Top image: Baey Yam Keng / Facebook
Seeing metaphorical and literal red over colour choices is the most interesting thing to happen in years about BTO block aesthetics. (Aside from mould-gate, that is).
Tampines GreenVines is a Build-To-Order project that caught national attention for its creepy blood-red lift lobby. The thing about GreenVines is that the 11 blocks in the estate are assigned various colour schemes—red, purple-blue, yellow—on the walls and tiles. The vibrant colours start and stop at lift lobbies.
It’s a fresh look, straying far from the usual dreary off-white hue that people have come to expect of HDB estates. Finally, some character.
Innovative as it is, the red-themed blocks didn’t fly so well in practice. At night, the lift lobbies get engulfed in a spooky sea of scarlet, reminding residents of a temple or a red-light district.
In response to the grievances, the Housing Development Board (HDB) was quick to repaint the lobbies’ ceilings white to tone down the ‘insidious’ vibe the space had before.
But not all were disapproving of the building’s original design. Some commenters on the TikTok video mentioned that some shots of the red lobby looked “kinda aesthetic” and “like an art exhibition”. They weren’t the only ones.
Photographers were quick on the draw. The first was Jayden Tan, who turned the freshly repainted lobby into the backdrop of a retro photoshoot.
Jayden bemoaned the “whitewashing” of the lobby, suggesting that the red was just off-putting because it was “the wrong shade”. There’s some truth to that; after the ceiling of the lobby was repainted, the space does look positively brighter.
Good for residents who don’t want to feel like they’re coming home to the seventh circle of hell. Not so much for everyone else who wants to make content out of it.
The Pros and Cons of Being Insta-Worthy
For residents, I’d figure that having an Instagrammable lift lobby is not a priority in what they want for a home. Nice aesthetics are a bonus after settling the imminent need of having a roof over your head—which can be hard enough as it is.
Now that the BTO project has shot to fame (and deservedly so for its design), it is foreseeable that photographers, influencers, and curious tourists will start flocking down to the estate for their next content output.
Not exactly the most welcoming sight for the people who actually live there, no?
The repercussions could cause residents greater headaches than coming home to a spooky lift lobby. How comfortable would anyone be, really, with a constant stream of camera-toting strangers milling around?
There’s the issue of privacy. People would be carrying cameras and lighting rigs to do shoots. Residents risk appearing in the background of someone’s TikTok or photoshoot.
Making an estate a livelier place to be is one thing, but having to skirt around strangers taking OOTD photos and videos when you want to take the lift is another.
And as with any other Insta-worthy hotspot, the higher traffic of visitors and people brings a higher degree of noise and potential litter problems.
It’s a story told before—bearing similarity to the Peranakan Houses in Joo Chiat. Labelled as a tourist attraction on Google Maps, the spot is popular among visitors and photographers for its traditional yet colourful architecture.
Even after years of being an Instagram-worthy backdrop, the attraction still continues to draw attention from locals and tourists alike. I myself am guilty of heading down to the area for a photo walk recently.
Yet, people still continue to live there, with little to no complaints. Not that we know of anyway. Maybe you just need to be a certain type of person to be able to live with it and get used to the attention.
Of course, this all comes down to speculation, whether the HDB estate will continue to draw public attention or if it’ll even bother the residents. But the case of the Peranakan Houses seems to be a glimpse into the future of what might happen to GreenVines.
The residents got what they wanted in having a more comfortable living space. But in exchange, they now have to brace themselves for the potential onslaught of TikTokers and influencers near their homes. It might not be long before the estate makes headlines again.
It’s a conundrum. The majority of citizens living in public housing are finally getting some pop of colour for their homes. But when doing something different attracts more complaints than plaudits, it’s not surprising that Singaporeans would rather play it safe than have room for the avant-garde.