Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Bukit Timah Railway Station

The Bukit Timah Railway Station: The Lady of the Tracks from the outside...

The beautiful station from the inside; the attraction is the authentic brickwork architecture authentic to the period it was built.

The iconic signage at the station.
Bukit Timah Railway Station was a railway station (now a conserved recreational building) and crossing loop in Singapore, owned by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), the main railway operator in Malaysia.

It opened on the dismantled Tank Road mainline in 1903, was rebuilt on the current Singapore–Johor Bahru KTM Intercity mainline in 1932, until the Jurong Line shut down and it was a crossing loop station in the late 1940s until closure.

The station was a freight interchange for the now defunct Jurong Line from 1965 to the early 1990s. On 1 July 2011 the line closed following a historic land-swap agreement between the Singapore and Malaysia governments which saw rail service between Woodlands and Tanjong Pagar cease.

I have not been to this station before this, but I remember my experience with the train service that ran along this track.

As an Interior Architecture student, my class was once tasked to redesign and remodel the Eastern and Oriental Express. We were required to design everything from the cabins, the drapes, the curtains and right down to the teaspoons used in the dining cars.

As part of our research efforts, a bunch of us took the train to the Federation up north. To fully immerse in the experience, some even booked first class tickets in the sleeper cars and journeyed in an all-nighter, all the way to the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The station is now defunct, of course. But when I walked around the station while sketching the place, I could almost imagine the station when it was first commissioned: people waiting at the station's seating parlour, with their luggage, anticipating the arrival of the train. It's the train that will bring them closer to their destination, to their home, to their loved ones, to their adventure, to their lives... beautiful, romantic and in sepia-toned black-and-white.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Chinatown over the mooncake festival...

The rainbow-hue lanterns hanging overhead is a change from the usual red ones...
After Mdm Tia's presentation at the TEDx event at URA, a bunch of us wandered around Chinatown to sketch the vicinity. The place is typically vibrant, but the newly installed rainbow-hue lanterns overhead in place of the usual red ones made the whole area look especially cheery. Unfortunately, it did not make the unusually hot and humid day any more bearable...

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Urban Sketchers at Motoring Heritage Day by the National Heritage Board

People who know me well understand my affinity with Art Nouveau and Art Deco - one organic and the other futuristic linearity. They couldn't be further apart stylistically speaking, but between the curvilinear swirls and rectilinear streamlining, somehow these two design movements speak to me. In addition, when it comes to automobile designs, it is my personal opinion that nothing embodies the symbol of futurism, hope and a brave new world better than the 1930s Art Deco. Thus, when I doodle designs for cars and machinery of almost any sort, there is a usually a slant and a nod towards the style. See illustration below:

Sketch of a dream car done in 2006.
You can imagine my sense of euphoria at the recent Motoring Heritage Exhibition held at the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station along Keppel Road. Style on style: there is no better location for the event. It was literally my dream popping up in 3D and TECHNICOLOR™ with all the classic and vintage cars from the 30s all lined up and gleaming in the light.

After ogling at the pretty vehicles and gazing at them from distance, I finally got myself out of the daze to complete two sketches of a couple of my favourites...

1937 MG - TA and the 1939 MG - TB
1939 BMW - 327 Grand Touring Cabriolet

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Sandalwood Apartments at Tembeling Road, Joo Chiat, Katong.

Sandalwood Apartments at Tembeling Road, Joo Chiat, Katong.

Sandalwood is an award winning conservation terrace houses from the Art Deco period. The original 12 units of surrounding terrace houses were integrated into the condominium project and conserved as private apartments forming a veil for the condominium apartments housed behind them. The conserved terraces have had their original facades, windows and door frames completely restored. The compound within is fully appointed with the amenities expected of a modern contemporary condominium – private pools, scenic walkways, etc.

This sketch is dedicated to two of my wonderful friends, S and J, who share an apartment in this beautiful condominium project.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Popiah & Kueh Pie Tie

Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Popiah & Kueh Pie Tie shop house restaurant at 95, Joo Chiat Road.

Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Popiah & Kueh Pie Tie

Popiah () is my go to snack food when I feel peck-ish in the afternoon for a snack and it is available. Singapore Hokkien-style popiah is a burrito-like food and the filling is mainly finely grated and steamed or stir-fried turnip, jicama (known locally as bangkuang), which has been cooked with a combination of other ingredients such as bean sprouts, French beans, and lettuce leaves, depending on the individual vendor, along with grated carrots, slices of Chinese sausage, thinly sliced fried tofu, chopped peanuts or peanut powder, fried shallots, and shredded omelette.

Traditionally, popiah "skin" (薄饼皮) is a soft, thin paper-like crepe or pancake handmade from wheat flour. The method of producing the wrapper involves making an extremely wet and viscous dough. A ball of this dough is held to the right hand, then quickly "rubbed" (擦潤餅皮) against a hot steel plate in a circular fashion, and lifted. It is only through this handmade process, that a very thin layer of the wet dough adheres to the plate and begins to cook. The upper surface of the crepe is then usually cleaned of excess pieces of dough using the dough ball through a dabbing process. When the dough has been cooked to completion, it is peeled off of the hot steel plate before being removed. The rubbing is typically done over two or three plates at once, which allows the baker to continuously produce crepes and gives the proper time for each crepe to be properly cooked.

Kway Guan Huat is the only manufacturer I know that still makes this by hand. If you arrive early at the shop, you can order the shop’s specialty: popiah and kueh pie tee, and watch the masters perform and create their magic on the hot griddles. Their deft and rhythmic is at once hypnotic and elegant. You can have a go at making the skin, but don’t be fooled: there is a skill behind the deceptively simple movement. Check out the video:

I decided to do what I do best: eat and sketch. So while the popiah skin master was doing his thing, I did mine, with a pen, a sketchbook and a pair of chopsticks – to pick up the food). Popiah can be eaten on its own or accompanied with a sweet sauce (often a bean sauce), a blended soy sauce or hoisin sauce or a shrimp paste sauce and optionally with hot chilli sauce before it is filled. I like mine with chilli and without dip – just the way I remember it from my childhood.