Mr Or Beng Kooi, 75, a long-time resident of Block 108 Yishun Ring Road, had created an artistic tower of items in the HDB void deck. But the authorities had ordered the tower to be removed because of ‘fire safety considerations’.
Mr Or made a pagoda-like tower of toys, sculptures, and other ornaments last year, which was described by those who’ve seen it as a valuable creation that could be ‘part of the material culture of Singapore’.
Some residents of the flat, who knew him as ‘Ah Pek’ (old man) had helped Mr Or by contributing their old items to him.
The installation was made of dolls and toys like Astro Boy, Humpty Dumpty, rubber ducks, baby dolls, and old trophies, plastic flowers and religious figurines in multiple colours.
Mr Or is a retired contractor widower who has four grown-up children, he spends most of his day interacting with fellow retirees at his void deck.
He said, “Many of us male retirees in the neighbourhood hang around the void deck so my aim was to give people a chance to enjoy it and make everyone happy.”
But just as it was starting to attract fans he was instructed by Nee Soon Town Council to take it down. So the tower with about 200 items has been removed and trashed.
Speaking to The Straits Times, Mr Or said: “It’s the Government’s area so I can’t insist that it stays.”
Shirley Soh, an artist who took part in the 2013 Singapore Biennale – a major contemporary art exhibition organised by the Singapore Art Museum – had noticed the installation when she was in the area. She said it was a great shame that it had to be removed.
Ms Soh said, “The creator definitely had an eye in the way the items were selected and placed. There was thought given to it. I was very impressed.”
“It reflected a kitsch pop culture, featuring things that people bought, therefore making it part of the material culture of Singapore,” she added.
A resident, Ms Fatimah Uni, 65, a kitchen helper, said Mr Or had also started a garden at the foot of his block about seven years ago. About the tower she said, “It was an interesting feature that brought some colour to the void deck. The Ah Pek has been very helpful around the area. We appreciate all he has done to make it a nice place.”
Nee Soon Town Council chairman Louis Ng said the town council had received ‘a feedback’ about the items placed at the HDB block’s Senior Citizens Corner.
Mr Ng had said, “The items can pose a fire and safety hazard and we advise residents not to store their items at the void decks or social gathering points.”
Last week, The Online Citizen made an inquiry to the Town Council asking what is the ‘feedback’ it had received and if there were any complaints from the residents to result in the takedown, but has not received an answer.