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Barriers installed to discourage football in HDB void deck

A Facebook post first shared by DJ Will encapsulates the sheer will of the powers that be to ensure that the Void deck remains, well, void. Void of spirit, as some may argue.

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Image by DJ Will

The post attracted considerable attention online. At the time of this post, it has been shared almost 500 times and has attracted hundreds of comments. The passive backlash ranged from disillusionment, to regret and, of course, cynicism.

Many also noted that while they were aware of the partitions on benches, the spikes on the wall and the 'railings' in the void deck were something new. Lamentation about the 'lack of childhood' and the eradication of the 'kampong spirit' were also prevalent in many reactions.

Three railings, each around 3.5m long, were erected across the void deck at Block 143 Mei Ling Street last Saturday, leaving residents scratching their heads and wondering what they had been put there for.

One Facebook user posted a photograph of them and wrote: "(This) space, originally filled with so much potential for use and creativity, is now effectively transformed into a dead space."

Barriers to discourage football activities

Tanjong Pagar's public relations manager, Ms Shirley Aloysius, replied to Straits Times' enquries, saying that the bars had been installed after complaints were received about football being played there. As well as causing noise, it also resulted in dirty walls and damaged light fittings.

"Upon discussion with (MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Chia Shi-Lu) and the Residents' Committee (RC), we installed the barricades... to discourage football activities."

"We would like to encourage our residents who wish to play ball games to use the proper amenities which are available nearby."

When ST asked about some permanent barriers at the void deck of Block 181 Stirling Road, Ms Aloysius said residents had requested them.

"Residents had feedback about the inconvenience of walking to the MRT station when events were held at this location. After discussion with the RC, we put up these permanent railings to discourage (such) activities as this is the residents' short-cut route to the MRT station."

Simliar bars can also be found at other multi-purpose halls and void decks in Strathmore Avenue, Mei Ling Street, Stirling Road and Commonwealth Drive. The town council spokesperson however, stressed that these barriers are removable in the event of weddings and funerals, which often take place at these spaces.

Commenter - Informal space transformed into dead space

Sua, a facebook user, described the incredulity of the structures as follows,

“The void deck is an informal, but very important, space for many Singaporeans living in public housing.

It is a place where kids can kick a ball around, families can play badminton without needing to book a court, for weddings, for funerals. For the elderly, it is a space to socialise. For low-income households, this is the few free spaces that their kids can enjoy some sports… yet over the weekend, the town council decided to erect these metal bars that serve no practical purposes other than to prevent such organic uses of space from happening.

These space, originally filled with so much potential for use and creativity, is now effectively transformed into a dead space.

To whoever thought of this: shame on you. It is a bad solution to a non-problem and a waste of taxpayers’ money. You are essentially using our funds to deprive us of a space we can use, and have been using. This is on top of the multiple CCTVs installed all around the void deck.

And it’s not only the void deck of my block, but a number of blocks in the estate. I guess Queenstown is now a parkour wonderland.”

We are unable to figure out which group of people could possibly benefit from these."

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Spikes to deter homeless from sleeping on the flat structures. Picture: The Guardian

While our structures are not as blatant as the 'anti-homeless spikes' in cities like London, they do serve the same purpose while being slightly less unpleasant on the eyes. Besides, the Government has always maintained that there are no homeless people in Singapore. So it couldn't possibly be aimed at such people eh?

The deployment of hostile architecture is most definitely on the rise in Singapore. What are your thoughts on such developments? Are they needed? Or are they just a mere step in our sleepwalk towards an Orwellian Nightmare (or Dream - from the standpoint of the powers that be)?