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— by Claire Voon: Decades aho, the Singapore river was teeming with small wooden rowboats known as sampans that carried fishermen and cargo. It can be easy to forget this former way of life, considering the city’s cosmopolitan reputation, but a delightful ode to this history resides in the town of Pasir Ris, where a playground is shaped like this traditional vessel. Rising out of the sandpit as if bobbing on a gentle current, it features tires on its sides, perfect for scrambling up. Built in the early 1990s, shortly after sampans began disappearing from local waters, the mosaic structure is a relic of Singapore’s urban planning history. It is also one of the last designs of Khor Ean Ghee, the country’s first playground designer.

Over 15 years, Khor helped define the appearance of citywide leisure spaces. In envisioning sites that referenced local culture and popular imagery, he contributed to broader efforts to build a strong sense of self and nationhood…

Image: sampan-shaped playground equipment, courtesy of Justin Zhuang (CC BY-NC 2.0)

June 11, 2019