Where to find the huge Hougang HDB murals

I’ve spent many a day trawling streets and alley ways in search of murals and street art in Singapore, but did you know there are some pretty impressive murals adorning the sides of Singapore’s HDB blocks in Hougang? I spent an afternoon wandering around for a closer look at the huge murals on the side of Hougang’s Housing Development Blocks (HDBs) and put together this guide on where to find murals in Hougang if you want to do a big of heartland street art hunting.

I’ve found several similar street art residential estates on my travels: Zaspa in northern Poland is a favourite because the apartment blocks remind me so much of our Singaporean HDB estates, as well as the barracks-turned-living-gallery Weiwuying in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and while I’ve not dedicated a complete post to it, Tor Marancia in Rome was my latest residential street art find in 2020. I was pretty surprised to learn that we had such large scale building-high murals in the Singapore heartlands as murals in HDB estates tend to be found in the void decks.

POLAND

Zaspa, GDANSK

TAIWAN

Weiwuying, KAOHSIUNG

ITALY

TOR MARANCIA, ROME

Community murals

Hougang HDB Mural Blk662-917-923
Racial Harmony and we love Singapore themes run strong

There are 22 murals in total painted by the students of Xinmin Secondary School over 2 phases in 2006 and 2014. Unfortunately there isn’t available information on the specific names so I can’t credit accordingly. Overall I think it’s a pretty impressive job given that these students are just teenagers. It’s also a great community initiative that allows the school to give back and brighten up the community that they are in – the works are in the blocks that face and surround the school compound.

It probably also explains the varying quality of the designs and the ‘National Education‘ sentiment of the works. It feels like a Singapore National Day pep rally theme – golly the number of Singapore flags and Merlions. I couldn’t find info on what brief the students were given for these murals (If you were one of these students, drop a note in the comments please!), but it’s safe to say that it probably had to do with icons of Singapore and loving Singapore as our home and community.

I think it’s a great initiative and the murals really give the Hougang neighbourhood a distinct character. HDB tried to do that with the architecture and you’ll see some of the more experimental-style HDB blocks around here with curved balconies and columns (read more on this in NHB’s Hougang Heritage Trail Booklet), but I’m hoping in future they can open up similar large-scale murals in other estates to Singapore’s plethora of street artists and muralists. Something like what they’ve done in Taman Jurong and Ang Mo Kio but on a much larger, HDB-high scale. And also I would love to see broader themes – Singaporean culture and history is much more than our social studies textbooks and the Merlion.

Count the number of these ‘Singaporean icons’ that you spot and compare them to my Singaporean Icon Count at the bottom of the post:

  • Singapore Flag
  • Merlion
  • Trees
  • Hearts
  • Architecture (MBS, Singapore Flyer, etc.)

Random side note: This song was playing in my head as I was putting together this post and now I want it to get stuck in yours. (ROLL OVER THE OCEAN ROLL OVER THE SEA. DON’T FORGET TO DO YOUR PART TO BUILD COMMUNITYYYYY)


Where to find HDB murals in Hougang

Here’s a Google Map to help you out. Most of the Hougang HDB murals are clustered in the area between Hougang Avenue 8, Hougang Avenue 9 and Hougang Avenue 4 around Xinmin School. I’ve classified them into 3 main areas using major landmarks and also threw in some bonus works in the Hougang estate that you can check out as well. I’ve heard of these works for awhile but only got around to exploring them in March 2021 which is when these photos were taken.

If you are taking public transport to Hougang, some of the closest options:

  • Bus stops 63321/63329 at Blk 627: 25, 55, 112, 132, 854
  • Bus stops 63381/63389 at Xinmin Primary School: 74, 112, 147, 165, 660
  • Bus stops 64479/64471 at Blk 665/Blk 917: 72, 109, 112, 116, 159, 329
  • Hougang MRT on the purple NE Line (NE14) is about 20 minutes walk away

Hougang Avenue 8

If you’re coming from Yio Chu Kang Road, these are some of the first works you’ll see as you turn off Hougang Ave 2 into Hougang Ave 8.

Blk 628, Blk 632

Hougang HDB Mural Blk628
Blk 628: It probably wasn’t intentional but I like how the thick vine in the mural echoes the bare tree in front of it. The (actual) tree is bare because they were doing some construction but also there have been a spate of falling trees killing people in Singapore so I think the government went a bit postal on our trees and stripped them down a little too well
Hougang HDB Mural Blk630
Blk 630: This work faces Blk 628 but I couldn’t get a closer view because of the construction. You’ll see here the many ‘Singaporean’ icons that will pop up in all the works: Singapore, Merlion and the Singapore flag among others

Blk 623

Hougang HDB Mural Blk623
Blk 623: This work faces the carpark gantry and is quite eye-catching because of its red monotone colour scheme

Blk 620, Blk 611

Hougang HDB Mural Blk611
Blk 611: This work faces the one below
Hougang HDB Mural Blk620
Blk 620: Ok this shot is not great because there were barriers along the road (road bend, not the safest to cross) and it was too hot aka I was too lazy to walk further to get a better shot… Go check it out for yourself!

Xinmin Primary+Secondary School

These works are on the blocks of flats on either side of the school compound along Hougang Ave 8. There are 2 sets of 4 murals on the walls facing the school which look quite nice.

