In the north-eastern region of Singapore lies the bustling mature town Ang Mo Kio. It is home to nearly 150,000 residents, many who have grown up in the area and hold fond memories of the neighbourhood. However, anyone visiting the area today will also find a town that is undergoing a major rejuvenation into a modern-day community hub.

As the new springs up besides the old, let’s take a walk back in time to visit a well-loved community town that is rich in lived experiences.

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Early life in AMK

Ang Mo Kio was largely uninhabited throughout the 19th century until the rubber boom in the beginning of the 20th century attracted settlers to the area. An 1849 map of early Singapore showed the existence of an “Amokiah Village”, together with a district called “Amokiah” during Straits Settlement days. It showed vast swathes of land cleared by the Chinese to grow gambier, pepper, coconut, betel nut and fruit trees and populated mainly by farms and attap houses.

What’s in a name?

The name Ang Mo Kio translates to “red-haired man’s bridge” – a possible reference to a bridge built by Johnson Turnball Thomson, a well-respected British engineer and Government Surveyor of the Straits Settlement from 1841 to 1853 – who also happened to be the creator of the aforementioned 1849 map depicting “Amokiah Village”. Thomson is also responsible for building other well-known Singapore landmarks such as the Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra Branca and Kallang Bridge.

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Beginnings of a modern town

The development of Ang Mo Kio New Town began in 1973 and was completed in 1980. It was the seventh town to be redeveloped by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and also where the town council concept was first piloted in 1986. The design of Ang Mo Kio won the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) Outstanding Buildings Award in 1983. Other distinctive landmarks of that era are the circular point block at the entrance of the town from Upper Thomson Road and the unique “tetrahedral skylight” design of the swimming complex at Avenue 1.

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A town of celebrations

From 1975 and 1983, the National Day Parade (NDP) alternated between centralised locations in town and decentralised locations in the heartlands. In 1983, Ang Mo Kio was chosen as the venue for the NDP, much to the residents’ delight. Another big event that the town hosted was the Chingay Parade in 1984. Ang Mo Kio even had a special VIP HDB block that was used to host foreign dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II who visited Block 710 which had a panoramic view of the town.