Here are the most annoying station names on the Singapore MRT network

Yishun station in Singapore. Image: Getty.

Editor’s note: On Twitter, after publishing yet another rant about London station names, I noted that I would be delighted to publish similar rants about other cities, if only anyone thought to send them to me. Here’s one now.

one-north

This station, named after a neighbouring business park, is the only station on the whole network to have a name which starts with an uncapitalised letter (and also the only one with a hyphen in its name).

Every time I see this station on the map, I get annoyed because I think that someone has made a typo. Then I remember that this is the station’s correct name and I sigh.

HarbourFront

This one’s located underneath HarbourFront Centre, which is on Harbourfront Place. Unfortunately, the station takes after the shopping centre rather than the street name, leaving yet another station with inappropriate capitalisation in its name.

Farrer Park and Farrer Road

These two stations sound they should be right next to each other: they sound so similar!

The MRT system map. Click to expand.

Unfortunately, they are about 6.6km apart, with Farrer Park being located in the fairly central district of Little India, and Farrer Road lying in the middle of an upmarket suburb. These two stations are not even on the same MRT line.

The similarity of the two names have gotten many people confused, and unfortunately for anyone who has made the mistake of going to the wrong one, it’s a 25 minute journey between the two.

Downtown

This station’s name implies that it is in the heart of Singapore’s central business district, which is slightly misleading. One of its exits literally opens out into an empty patch of grass, which is not something one usually finds in the heart of a city.

The actual “downtown” area can be found around Raffles Place, a neighbouring station about 8 minutes’ walk away.


Jurong East

There is no Jurong West station, unfortunately. The suburb of Jurong West is served by three MRT stations (Lakeside, Boon Lay and Pioneer) but it feels like a missed opportunity that none of them have been named in such a way to serve as a complement to their neighbouring station in the east.

This is especially evident when you look at the suburb of Tampines, whose three stations (Tampines, Tampines West and Tampines East) form a satisfying trio.

Beauty World

The name of this station is evocative, leading one to imagine vibrantly coloured wildflowers blooming in green meadows just lying in wait right outside.

Once you step out of the exit however, there is not much beauty in sight. This station is located in a distant suburban neighbourhood best known for its 24-hour restaurants, and is named for an amusement park which once stood in the vicinity but is no longer there, having been replaced by 70’s-era concrete block towers.

Cashew

It is a bit difficult to take a station seriously when it’s named after a nut.

In its defence, it’s actually named for Cashew Road, and is located in a neighbourhood where all the other streets are also named after nuts. They include Hazel Park Terrace, Chestnut Close and Almond Avenue.

Image: Open Street Map.

Stadium

This one is a little vague, as there are two stadiums located in the vicinity of the station (the National Stadium and Singapore Indoor Stadium), and it is not exactly clear which of these the station is named after. Furthermore, it seems to imply that there is only one stadium in the whole country, which is not the case. Perhaps a better name for this station would be National Stadium, which would solve both of these issues at one go.

Tuas Link

Many stations are named after nearby roads, which is a perfectly acceptable (if a little unoriginal) naming method. However, in this case, there isn’t an actual road called Tuas Link.

There is a Tuas Link 1, along with Tuas Link 2, 3 and 4. But no Tuas Link, which is frankly unacceptable and needs to be rectified immediately.

Image: Open Street Map.

Lavender

As with Beauty World, one almost expects to exit this station and be greeted by fields of aromatic purple flowers. No such luck. The only thing worth sniffing around for in this area is the Michelin-starred food stall selling delicious minced meat noodles in a soy-and-vinegar based sauce.

If you would like to complain about the names of stations in your city, you know where we are.

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Jane Jacobs and Le Corbusier would agree on one thing: we need more social housing

Unite d’Habitation, Marseille. Image: Iantomferry/Wikimedia Commons.

Much has been written in CityMetric and beyond about the urban planning debates of the 1950s and ‘60s, that came to be characterised as a battle between master-planning and preservation. One side of the debate was personified by the father of modernist architecture, Le Corbusier, whilst the counter-argument was advanced by writer and journalist Jane Jacobs.

But when it comes to London’s housing crisis, aren’t there a few things that these two would actually agree on?

