes. What you see above is a working model of a living room in an e-home. Visitors get to play around with the electronic devices.

For example, music, movies and pictures can be transferred wirelessly from the study room computer to the television set in the living room. Lights can be turned on and off, and window blinds can be rolled up or down all from one central device.

And that’s not all. Say you go out but you forget to turn off the lights at home. You can simply go online and have remote access to turn off the lights from wherever you are. All you would need is an internet connection!

Remotely control the lights and blinds at home over the Internet

Pretty cool! I hope this becomes a reality soon!

This is a rather small gallery. For those of you who happen to pass by the HDB hub, you may want to check it out. It would give you a better idea of the history behind public housing in Singapore, and what lies in store.

HDB Gallery
480 Toa Payoh Lorong 6
Basement 1 Singapore 310480 [map]

Opening hours: 8:30am – 5pm (Monday to Friday)
Admission: Free