'Horror movie set' or 'outstanding design'? Tampines BTO residents have mixed views on vivid colour schemes in common areas
- Tampines GreenVines, a new BTO public housing project, went viral on social media for its red colour scheme in the common areas of some blocks of flats
- Newly arrived homeowners have described the colour scheme as “creepy”, “spooky”, and “very unpleasant” although one resident said it was an "outstanding" design
- In response to this, HDB has arranged to have the red lift lobbies partially repainted in white
- Other blocks at the project have a yellow colour scheme and some still under construction are purplish-blue
A couple had just collected the keys to their unit at the new Tampines GreenVines Build-to-Order (BTO) project and were visiting it for the first time this week when they got a shock at what they saw. The lift lobby had been tiled and painted entirely in a bright yellow that they said was reminiscent of a “Hong Kong horror movie set”.
Mr and Mrs Yap, both 40, described the public housing block’s colour scheme as "weird".
The couple, who work as managers in the education and training industry, and declined to give their full names, said that they would prefer that the walls and ceiling at the block be of a neutral colour.
They have yet to speak directly with the town council, but said that they might do so if no action is taken. Town councils are responsible for the upkeep of public housing estates and provide essential public services to residents, including the cleaning and maintenance of common areas in the estates such as void decks and lifts.
Pictures and videos of the couple's neighbouring block 640B – painted a vivid red – have gone viral on social media with residents interviewed by TODAY describing its aesthetic as “creepy”, “spooky” and “very unpleasant”.
Beyond the look of the red blocks, residents also flagged safety concerns over the dim ambient lighting – which they believe would pose a threat to older residents traversing the corridors when the public space gets dark at night.
“NEW RED LIGHT DISTRICT”
The Tampines GreenVines BTO development was launched in 2018 and features a cluster of 11 blocks in three different coloured themes – four red blocks, three yellow blocks and four purplish-blue blocks. Some of the blocks are still under construction.
Speaking to TODAY, some of the newly arrived residents said that they were unaware of the blocks’ colour schemes at the point of purchase. They were shocked when they collected their keys on Monday and Tuesday (Feb 27 and 28) this week because they were not expecting the common areas of their homes to be covered in such bright shades.
A 32-year-old new homeowner in one block of flats featuring the red colour scheme, who declined to be named, said that she had not seen any illustrations at the point of purchase.
She said that if she had known about the bright red colour, it might have affected her decision and she might have chosen a flat in a block painted with a different colour instead.
Social media users have commented on the viral images and videos circulating online, with some calling the cluster of flats “scary”, “unacceptable” and even dubbing it Singapore’s “new red light district”.
Still, not all residents took a negative view of the red colour scheme.
One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said that he found the design to be "outstanding" and "interesting".
TAMPINES GRC MP TALKS TO RESIDENTS, HDB
Mr Baey Yam Keng, Member of Parliament (MP) for Tampines Group Representation Constituency (GRC), told TODAY that he is aware of the residents’ feedback because they had reached out over email and social media, with some members of the public even tagging him in a viral TikTok video.
The residents shared with Mr Baey the results of a poll conducted among the blocks' homeowners on their attitude towards the colourful appearances.
Mr Baey told TODAY that the poll indicated that 70 per cent of people living in the yellow blocks wished to retain the colour, but 77 per cent of those residing in the red blocks were “not okay” with the colour scheme. He did not give the exact numbers of those polled.
Acknowledging the residents’ concerns, Mr Baey agreed that the red colour palette might indeed be “a bit eerie” and may not be so appropriate.
He said that he also understood the residents’ qualms about the blocks’ dim ambient lighting and is in discussion with the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to potentially brighten these areas.
In response to TODAY's queries, HDB said on Wednesday that the “colour scheme of Tampines GreenVines is inspired by its green surroundings and nearby parks”.
“As the precinct is large, the bright accent colours of the lift lobbies are intended to differentiate the different clusters of blocks and facilitate way finding for residents.”
The three colours are “inspired by tropical fruits (dragon fruits, mangoes and mangosteens)”, HDB added.
Mr Baey said that he has since talked to HDB about a possible change to the estate’s looks, adding that this will need to be standardised across all blocks in the same project.
When TODAY visited a red block on Wednesday afternoon, Block 640B, contractors were repainting the ceiling of each floor’s lift lobby white, replacing the original red colour.
In its response, HDB said a Telegram poll showed that the blocks with lift lobbies painted red received more negative feedback, with residents saying that the red colour was "too strong".
As a result, the ceilings of lift lobbies in Block 640B had been repainted white, while some of the walls would receive the same treatment "to tone it down".
Other blocks in the same precinct would undergo the same repainting progressively, the housing agency added.
Despite the brouhaha, Mr Baey gave credit to the housing project’s designers and architects for creatively trying something different – with the use of bright colours initially intended for “better way finding”.
He said that he hopes to achieve middle ground among all parties involved.
RESIDENTS EXPRESS MIXED SENTIMENTS
Ms Liu Jia Yu, who is in her 50s and works in the manufacturing industry, is a new homeowner in one of red-coloured blocks. She had bought a flat there with the intention of moving in with her mother who is more than 80 years old.
The mother-and-daughter pair had described the red floor-to-ceiling scheme as very unpleasant and wondered if there was something “inauspicious” about the location that meant that the block had to be covered in red.
In Chinese tradition, red is believed to be a colour capable of warding off evil spirits.
The duo also expressed concerns about the effect on the overall level of lighting when the deep red was combined with night-time conditions or rain. Ms Liu said that she preferred to “travel with torchlight” since it gets very dim.
They understood that retiling the entire lift lobby is expensive and therefore not practical, but hope that HDB will repaint whatever can be repainted in a more neutral colour.
This story was originally published in TODAY.