This popular dragon playground (above) was conceptualised by Mr Khor Ean Ghee, who was then an interior designer with the Housing Development Board (HDB). Built in 1979, the figure of the mythical creature, in its red-terrazzo glory and its colourful steel spine, still stands proudly (though a little time-worn) along Toa Payoh Lorong 6. There is similar dragon playground, but with a green and yellow colour scheme, at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3.

In the 1980s, other locally-designed playgrounds, like this one of an elephant (above), emerged. This beauty stands silently in the Home Team (NS) Pasir Ris Chalets private compound. The trunk of the elephant is a slide. Sadly, this is one of the few animal playgrounds left standing. A playground featuring a pelican, rabbit and tortoise in Dover was demolished in 2012.

This fruit-themed playground at Tampines Avenue 5 was constructed in 1989. It was designed by Ms Lee-Loy Kwee Wah, then an HDB architect. She is now the deputy director of the HDB’s development and procurement group. A slide is hidden in a slice of the red, green and yellow mosaic-tiled watermelon while a wedge features a tiny swing (above) an adult could only dream of sitting in. Also located nearby are two hollow mangosteens with drawn-in doors and windows, “decorated” by kids over the years.

Local heritage elements are seen in some playgrounds, like this bumboat (above). The sea barges were a common sight along the Singapore River for more than 150 years, ferrying cargo from offshore ships, before they were move away in 1983 in an effort to clean up the river. A simple playground with just a slide and tyre ladders, it stands in the middle of a Pasir Ris housing estate just behind Elias Mall.

Estate blocks no higher than seven storeys surround the dove playground (above) at Dakota Crescent. Most of Dakota’s residents have been living here since the blocks were constructed in the late 1950s. However, HDB has declared that residents must move out by December 31, 2016 to pave the way for redevelopment. The fate of this playground remains uncertain.

By 1993, HDB stopped designing playgrounds and started to import them from suppliers overseas. This playground in a sand pit, circa 2000, is a leaning train in Tiong Bahru Park (above). The four-carriage train boasts ladders, rungs and ramps, but what makes it special are the obstacles of ropes and webbed nets in the tilted interior. The large playground also has swings, two flying foxes, a maze and a merry-go-round. There is also a fitness and recreation area.

There are fewer than 20 mosaic playgrounds left in Singapore. This clock version (above) next to the Bishan bus interchange was part of a series of designs based on children’s nursery rhymes. This colourful mosaic-covered playground with a sandy floor comprises a cuckoo clock with a ladder, and a slide behind the alarm clock. These days you are more likely to find modern plastic sets with rubber flooring.

Photos: Rachel AJ Lee

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