Ang Mo Kio is located in the northeastern region of Singapore.1 The name Ang Mo Kio in Hokkien literally translates to “red-haired man’s bridge”.2
Ang Mo Kio was largely uninhabited throughout the 19th century. Settlers were attracted to the area around the turn of the century, as a result of the rubber boom.3 In the old maps of Singapore, much of the area now known as Ang Mo Kio was labelled as Ang Mo Kio Forest Reserve, and featured many plantation estates.4 The name Ang Mo Kio in Hokkien literally translates to “red-haired man’s bridge”, where ang mo is a colloquial term for a Caucasian person. The maps showed John Turnbull Thomson’s bridge over the Kallang River, near what is now the junction of Upper Thomson Road and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1. With the clearing of the land, several villages sprung up, which eventually became known as Ang Mo Kio.5
Immigrant Chinese, mostly Hokkiens, were engaged in rubber-planting and tapping, and where Ang Mo Kio New Town now stands was once a huge rubber plantation. The 1922 and 1932 world slump in rubber prices made many tappers and labourers turn to pig and poultry farming or market gardening. During World War II when Singapore was occupied by the Japanese, more people moved to Ang Mo Kio to take up farming.6
The development of Ang Mo Kio New Town began in 1973 and was completed in 1980.7 The 29-hectare self-contained town centre was built over an elongated valley formerly occupied by squatters.8 It had commercial offices, as well as cultural and community facilities serving at least 174,770 residents.9 In less than a decade, Ang Mo Kio had become a well-planned new town.10
Ang Mo Kio was also where the first town councils were set up as a pilot project. Three pilot town councils, namely Ang Mo Kio West, Ang Mo Kio East and Ang Mo Kio South, were set up on 1 September 1986. The town councils were responsible for the upkeep and management of the constituencies under their purview. Following the successful pilot projects, the town council concept was implemented throughout Singapore via the Town Councils Act which came into effect in 1988.11
The design of Ang Mo Kio won the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) Outstanding Buildings Award in 1983. The swimming complex at Avenue 1 also won the 1986 SIA Architectural Award for its unique “tetrahedral skylight” design. The first town to be designed in metric dimensions, it was the seventh housing estate town developed by the Housing and Development Board (HDB).12 Two mass rapid transit (MRT) train stations, Yio Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio, and a nearby bus-interchange, make travel to and from this location very convenient.13
1. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Ang Mo Kio Planning Area: Planning Report 1996 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1996), 4. (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
2. David Brazil, Street Smart: Singapore (Singapore: Times Books International, 1991), 149. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS])
3. Brenda S. A. Yeoh and Lily Kong, ed., Portraits of Places: History, Community and Identity in Singapore (Singapore: Times Editions, 1995), 165. (Call no. RSING 959.57 POR-[HIS])
4. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Ang Mo Kio Planning Area, 9.
5. Brazil, Street Smart: Singapore, 148–49; Yeoh and Kong, Portraits of Places, 165.
6. Yeoh and Kong, Portraits of Places, 165.
7. Yeoh and Kong, Portraits of Places, 164.
8. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Ang Mo Kio Planning Area, 8; Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 46. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
9. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Ang Mo Kio Planning Area, 8; “Population Trends 2015,” Department of Statistics Singapore and Ministry of Trade & Industry Singapore, September 2015, 58.
10. Yeoh and Kong, Portraits of Places, 176.
11. “Town Council Soon?” Straits Times, 18 March 1986, 13; Irene Ngoo and Augustine Low, “Ang Mo Kio to Have 3 Town Councils Next Month,” Straits Times, 13 August 1986, 1; Augustine Low, “Town Councils Take Over from HDB,” Straits Times, 1 September 1986, 8; “How the Town Councils Will Work,” Straits Times, 29 June 1988, 13; “Town Councils Bill Passed,” Straits Times, 30 June 1988, 1; “Town Councils Act in Effect,” Business Times, 6 August 1988, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Ang Mo Kio Planning Area, 8.
13. “MRT Work in Ang Mo Kio,” Business Times, 16 August 1985, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
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