Bugis Junction (indoor streets of Bugis)

Singapore Infopedia

by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala


Bugis Junction is a mixed development comprising a shopping complex, an office tower and a hotel. It incorporated three former streets on its site into its shopping complex: Malabar, Malay and Hylam streets.These streets are the first in Singapore to be air-conditioned, and are referred to as “indoor” streets.2

Historical Background
The Bugis area, where Bugis Junction is located, is named after the Bugis, a Malay sub-group with origins in South Sulawesi (Celebes) in Indonesia, and once well known for their seafaring and warring skills.3

The first Bugis merchants settled in Singapore at around the time it was founded in 1819. At the time, a Bugis prince in Sulawesi was executed for alleged treason, and his brother fled to Singapore to seek refuge, along with 500 followers. They occupied an area that extended from Kampong Glam to the mouth of the Rochor River. To encourage them to settle down, Stamford Raffles laid out a Bugis town which was marked as Bugis Village in early British maps. The present Bugis Street is about 0.5 km west of the original settlement.4

Bugis Junction was officially opened on 8 September 1995.It was managed by Parco and the project developed by Bugis City Holdings, which had four shareholders – Straits Steamship Land, Pidemco Land, Gladioli Investments and Seiyo Investments.6 The project was estimated to cost S$900 million in 1995.7

As part of the development, old shophouses on Malabar, Malay and Hylam streets were rebuilt and weatherproofed, while the streets were featured as Singapore’s first indoor air-conditioned, glass-covered streets. Linked to the Bugis Mass Rapid Transit Station, Bugis Junction also includes a 15-storey office block, the five-star InterContinental Singapore hotel, a departmental store as well as a host of food outlets and shops.8

In 2005, Bugis Junction was bought over by CapitaLand.9

Indoor streets
Malabar Street was named after the immigrants who came to Singapore from the Malabar Coast of India.10 Three-storey shophouses with cream-coloured facades once lined both sides of the street. A Hokkien Buddhist temple, Sun Tian Temple, was located on Malabar Street before it moved to Albert Street in 1986.11

Before the 1930s, Malay Street was notorious for the vice activities that used to take place along the street. Brothels with Chinese, Japanese and Europeans girls were “known to seamen and travellers the world over”.12 The area was purged of its prostitution activities after the authorities cleaned up the place in the early 1930s.13 Due to the large number of Japanese living on Malay Street, it was also known as jit pun koi in Hokkien, which means “Japanese street”.14

Hylam Street was named after the Hainanese immigrants from Hainan, an island province in China.15 They occupied an area stretching from Bencoolen Street to Beach Road through Middle Road, off which is Hylam Street. Many Japanese also lived in the area before World War II.16

Variant names of the streets
Hylam Street
(1) 海南街: Hai-lam koi (Hokkien), hoi-nam kai (Cantonese), both mean “Hailam street”, a reference to the Hiananese immigrants from Hainan island, China, who once lived there.

(2) 海南会馆(后): Hai-lam hue-kuan au (Hokkien), which means “behind the Hailam kongsi house”, referring to the Hylam kongsi house on Malabar Street.

Malabar Street18
海南会馆巷: Hai-lam hue-kuan hang (Hokkien), hoi-nam wui-kwun hong (Cantonese), both mean “Hailam kongsi-house lane”.

Malay Street19
(1) 日本街: Jit-pun koi (Hokkien), which means “Japanese street”.

(2) 日本寨街: Yat pun chai kai (Cantonese), which means “Japanese brothel street”.

Thulaja Naidu Ratnala

1. Kalpana Rashiwala, “Bugis Junction: Can It Beat the Retail Blues?Straits Times, 2 April 1995, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Chan Sue Meng, “White Elephant or Vibrant Shopping Mall? Straits Times, 5 June 1994, 4 (From NewspaperSG); Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Toponymics: A Study of Singapore Street Names (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2003), 245–7. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
3. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 282 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); “Boat Replica to Restore Sense of History to Bugis Junction,” Straits Times, 13 September 1995, 3; “The Bugis Connection: A Tale of two Bugis,” Straits Times, 15 July 1992, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 282; “Boat Replica to Restore Sense of History”; “Bugis Connection.” 
5. Ann Williams, “Bugis-Rochor Area to Be Arts, Entertainment Hub,” Straits Times, 9 September 1995, 48 (From NewspaperSG); Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Lim Hng Kiang Is Guest of Honour at Official Opening Ceremony of Bugis Junction held at Fountain Square, Bugis Junction, 8 September 1995, photograph, Ministry of Information and The Arts Collection, National Archive of Singapore (media-image no. 19980000335-0046)
6. Rashiwala, “Can It Beat the Retail Blues?
7. “Bugis Junction Worth $1B: PCRD,” Business Times, 25 August 1995, 14; Rashiwala, “Can It Beat the Retail Blues?
8. Rashiwala, “Can It Beat the Retail Blues?”; Chan, “White Elephant or Vibrant Shopping Mall?
9. Joyce Teo, “CapitaLand and KepLand to Raise Bugis Stakes,” Straits Times, 14 May 2005, 34; Joyce Teo, “Property Trust Buys Parco Bugis Junction for $581M,” Straits Times, 23 July 2005, 33. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 202. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
11. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 282; Chua Leong Kin,  “The Find That May Restart Controversy,” Straits Times, 20 September 1981, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Savage and Yeoh, Study of Singapore Street Names, 246; Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 203.
13. Savage and Yeoh, Study of Singapore Street Names, 246; L. K. H., “Singapore Is Much Less Sinful Now,” Sunday Tribune (Singapore), 27 May 1934, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Savage and Yeoh, Study of Singapore Street Names, 247; Sit Yin Fong, “Collyer Quay Is Its Official Name,” Straits Times, 12 December 1948, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 109.
16. Savage and Yeoh, Study of Singapore Street Names, 156; Sit, “Collyer Quay Is Its Official Name”; Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 109;
17. H. W. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula,” Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42 (February 1905): 94–95 (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS); Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 109.
18. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places,” 106–7; Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 202.
19. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places,” 106–7; Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 203.

The information in this article is valid as of September 2018 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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