Black and white …



THE black and white house is just as much a Singapore icon as Orchard Road, salt-and-pepper crab, Raffles, Sentosa Island, Changi Airport, Merlion and afternoon thunderstorms.

“The black and white houses of Singapore occupy a fascinating position in the architectural record of South East Asia,” Julian Davison wrote in his book Black & White: The Singapore House 1898 to 1941.

“Not only do they represent a very singular architectural tradition, not found elsewhere in the region, but they also constitute an important legacy of the island’s colonial past.

“With their stuccoed columns and half-timbered elevations, they encapsulate the quintessence of that bygone era, recalling charmed lived of easy and elegancy.

“They are, however, much more than simply relics of Singapore’s colonial period, these houses are also justly celebrated in purely architectural terms as representing a sensible and ecologically-sound response to the demands of designing for a tropical monsoon climate.”

The black and white dwelling, built to house those civilian and military expats sent to Singapore to make the Equatorial island a little more British, are currently undergoing a renaissance with many homeowners and restaurateurs breathing life into the old buildings by restoring them to their former glory.


I had a chance to take my first up-close look at a black and white this evening when I went for a pre-dinner drink in a restaurant that now occupies one of the celebrated dwellings.

One Rochester, set inside a bungalow built in the 1930s that was “inherited from the era of the British regime”, is described as a gastrobar with the historic building accommodating a relaxed watering hole and patisserie as well as the popular restaurant.

The suburb Rochester Park is one of the famous black-and-white precincts, with a gaggle of these unique houses built on the roads that snake around the sides of this derelict settlement, and while most of them are currently unoccupied some have been restored with a collection of other eateries also in the neighbourhood.

Visit the Visit Singapore website




… posted Monday, November 28, 2011photography by Sarah Nicholson

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