Shophouses are a beautiful part of Singapore’s heritage. These buildings are generally two or three storeys high terraced houses with shops underneath and a “five foot way” at the front.
Shophouses were constructed between the 1840s and the 1960s. They are long narrow buildings with an “airwell” in the middle of the building. Airwells are open courtyards (I.e. open to the elements), providing natural ventilation and lighting to the interior of the shophouse. Before AC it was to help facilitate ventilation (in a hot humid tropical climate).
There is a rear courtyard (which used to house the washing and toilet facilities). The upper floor overhangs the 5 foot way providing cover for the pedestrian walkway. There is also an open stairwell and skylights to let in the light. The communal kitchen was at the rear of the building.
The Five Footway provides pedestrians with a sheltered environment away from the hot sun and torrential rain. This feature was mandated by Raffles since the first Town Plan for Singapore. They were built 5 feet wide so people could drag their beds out at night and sleep underneath them as it was too hot inside the shophouse.
The shophouses have many different architectural styles depending on when they were built with Chinese, Malay and European influences. I took a cloudy and wet walk through ChinaTown to Clarke Quay snapping pics of shophouses with my iPhone as I went. Enjoy!