A commonly dismissed area by the common man of the street, void decks of HDB decks in Singapore actually play important roles in our daily lives. From wedding ceremonies to venues for community bonding, theres a whole list of uses the place has! In many void decks, its common to find amenities such as provision shops, senior citizens corners, resident commitees (RCs) and kindergartens/childcare centres as well!
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This MUST surely be a uniquely Singapore trait - who can deny it?
This ubiquitous void decks are often overlooked and taken for granted. Let us all, once in a while, remind ourselves of the usefulness of these void decks in our everyday lives.
Not only does it provide a great venue for holding events, it is also a quiet place for us to have some time alone. It is becoming an increasingly popular locations for students seeking a isolated corner to do some self-revision. For almost all of the void decks, you will find a round cement table and chairs to rest on, and for newly renovated ones, you can even find other exercising facilities.
That said, however, one downside to these HDB void decks is that people often inconsiderately mess up the place with leftovers and cigarette butts. This makes it hard for effective usage by the rest of the citizens.
A Public Space
Although void decks represent a very important area for many significant ceremonies such as a wedding, it can often by misused by minority of the people.
From my observations, many a times, there would be students loitering at void decks, creating unnecessary noises. This is a disturbance and a form of disruption to the residents living at the estate.
Unlike the newly built HDB flats in which they have a large gap between the first floor and the second floor, for old buildings, the second floor is very much nearer to the first floor. As a result, noises created during the wee hours often make residents resort to calling the police so that they can have a peaceful night of rest.
Having said this, I also agree that void decks created space for important events like a wedding. It is also a common area for holding wakes, especially for a Chinese deceased.
A void deck is a public space and hence, we must be considerate for those living nearby while using it.
Fond Childhood Memories
As a child, one of my favourite pastimes was roller blading with my cousin at the HDB void deck where my grandmother used to stay. It was a very memorable part of my childhood and I wouldn't mind living it all over again! We also used to play catching there with our neighbours and I would watch my cousin kick his soccer ball against the pillars repeatedly because I simply refused to play with him.
Now with the new rules and restrictions, people aren't allowed to roller blade, cycle, skateboard or play ball games at the void deck. However, I still feel that the void deck beneath HDBs has not lost its purpose. Children still play at the void deck and it's a popular venue to catch up with those who live around the area.
The HDB void deck is a place that seems insignificant but it holds many of my favourite childhood memories. I hope that children in future will continue the tradition of playing at void decks!
Great fun and games
Standing at slightly shorter than 130cm, 9 year old me reasoned that since the no playing sign was too far up, I had the perfect excuse of not noticing it, and proceeded to play football with my gang of friends. These memories were nostalgic, and I still live the moment at times, though many years have since then passed.
The HDB void decks, often dismissed after a casual glance by a random passer-by preoccupied with the itinerary of the day, is actually an important part of our daily lives. It is where most of the important functions, such as weddings, election pitchings where candidates meet with residents, funerals are held. Residents also find use for many of its amenities such as the tables and chairs (where I spent many an hour mugging for my 'A' Levels during my JC days and enjoying the cool afternoon breeze), childcare centres which form a convenient point for parents to drop off and pick up their children. and even your provision shops and 7-11 outlets where you grab a midnight snack.
I remembered a hilarious incident during my childhood. Living in Serangoon then, there was an ongoing funeral under my block. Being a naive little boy then, I thought the chairs were for the public to sit, and hence took a table with my sibling and friends to chit chat. Moreover, noticing peanuts on the table, we just helped ourselves. It was only after a while, we noticed that everyone there was staring at us and they were dressed in white. But we didn't take much notice until a friend noticed a dead body. 'EEEE you xi ren' (theres a dead person) and thats when we noticed something was amiss and made our exit screaming our heads off.
Over time, the role of void decks has pleasantly remained unchanged. And I hope it remains that way for many years to come!
While time has changed, the concept has not
"No skating, no bicycling, no running, no playing - that's just ridiculous. What's the point of a void deck anyway," My friend complained while clutching a ball in his hand.
Then, it seemed that the signs that had been put up were in the way of our harmless fun, however, having grown up, I now understand the dangers of kicking a ball and the possibility of a broken window or hurt passerby.
Nevertheless, the void deck seemed to be one of my favorite childhood memories - while playing along the corridors of houses with my cousins during Chinese New Year, or even while kicking a ball in the vast space of the void deck vicinity.
Today, I think my main goal resides in sitting down in the concrete furniture while chatting with friends or even filming - while times have changed, the concept of the void deck to bring people together has not.
Childhood Play Area
The HDB void deck was a dominant figure in my play life. I used to go there to ride my bicycle around the small compound, or use my skate-scooter, and roller-blade under the watchful eye of my parents. Playing catching around the area with my neighbours and friends was also common, and I definitely have lots of fun memories there.
However, there are various restrictions on the void decks now. Playing soccer, a popular pastime, is not allowed. I have to agree with this though, there has been a few times where a flying soccer ball has nearly hit me on the head as I was walking past the void deck. It was an absolutely traumatising experience which made me grateful for this restriction. It makes for a safer area for everyone.
It makes me glad that I still see children carrying on the tradition and playing at the void deck. It sure does hold fond memories for quite a few of us.