More than 80% of the population in Singapore lives in subsidised government-built homes. This amounts to over 1 million flats in dense, high-rise housing estates. These homes, which are predominantly owned by their residents, are developed and maintained by the nation’s public housing authority, the Housing and Development Board.
The original typologies built in the 60’s were mainly long rectangular slab blocks, with flats lined up along a common corridor. Variations in shapes and height were later introduced as the housing estates grew. Potted plants, laundry racks and shoes are a familiar sight along HDB corridors, giving a hint of the different personalities behind each door. Simultaneously a shared space for circulation and the public façade of individual homes, these corridors are an intrinsic part of everyday life in Singapore.
Informal front gardens are created with arrangements of potted plants in the common corridor, providing a means of connecting with nature on a more personal scale whilst living in a dense urban environment. They break up the highly repetitive facades and rows of walkways, softening the threshold between public and private.
For an older generation of Singaporeans like my grandmother, who lived in a traditional kampung village before moving to a HDB flat in the 70’s, a corridor garden was also part of adapting to a new way of life in a high rise building.