Hidden deep in the suburb of Stulang in Johor Bahru lies Kampong Stulang Darat, an idyllic housing estate containing three-story apartment blocks and… an exact replica of the iconic Old Dove Playground at Dakota Crescent.
Some context. There are very few surviving playgrounds left in Singapore that hold the distinction of being iconic — relics of urban development in the country’s earliest days include the likes of the Bumboat in Pasir Ris, the Watermelon in Tampines and, of course, the Dragon in Toa Payoh.
Dakota Crescent — one of Singapore’s oldest public housing estates — now faces total demolition to make way for new developments under Mountbatten’s estate renewal plans. One endearing feature of the estate is none other than its playground, a sand pit with a tiled figure of a dove perched on it, with old rubber tire swings and slides.
Designed in 1979 by Khor Ean Ghee — an interior designer at the then-nascent Housing Development Board — the Old Dove holds fond memories for those who grew up in the country’s first few public housing estates. Sadly, many of Khor’s works (including the Dragon) in the project to build playgrounds in new towns back in the ‘70s have been demolished to make way for newer, safer (and more hygienic) ones.
Thus, you can imagine the surreal experience Singaporean photographer Weixiang Lim faced when he stumbled across the very same Dove playground deep in a random Malaysian estate located barely 10 minutes from the border. According to the post he made on his company’s Facebook page, he made the fascinating discovery on the way back to Singapore from Larkin Stadium — and the similarities are strangely uncanny.
The tire swings; the slide and railings near the different-colored dove; the shape of the ventilation openings in the nearby housing block’s stairwells — they’re identical to Khor’s designs.
They’re so alike that Lim wonders if Stulang Darat and Dakota Crescent could be historically linked. But whatever the connection, at least we’ll know that the Old Dove playground will continue to live on even after the whole Dakota Crescent estate gets bulldozed to bits.