It is no secret where the expat literati hang-out in Singapore. From the well-trodden paths of the Kim Yam, Emerald and Cairnhill to the equally popular Everton and Blair, all things funky and Zen open up to the discerning visitor. Even the ‘ugly’ has something beautiful to exhibit in its motifs and detailing! The Petain Road, around Serangoon road with its antique furniture galleries and the more affordable Geylang area but with great interiors is also favourite haunts of the expats.
At this juncture, it would be prudent to note the difference between a ‘townhouse’ and a ‘shophouse’ since it is easy to get confused over this classification! Townhouses are basically cluster houses in a row, often enjoying a wider range of shared facilities (swimming pool, security and car parks are usually shared facilities on offer).
Shophouses are multi-functional - A shop, a home, a restaurant or even a business. Typically, shophouses consist of shops on the ground floor which open up to a public arcade or "five-foot way", and which have residential accommodation upstairs. The shophouses would abut each other to form rows with regular facade, fire walls and adherence to street alignment. Most are very well cared for although there could be a few that need more than just a coat of paint!
More generally, space occupied by the former contains a semi-public function. While this usually is, and historically usually was, a shop, it could just as easily be a food and beverage dormitory for single workers. Many styles are unique to Singapore, though shophouses can also be seen in parts of Malaysia

Popular belief holds that shophouses were initially occupied by single families, with their private living areas in one space and the more public family business in another. However, it is possible that the two spaces were usually used by unrelated persons or groups, who may be tenants or resident owners. The position of the shop and residential space depends on the number of floors of the shophouse: A single storey shophouse tends to include residential space behind the shop, while residential spaces in shophouses of two or more storeys are typically located above the shop.

There are people that purchase these Shophouses and renovate. Singapore is modernizing at an incredible rate and shows no sign of slowing down. Fortunately, its unique shophouse architecture is being preserved in ways that both residents and visitors can appreciate and utilize.

Next time you are visiting Singapore or maybe just wandering around the streets; take a closer look at some of these unique buildings of Singapore!

Article by: Joseph C. Dias