One of the oldest streets in town, Waterloo Street is a testament to Singapore’s cultural mosaic. Take a stroll around and you’ll find diverse places of worship alongside old buildings that have been transformed into creative spaces for the arts community.
A living and breathing example is 42 Waterloo Street, a unique blue-hued building that has probably caught your eye whenever you’ve been in the Bras Basah area. In fact, it’s just a 1-minute walk from Bras Basah MRT station.
|Image credit: Centre 42
Stepping into the compounds of 42 Waterloo Street makes you feel like you’ve transported back in time. After all, it’s hard to come by pre-war buildings that are still in their OG form – but this 2-storey building is a rare example.
According to official records, the building was built before 1893 and was the home of an illustrious Eurasian family. It was then converted into a commercial space in 1969 to house the Dharmapala P. Company – which, according to a 1972 listing in New Nation Classifieds, does “engraving on all types of metals, cups & trophies.”
Image credit: Centre 42’s Facebook
The bungalow then underwent restoration between 1977 and 1999, but retained many of its features you can still see today. Think pitched tile roof, high ceilings, and a spacious garden compound.
In 1995, the National Arts Council (NAC) had grand plans to transform the area into an arts district. Hence, 42 Waterloo Street was gazetted into a creative space as part of the Arts Housing Scheme. It was first occupied by arts group, Action Theatre, from 1999-2012 – with 2 outdoor performance spaces, 2 rehearsal rooms, indoor studios, and a cafe.
They vacated the building in 2012 and it was then transformed into an inclusive and multidisciplinary space for art collectives in Singapore. 42 Waterloo Street then reopened in November 2021, with Centre 42 as a co-tenant.
42 Waterloo Street is now home to the arts community. It has hosted events such as the launch of POTONG: TO CARE/CUT by playwright Johnny Jon Jon.
Image credit: Ethos Books
42 Waterloo Street joins other buildings in the area that have been transformed into spaces for the arts – think The Theatre Practice and Objectifs. Now, the building is the safe haven for non-profit theatre development organisation Centre 42, which supports and shapes local talents like independent playwrights, writers, and performance artists.
Image credit: @foryourconsiderationsg
You don’t need to be a professional artist to spend time here, either. Lean into your artsy side by watching a theatre performance or sign up for workshops for skills like podcasting and dramaturg.
Most workshops are free, but donations are encouraged. Events and workshops vary, so you should check out the website to keep updated on the latest happenings at Centre 42.
With skyscrapers and modern BTOs sprouting like crazy over the past few years, older buildings in Singapore are relatively hard to come by. At places like 42 Waterloo Street, these spaces are given a new life, lending our city soul while at it. So the next time you’re in the Bras Basah area, do take a detour and check it out for yourself.
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