People’s Park Complex, Excelsior Shopping Centre and Golden Mile Tower — these are examples of some of the strata-titled malls that are left standing here in Singapore. In these malls, each individual unit is owned by separate landlords, many of whom run the shops themselves. As of 2016, there were about 80 such malls left, according to property research consultancy R’ST Research.
To artist Shaiful Risan, 37, these malls go way beyond what meets the eye. “They have a lot of character, quirks, and imperfections, and these are exactly the things that make us human. A lot of the new malls are very robotic in comparison,” he says.
They also represent a simpler time, adds Shaiful.
His interest in these malls deepened significantly last year, when he curated The Mall Museum — a temporary exhibition showcasing some of the older shopping complexes in Singapore, held last year at Excelsior Shopping Centre.
So to draw more attention to these strata-titled malls, he created Nostalgia & Knick Knacks – A Tour through Singapore’s Old Malls, which kicks off on Sept 7. Shaiful hopes to make these tours a regular event, to offer more people interesting information and personal anecdotes about these malls, plus a good meal, and maybe even a ghost story or two.
Here’s a sneak preview.
Excelsior is home to old-school stores such as La-Vanita, which stocks alternative music apparel and merchandise, and Roxy Records & Trading, which sells hard-to-find records from all around the world. Naturally, it became a hang-out for alternative music lovers.
Also known as “little Thailand” to some, Golden Mile Complex is home to cheap Thai groceries and some of the best Thai food on our island. It’s also the starting point for long bus rides to Malaysia.
To Shaiful, People’s Park Complex is a representation of the “quintessential Chinese experience”. The scent of Chinese tea, herbs and massage oils hits you upon first stepping into the mall, and there is a smorgasbord of mainland Chinese food available.
“Imagine visiting the bedrooms of 10 different people — they will each look very different. Now imagine the spaces curated by different retailers in one mall. The juxtaposition of people and their ideas creates a very authentic vibe.”