Jane Jacobs’ writing about the organic nature of self-organising communities, demonstrated, in her words, by the “intricate sidewalk ballet” of inner city neighbourhoods, should be required reading for anyone interested in how cities function. But today, Jacobs is increasingly invoked in attempts to oppose new developments of any kind. Her role in conceiving Manhattan’s West Village Houses, a low cost rented housing scheme built through New York State’s Mitchell-Lama Program, is unfortunately much less well known. It’s been suggested that if Jacobs were around today, she’d be working with New York’s housing activists. When her seminal work The Death and Life of Great American Cities was written, there were almost 2 million rent-controlled or rent-stabilised apartments in New York City; nowadays, there are fewer than half that number.

Le Corbusier, on the other hand, is too often blamed for drab high-rise blocks. But regardless of how well his followers across Europe interpreted his ideas, Le Corbusier’s vision for cities was about high quality residential blocks that also contained shops and leisure amenities and were surrounded by parkland – the original mixed use development if you like. His most famous building, Marseille’s Unite d’Habitation, consisted of 337 apartments with views of the mountains and the sea together with shops, a restaurant and a nursery school. The building was originally intended to be public housing, but the French government eventually sold off the flats to recoup costs. Alton West Estate in Roehampton and Park Hill in Sheffield are just some of the examples of Le Corbusier’s influence on the design of post-war council housing here in the UK.

Building homes for a serious business in post-war Britain. Under Attlee’s 1945 Labour Government, 700,000 new council homes were completed. In 1952, the largest architectural practice in the World was at London County Council, with 1,577 staff including 350 professional architects and trainees. These were the days of consensus, and very quickly Tory governments were actually competing with Labour governments about who could built the most council homes.

Some of the council homes built post-war have stood the test of time better than others. But what’s not in doubt is that building council homes on such a scale immeasurably changed the lives of so many families in desperate need of a decent, secure and affordable home. And so many of the post-war modernist high-rise blocks so despised by Jacobs quickly took on the organic self-organising traits that she held in such high regard and have become some of the most enduring and closely-knit communities in London.

Fast forward to 2019 and Right To Buy continues to decimate council housing stock, but perversely home ownership seems more out of reach than ever for so many. An entire generation is being forced to embrace long term private ting in a country that has some weakest protections for private tenants in Europe. Meanwhile, government spending on building new homes fell from £11.4bn in 2009 to just £5.3bn in 2015 – from 0.7 per cent to 0.2 per cent of GDP – and since then, the housing minister’s desk has been occupied by no fewer than six people.


So what would a comprehensive drive for new council and social housing on the scale of the 1945 government’s efforts look like in 2019?

Lubetkin, the architect responsible for Islington’s Spa Green Estate and Bevin Court, summed up the spirit of post-war council home building with his maxim that “nothing is too good for ordinary people”. It’s a vision that we’re trying to recreate through our own council home building programme in Islington.

One of the best opportunities for small council home building schemes is to expand upon existing communities. The vast majority of Islington’s new council housing takes the form of infill, construction on existing estates; in unloved spaces, in old garages, and in old undercrofts. These projects often involve landscaping and new amenities to enhance rather than reinvent local communities. We have built community centres and even rebuilt a library as part of council housing schemes. One Tenants’ and Residents’ Association had an idea for a new specialist over 55s block for the older residents of the estate who wanted to stay in their community.

But there’s a place for large-scale place making as well. When the Ministry of Justice closed Holloway Prison and announced that the site would be sold, Islington Council published a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on the site. We had one aim – to send a clear signal to the market that anyone who was looking at buying the site needed to be aware of their planning obligations. Most importantly, any development on the site needed to include at least 50 per cent genuinely affordable homes. The speculation around the site came to an end on 8 March this year when Peabody Housing Association announced that it had bought it. It has committed to going well above and beyond our planning requirements, by making 600 out of a total 1000 homes genuinely affordable homes, including 420 homes for social rent. We need to see more detail on what they are proposing but this is potentially brilliant for the borough. A local grassroots group, Community Plan for Holloway, have been instrumental in ensuring that the community’s voice is heard since the site was sold.

To recreate the scale of the massive post-war council home building programmes would require a Jane Jacobs inspired level of community activism combined with the architectural idealism of Le Corbusier. But it would also need the political will from central government to help local authorities get council housing built. And that, sadly, feels as far away as ever.

Diarmaid Ward is a Labour councillor and the executive member for housing & development at the London Borough of Islington.