Holland Village

Holland Village is a crescent-shaped area of shophouses and low-rise malls bounded by Holland Road and Holland Avenue, with a variety of retail and dining outlets. Two small roads, Lorong Liput and Lorong Mambong, run through Holland Village. While it has a reputation of being an expatriate neighbourhood, Holland Village has become a popular haunt among locals as well.

Holland Village derived its name from Holland Road, which is said to be named after Hugh Holland, an early resident in Singapore.1 Holland Road was known colloquially in the Hokkien dialect as hue hng au, meaning “behind the flower garden”, due to its close proximity to the Singapore Botanic Gardens.2 Situated at the junction of Holland Road and Buona Vista Road, the area was officially named “Holland Village” by the Rural Board on 30 July 1929.3

Holland Village developed in the 1930s as a military village with local businesses mainly catered to the needs of British soldiers and their families based in Pasir Panjang and Alexandra.4 Its proximity to Tanglin, a residential area associated with the European community, also contributed to the early development of Holland Village as an expatriate enclave.5

Maps from the 1940s and 1950s show that the area surrounding Holland Village was agricultural land for cultivating vegetables, rubber and coconut, and a Chinese burial ground.6 Known as Shuang Long Shan (双龙山), the 40-ha cemetery was established in 1887 by Ying Fo Fui Kun (应和会馆), a Hakka clan association. The cemetery was exhumed in the 1960s, as the land was acquired by the government for redevelopment. Remains from the cemetery were cremated and reburied in urns at a 4.5-ha site near Holland Close in 1965.7

In the 1960s, Holland Village was a cluster of two-storey shophouses and wooden shacks, with businesses, such as pubs, curio shops and tailors, catering to a predominantly western clientele.8 The creation of Chip Bee Gardens opposite Holland Village to provide additional military housing for the British reinforced the expatriate character of the neighbourhood.9

Gradually, the local residential population expanded, particularly after the completion of the new Buona Vista public housing estate in 1972.10 Businesses catered to locals grew, such as the Holland Road Market, Eng Wah open-air theatre, coffeeshops, and retail outlets along Lorong Mambong that supplied groceries, sundries and other local needs.11 The growth of a local residential clientele also helped cushion the impact of the British military withdrawal from Singapore on Holland Village retailers in the early 1970s.12

Since then, Holland Village has seen renewed expatriate presence with the arrival of foreign professionals who rent houses and apartments in the Holland Road area, including Chip Bee Gardens.13 The opening of Holland Road Shopping Centre (completed in 1971), whose shops targeted the new expatriate market, sustained the reputation of Holland Village as an expatriate neighbourhood.14 The Shopping Centre housed the first Western-style supermarket, Fitzpatricks (now Cold Storage), in Holland Village, and the first western coffee joint, Jumbo Coffeehouse – both frequented by the expatriate community.15

By the late 1980s, Holland Village had become known as a haven for food lovers, because of the variety of dining options available.16 Apart from traditional coffee shops and local family-run eateries serving Asian cuisine, the area also had trendy fast food joints and upscale international restaurants that earned it the nickname of “mini Orchard Road” – a suburban extension of Singapore’s prime shopping belt.17 This attracted a mixed crowd of local teenagers, families, yuppies, and expatriates, which contributed to the Village’s cosmopolitan atmosphere.18

The opening of the Holland Village Circle Line train station in October 2011 further improved accessibility and brought more footfall to the area.19 While some businesses, particularly food and beverage outlets, have benefitted from increased commuter traffic, some retail shops reported lower sales, as regular customers were deterred by the initial crowds.20

Over the years, competition for shop space in Holland Village has driven up the rental prices, squeezed out old businesses, and fuelled the brisk turnovers of tenants.21

Pop culture
In June 2003, Mediacorp Channel 8 debuted a 110-episode blockbuster drama, Holland V, a light-hearted series revolving around a family selling nasi lemak in Holland Village.22 While some scenes from Holland V were filmed in Holland Village, the actual filming location for the nasi lemak shop was at Punggol 21 Nasi Lemak in Upper Serangoon as there was no nasi lemak stall in Holland Village at the time.23 Holland V was so popular that it was extended to 125 episodes.24 The show spurred the business of nasi lemak stalls around Singapore.25 The drama’s fame also prompted Sean Lim, who owned Katong Laksa in Holland Village, to open a nasi lemak shop that bore the same name as the one in the show – Holland Village Nasi Lemak.26

Holland Village extension
Under the 2014 master plan of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Holland Village was designated as an “identity node”, which meant that its redevelopment had to be carried out sensitively to preserve its “quaint charm and distinctive urban low-rise village atmosphere”.27 The plan envisioned the rejuvenation and extension of Holland Village through a new mixed-use project with retail, commercial and residential elements, as well as public spaces and pedestrian walkways.28 The mixed-use project would be built at a former public housing site along Holland Road behind existing commercial developments at Holland Village.29 Familiar sights that made way for redevelopment include Kampong Holland Mosque (built in 1974) and Buona Vista Swimming Complex (built in 1976), both of which closed in 2014 and have since been demolished.30

In 2018, a consortium led by property developer Far East Organisation won the tender for the land parcel.31 The following year, the property developer launched One Holland Village, a mixed-use development comprising retail, office and community spaces, residential units and serviced residences.32 To ensure that these additions blended with the existing features of the area, the retail zone would be low-rise, and the streets of Lorong Liput and Lorong Mambong would be extended to create a seamless link between the new precinct and the rest of Holland Village.33