Blk 644, Blk 645, Blk 650, Blk 652

Hougang HDB Mural Blk644-652
Hougang HDB Mural Blk644-652
Hougang HDB Mural Blk644
Blk 644: Shockingly enough, this work actually skips most of the more commonly used Singaporean icons, kudos! It does have the racial harmony hands though, as well as some orchids
Hougang HDB Mural Blk645
Blk 645: I’m… actually not quite sure what I”m looking at here. I noted this work down as ‘Ketupat’ and that looks a bit like a Chinese red packet on top, but… nope still don’t know what I’m looking at. I’m assuming the building-like structure below is MBS
Hougang HDB Mural Blk650
Blk 650: I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS. Is it Universal Studious because 1. genuine typo, 2. avoiding copyright issues or 3. a bit of a pun on our education system in Singapore? Also the two black dots on the Merlion: Eyes or Nostrils?
Hougang HDB Mural Blk652
Blk 652: Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles credited as the founder of modern day Singapore makes an appearance alongside an orchid, and it’s hard to tell because it’s blocked by the tree but I think the bottom figures are Lion (left) and Sang Nila Utama, the Palembang Prince credited with spotting a lion on our shores and calling us Singapura

Blk 675, Blk 676, Blk 677, Blk 678

Hougang HDB Mural Blk675-678
Overall I like this cluster of works best
Hougang HDB Mural Blk678
Blk 678: The future lies in our hands is a sentiment that pops up across a number of these murals which is why I think it was one of the briefs/themes given to the students
Hougang HDB Mural Blk677
Blk 677: This is probably my personal favourite work because it doesn’t use the cliched icons and is a bit more imaginative. This open window with shutters and railings are very reminiscent of the olden shophouses in Singapore
Hougang HDB Mural Blk676
Blk 676: This has a reaching for excellence feel, and I think the pyramid shapes at the bottom are 5-stones, a game I played a lot back in primary school
Hougang HDB Mural Blk675
Blk 675: Sadly the Merlion is blinded here as I think they were doing some paintwork – I hope they were touching up and not painting over…

Blk 678, Blk 680

There are another 2 works here on the far end of Blk 678 and the wall on Blk 680 facing it.

Hougang HDB Mural Blk678-sports
Blk 678: It was hard to get a good shot of this because there was construction in front of the block, but it basically depicts sports people. It looks like netball, waterpolo (we have quite strong Asian Champion level teams in these sports) and a floorball player?
Hougang HDB Mural Blk680
Blk 680: This work is a bit goofy as it has what likes like Merlion and Dragon Playground mechas attacking/protecting (?) our manufacturing and science industries? So many questions here but I like the style overall

Hougang Avenue 9

Blk 665, Blk 667, Blk 661, Blk 662

These works all face the carpark off Hougang Avenue 9. Blk 661 and Blk 662 are next to each other, as well as Blk 665 and Blk 667.

Hougang HDB Mural Blk665
Blk 665: at some point it’s hard to find a witty way to describe these familiar Singaporean icons. Blk 667 is on the right of this work
Hougang HDB Mural Blk667
Blk 667: They were going for something more artsy in showing past and present with the hourglass, but to me it just makes me wonder why the blocks have such a weird perspective. Looks like they’re doing some patch work on the top left corner
Hougang HDB Mural Blk662
Blk 662: This one is also going for a racial harmony theme with the 4 major races joining hands and represented by motifs. It’s a nice idea though I think the motifs could be better chosen and am amused that ‘others’ (represented by the white/yellow hand) is so plain.
Hougang HDB Mural Blk661
Blk 661: The Tree and the idea of growth, roots and branches is quite a commonly recurring motif

Blk 917

These works are around Ci Yuan Community Centre on the opposite side of Hougang Avenue 9.

Hougang HDB Mural Blk917
Blk 917: This mama bird with chicks in nest recurs again in Blk 923

Blk 923

Hougang HDB Mural Blk923-top
Blk 923: this is the view from further away, you can see the birds in nest as well as teh Singapore Flyer pods in the background
Hougang HDB Mural Blk923
Blk 923: A better look from the base reveals the all too familiar Merlion

Blk 930

Walk down Hougang Avenue 9 pass Hougang Crimson to see this work.

Hougang HDB Mural Blk930
Blk 930: This faces the junction with Hougang Street 92

Other notable HDB murals in Hougang

Rainbow Block (Blk 316, Hougang Ave 7)

This Rainbow Block at Blk 316 Hougang Avenue 7 has been around since the 1980s and is one of the more iconic HDB block designs in Singapore. The giant rainbow mural has actually had different orientations in the past, and it’s nice that they’ve kept it even when they’ve repainted the blocks. Quite Instagram-friendly as well.

Hougang HDB Mural Blk316 Rainbow
Blk 316: The rainbow is facing a large open court. There were people taking wedding photos when I got this shot and it was just about to start raining

Welcome Block (Blk 25, Hougang Ave 3)

The welcome to Hougang Town Block 25 sits at the busy junction of Hougang Ave 2 and Upper Serangoon Road and has been another local fixture for many years. It’s a pretty simple design of a sun against a blue sky with birds flying and the welcome message in the 4 official languages.

Hougang HDB Mural Blk25 Welcome
Blk 25: I have driven past this block countless times but never actually noticed the mural!

Singaporean Icon Count

Were you counting how many Singaporean icons make an appearance in these Hougang HDB murals? Here’s my final count:

Singapore Flagx 8
Treesx 8
Heartsx 7
Merlionx 6
The word ‘Singapore’x 5
Marina Bay Sandsx 4
Singapore Flyerx 4
Handsx 4
Orchidx 4

Other notable themes throughout the murals: rainbows and HDB blocks

Resources


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