Ever been to Singapore? If you have, you will recall seeing one of their many shophouses.
Shophouses are known as such because of their ground floor shops for mercantile activity and separate private residences above. Historically the ground floor was occupied by a traditional shop, but the space can just as easily be a coffeeshop or bar, a clinic, a barber, an auto workshop or even a school or a bank. And if we’re talking about film-worthy architecture, there’s no shortage of drama when it comes to these colonial buildings, commonly seen in urban Southeast Asia, most notably in Singapore.
A riot of Wes Anderson pastels and quirky decoration, they evolved from the late 18th century but after the colonial era, became neglected, dilapidated, many abandoned, demolished or destroyed.
And get this– many shophouses have been known to be illegally sealed and used to cultivate and harvest edible birds nests, doing long-term internal damage to the buildings. Seriously. The edible birds nests, created with the solidified saliva of small birds from the swift family, are among the most expensive and rare animal products consumed by humans, particularly prised in Chinese culture due to their supposedly high nutritional value. Used in their cooking for over 400 years, most commonly bird’s nest soup, the Chinese believe it promotes good health, especially for the skin.
Now, here are some examples of these incredible establishments.
Clancy's comment: I've lived in a shophouse in Thailand, and I must say that they are great. They are spacious, and many like the one I lived in, had a rooftop area that was a fabulous place to take photographs.