Janice Loo

1. S. Durai Raja-Singam, Malayan Street Names: What They Mean and Whom They Commemorate (Ipoh: Printed by The Mercantile Press, [1939]), 108 (Microfilm reel no. NL 18265); Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 151 (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV -[TRA]); “FACT,” Straits Times, 11 March 2012, 12 (From NewspaperSG); Walter Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke and Roland St. J. Braddell, eds., One Hundred Years of Singapore, vol. 2 (Singapore : Oxford University Press, 1991), 400–401. (Call no. RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
2. H. W. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula,” Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 42 (February 1905), 152–53. (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website)
3. “A New Village,” Malaya Tribune, 31 July 1929, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Chang Tou Chang, “The ‘Expatriatisation’ of Holland Village,’’ in Portraits of Places: History, Community and Identity in Singapore,” ed. Brenda S. A. Yeoh and Lily Kong (Singapore: Times Editions, 1995), 144. (Call no. RSING 959.57 POR-[HIS])
5. Chang, “The ‘Expatriatisation’ of Holland Village,’’ 144.
6. Survey Department Singapore, Johore and Singapore, 1945, topographic map (From National Archives of Singapore media no. 20050000689-0015_AccNo104_8); Singapore Land Authority, Singapore: Bukit Timah, 1959, topographic map. (From National Archives of Singapore accession no. TM001063)
7. Melody Zaccheus, “Hakka Tombstones May Have to Go,” Straits Times, 8 June 2014, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
8. R. Wong, “On the Food Trail,” Expression, no. 4, 1991, 20. (Call no. RSING 052 E)
9. Chang, “The ‘Expatriatisation’ of Holland Village,’’ 145; R. Ng, “The Village People,” in Expression, no. 4, 1991, 18. (Call no. RSING 052 E)
10. Chang, “The ‘Expatriatisation’ of Holland Village,’’ 145–46.
11. Chang, “The ‘Expatriatisation’ of Holland Village,’’ 145–46.
12. Chang, “The ‘Expatriatisation’ of Holland Village,’’ 146.
13. Chang, “The ‘Expatriatisation’ of Holland Village,’’ 146.
14. Chang, “The ‘Expatriatisation’ of Holland Village,’’ 146.
15. Chang, “The ‘Expatriatisation’ of Holland Village,’’ 146–47.
16. Yaw Yan Chong, “Holland Avenue Come Alive with a Different Charm for a Mixed Crowd,” Straits Times, 13 October 1989, 31; “Yup-Scale Tacos to Humble Porridge,” New Paper, 27 March 1989, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Yaw, “Holland Avenue Come Alive”; Wong, “On the Food Trail.”
18. Yaw, “Holland Avenue Come Alive”; Yaw Yan Chong, “An ‘Out-of-Town Orchard Road’ in The Village,” The Straits Times, 13 October 1989, 31. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Siau Ming En, Chow Jia Ying and Chong Ning Qian, “Six Months since Holland Village MRT Opened: Where Has the Crowd Gone?Straits Times, 8 April 2012, 10; Amanda Eber, “Circle Line Puts a Squeeze on Holland Village,” Business Times, 31 March 2012, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Siau, Chow and Chong, “Six Months since Holland Village MRT Opened”; “Circle Line Puts a Squeeze on Holland Village.”
21. “Village Rents Hit City Levels,” New Paper, 13 January 1990, 3; Koh Boon Pin, “Capturing Holland Village's Inns and Outs,” Straits Times, 30 March 1997, 3; Lee Siew Hua, “A Village Yuppified,” Straits Times, 21 March 1993, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Samuel Lee, “A Village with Lemak Memories,” Straits Times, 29 May 2003, 18; “V for Victorious,” TODAY 2nd edition, 12 June 2003, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
23. Jill Alphonso, “Wait, This Cannot Be in Holland V,” Straits Times, 21 September 2003, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
24. “Holland V Ends with a Bang,” TODAY, 2nd edition, 3 December 2003, 37. (From NewspaperSG)
25. “Fishing for Next Success,” TODAY, 28 November 2003, 94. (From NewspaperSG)
26. Alphonso, “Wait, This Cannot Be in Holland V.”
27. Melody Zaccheus, “High Hopes for Low-Rise Village,” Straits Times, 23 November 2013, 23 (From NewspaperSG); “Retaining & Enhancing Local Identity,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 1 December 2021.
28. Mindy Tan, “Holland V to Be Extended, with Mixed Development Project,” Business Times, 20 November 2013, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
29. Cheryl Ong, “Fresh Injection of Life for Charming Enclave,” Straits Times, 20 November 2013, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
30. “Last Prayers at Kg Holland Mosque,” Straits Times, 26 April 2014, 15; Jeremy Au Yong, “Holland Village Mosque to Close by End-2013,” Straits Times, 4 July 2012, 5; Grace Chua, “Last Lap for Buona Vista Swimming Complex,” Straits Times, 1 March 2014, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
31. Kalpana Rashiwala, “Far East Bags Coveted Holland Site for S$1.2b,” Business Times, 17 May 2018. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
32. Bong Xin Ying, “Enhancing Holland Village’s Bohemian Vibe,” EdgeProp Singapore, 2 December 2019. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
33. Charlene Chin, “Building on Our Heritage: The Eclectic Charm of Holland Village,” EdgeProp Singapore, 9 August 2021. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

The information in this article is valid as of December 2021 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Commercial buildings
Holland Village (Singapore)--Social life and customs
Streets and Places
Residential buildings

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