Bugis Junction (indoor streets of Bugis)


Bugis Junction, a pedestrian shopping mall, is made up of three streets - Malabar Street, Malay Street and Hylam Street. The streets are the first in Singapore to be air-conditioned and are thus commonly refered to as "indoor streets". The streets' histories can be traced back to Singapore's earliest colonial history.

Bugis Junction, opened on 8 September 1995, is managed by a Japanese company, Parco. The old shophouses on Malabar Street, Malay Street and Hylam Street were rebuilt and weatherproofed, and the streets covered with transparent glass domes to make them part of a shopping mall. The whole unit was incorporated into an existing pedestrian shopping mall on Bugis Street which is connected to Bugis MRT by an underpass. Bugis Junction features a hotel, a 15-storey office tower, food outlets, departmental stores and an umpteen number of shops selling all and sundry.

Malabar Street, connecting Middle Road and Malay Street, probably got its name from the Malabar settlers here. The Bugis are a Malay group from southern Sulawesi in Indonesia and they have their own dialect which is also called Bugis. Known for their sailing prowess, they were traders who were already occupying the area from Kampong Glam to the mouth of the Rochore River at the time of Raffles' founding of Singapore. They mainly lived in large numbers at Kampong Bugis, near the Kallang Bridge. Raffles therefore designated this area, near the Kallang Bridge, as the living quarters of the Bugis in his 1828 town plan, which followed a racial approach to allocating residential spaces to the various communities in Singapore. With other Malay groups and the Arabs settling in this vicinity, the Bugis area became a Muslim heartland. It was also home to the Southern Indian Muslims from Kerala, called Malabar Muslims, who came here as merchants. They formed their own association and built their own mosque, the
Malabar Mosque at the junction of Victoria Street and Jalan Sultan, near Malabar Street. Prior to the construction of Bugis Junction, the street was lined with quaint three-storey old shophouses selling textiles and jewellery.

The area from
Bencoolen Street to Beach Road through Middle Road and Hylam Street was considered a Hainanese enclave in the 19th and early 20th century Singapore. The most well known feature of Malabar Street was the Hylam Kongsi, a Hainanese clan association, and a Buddhist temple, the Tin Hou Keng temple. Both the clan association as well as the temple moved to Beach Road in 1880. The nearby Hylam Street, connecting Malay Street and Bugis Street, is believed to have been the living quarters of Hylams, from Hainan Island, China. Many Japanese lived along this street and the surrounding area before World War II. The street was lined with old shophouses selling a myriad of things prior to the existence of Bugis Junction.

Malay Street, connecting Victoria Street and New Bridge Road, was at the heart of Singapore's red-light area up to 1930. It was infamous for the Chinese, Japanese and European girls who plied the streets. Well-known to seamen and travellers from the world over, the place maintained its notorious reputation until the 1930s when red-light area was banned by law in Singapore. According to reports by R. H. Bruce Lockhart, Commander-in-Chief during the Emergency, it is believed that the Malay and Malabar Streets were centres of prostitution.

Variant names
Hylam Street
(1) Chinese: Hai-lam koi (Hokkien), Hoi-nam kai (Cantonese), both meaning "Hailam Street", a reference to the Hylams from Hainan Island, China who lived here. Hai-lam hue-kuan au (Hokkien), which means "behind the Hailam kongsi house", referring to the Hylam kongsi house that existed on Malabar Street.
(2) Others: Hailam Street.

Malabar Street
Chinese: Hai-lam hue-kuan hang (Hokkien), Hoi-nam wui-kwun hong (Cantonese), both of which mean "Hailam kongsi lane"

Malay Street
Chinese: Jit-pun koi (Hokkien), meaning "Japanese Street", referring to the Japanese prostitutes on this street. Yat pun chai kai (Cantonese), meaning "Japanese brothel street".

Thulaja Naidu Ratnala

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Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Commercial Buildings
Commercial buildings
Shopping malls--Singapore
Street names--Singapore
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings

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