Golden Shoe Redevelopment – A Solid Approach to Uproot Urban Decay

Singapore experienced an unstable political condition during the 1960s, while Singapore ended the status as a British colony in 1963 and separated from Malaysia as a newly independent state in 1965. The drastic change made the leading role of Singapore – People’s Action Party and Lee Kuan Yew – became critical to sort out the solution to survive under uncertain diplomatic environment, meaning that seeking foreign aid might not be the only way; encouraging internal economic development might be the most efficient solution to deal with the imminent national crisis.

However, the socio-economic condition at the time was not favorable to ensure the nation’s future prospect in the long run. According to a survey taken by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) in 1956, the data indicated that the urban area of Singapore, the Central Area, in particular, there were around 75,000 – 85,000 houses were classified as “Ripe for demolition” condition while 105,000 – 115,000 other houses were under “Obsolete with limited life” condition. Moreover, poverty was still one of the major social problems took place in Singapore at the time. For instance, as many citizens could not afford proper housing, they chose to live in the subdivided cubicles that created a serious overpopulation in the Central Area, and that also created traffic congestions in the area because they did not have sufficient space to live indoor and the street is the only option for them to do different activities such as trading and street hawking.

Typical living conditions in the old shophouses in the Central Area. Source: Chua, Beng Huat., and Gretchen. Liu. The Golden Shoe: Building Singapore’s Financial District. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1989.

From the images shown above, the living condition of the typical shophouses at the time was under poor conditions. Living and cooking spaces were cramped together and lacked sufficient space. Without a doubt, the government would not be pleasant to allow this type of settlement exists in the urban core of Singapore, which is important to the nation as it would be interpreted by the foreign nations and the world that Singapore was a weak state and without the ability to survive and prosper.

In my opinion, apart from the fact that the urban core of Singapore was decayed and required renovations and redevelopment for the sake of safety. The government treated this as an opportunity for the nation to rebrand herself and grow again through redeveloping the area – tearing down old and dilapidated housing and replacing with modern towers to create a brand new and up-to-date Central Business District (CBD) in the heart of Singapore.

After a decade from the initiation of the project in 1967, the result was obvious that the area was then built with different commercial towers and bank headquarters. The tertiary industry of Singapore was stimulated by the introduction of these new office and shop spaces and turned into an economic powerhouse. The introduction of private-public cooperation in selecting land plots and tower designing further encouraged investment and became a successful experimental site for tower constructions as well as urban policies.



Chua, Beng Huat., and Gretchen. Liu. The Golden Shoe: Building Singapore’s Financial District. Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1989.

1 Comment on “Golden Shoe Redevelopment – A Solid Approach to Uproot Urban Decay

  1. Social issues such as overpopulation and poverty have been a concern in many countries over the years. It is therefore not surprising that Singapore also underwent such a socio-economic crisis in the past. As I read through the blog, it reminded me of the older districts in Hong Kong, where problems such as lack of living spaces and overcrowding still exist in the present-day society. Today, both Hong Kong and Singapore are well-developed cities thanks to urban redevelopment and modernization. I agree with the point that redeveloping the shabby areas in Singapore does not only eliminate urban decay, but it also helps to enhance prosperity and potentially promote itself as a brand new city that has an up-to-date urban core. However, I do believe that conservation is also an important issue that should be considered during urban redevelopment, as it is crucial to preserve the historically and architecturally significant neighbourhood to retain the authenticity of the city.

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