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Block 53, The “VIP Block”


53 Lorong 5 Toa Payoh
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Completed in 1967, Block 53 has long been regarded as a showpiece for Singapore’s public housing. The block features a unique Y-shaped design and is also known as the “VIP block”, after a series of visits from foreign and local dignitaries.In the early 1960s, Singapore faced the pressures of a rising population and a housing crisis. During this period, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) was focused on building and supplying flats of mainly linear, slab-block designs quickly to meet housing demand.Construction of Toa Payoh town began during HDB’s second five-year Building Programme and by this time, a sizable proportion of Singaporeans had been supplied with flats. As such, HDB architects were able to experiment with various block styles in Toa Payoh, such as the Y-shaped Block 53, the bat-shaped Block 116 as well as the curving Block 157. Block 53 also features a prominent water tank that sits atop its 19 storeys, which previously displayed advertisements.Block 53 additionally houses a rooftop viewing gallery (currently closed to the public) that offered visitors panoramic views of Toa Payoh New Town. Then-Australian Prime Minister John Gorton was the first foreign dignitary to visit Block 53 in April 1968, and subsequent visitors included Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Anne and Prince Phillip of the United Kingdom, former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Bandaranaike Sirimavo and second President of Singapore Benjamin Sheares.Today, while newer blocks have been built around it, Block 53 stands as both a model of innovative architecture and an icon of Singapore’s public housing history.

Block 53, The “VIP Block”, as well as the surrounding blocks, were among the first blocks built in Toa Payoh town. It later gained its reputation as a “VIP block” after visits from prime ministers, presidents and monarchs in the 1960s and 1970s.

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