Yishun "artistic pagoda" installation (2017)

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The tower of toys at Block 108 Yishun Ring Road. Photo from The Straits Times.

In late 2016, a retired contractor by the name of Ong Beng Kooi built a tower of toys at the void deck of Blk 108, Yishun Ring Road. However, in February the following year, the installation was removed by Nee Soon Town Council.[1] Much like the "Golden Staircase" incident at Jalan Rajah, the toy tower sparked much discussion with regards to the regulation of public art pieces in Singapore.

Details of incident[edit | edit source]

Or Beng Kooi decided in late 2016 to build a tower of toys at the Senior Citizens Corner of Block 108 Yishun Ring Road where he resided. His tower consisted of about 200 toys and figurines that had either been from his own collection or donated by others.[2] His decision to do so was due to the fact that he spent most of his day socialising with other retirees in the area and wanted to beautify the area that they spent time at.[3]

Mr Or Beng Kooi pictured at his residential estate in Yishun. Photo from The Straits Times.

In February 2017, Or Beng Kooi was instructed by the Nee Soon Town Council to take down his installation on the account that the mountain of toys was a fire hazard.[4] Or Beng Kooi obliged with the instructions given by the Town Council and the installation was removed on 23 February 2017.


Or Beng Kooi explained in an interview with The Straits Times that he had built the display “for the elderly folk" and expressed that it was unfortunate that the installation had to be dismantled.[5] When The Straits Times interviewed residents of the area on their views towards the installation, all five residents interviewed responded that the structure was not blocking any pathways.[6]


Local artist Shirley Soh who participated in the 2013 edition of the Singapore Biennale, praised Or Beng Kooi’s installation as an example of ground-up art.[7] She felt that it mirrored the material culture of Singapore well with the collection of kitschy toys and purposefully-placed figurines.

Further developments[edit | edit source]

Exhibition at The Substation[edit | edit source]

Mr Or Beng Kooi with his installation at Chong Pang CC in 2018. Photo from The Straits Times.

In collaboration with local theatre practitioner Li Xie, Or Beng Kooi was invited to recreate his original work at The Substation, an independent contemporary arts centre in Singapore.[8] Under the exhibition “Discipline in the City”, Or Beng Kooi’s installation was titled “BLOCK 108”. The installation was an interactive art piece in which anyone could contribute their own toys and figurines during the creation process.[9] It was displayed at The Substation from 1 November 2017 to 26 November 2017.[10]

Exhibition at Chong Pang Community Club[edit | edit source]

In 2018, Nee Soon GRC's MP K. Shanmugam and Chong Pang Community Club invited Or Beng Kooi to create a new installation with official approval from the given authorities.[11] The new installation was created in time for Chinese New Year and exhibited at the second floor of Chong Pang Community Club from 16 January 2018 to 3 March 2018. The authorities only set one condition for Or Beng Kooi which was that his work could not contain any religious deities.[12] This condition was set as his previous work contained statues of Buddhist deities which might not be inclusive and sensitive considering Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious demographic.


As a reminder to the public, Minister K. Shanmugam expressed that any addition to public spaces must adhere to the safety regulations set by the authorities and the relevant agencies and permission must also be granted prior to construction.[13]

References / Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Zaccheus, Melody. “'Artistic' tower of items at HDB void deck trashed”. The Straits Times. March 2, 2017. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/artistic-tower-of-items-at-hdb-void-deck-trashed
  2. Zaccheus, Melody. “Yishun retiree Or Beng Kooi invited to create and exhibit his latest toy tower at Chong Pang CC”. The Straits Times. January 22, 2018. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/yishun-retiree-or-beng-kooi-invited-to-create-and-exhibit-his-latest-toy-tower-at-chong
  3. Zaccheus, Melody. “'Artistic' tower of items at HDB void deck trashed”. The Straits Times. March 2, 2017. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/artistic-tower-of-items-at-hdb-void-deck-trashed
  4. Zaccheus, Melody. “'Artistic' tower of items at HDB void deck trashed”. The Straits Times. March 2, 2017. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/artistic-tower-of-items-at-hdb-void-deck-trashed
  5. Ng, Jun Sen. “Finding common ground over public decorations”. The Straits Times. March 16, 2017. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/housing/finding-common-ground-over-public-decorations
  6. Zaccheus, Melody. “'Artistic' tower of items at HDB void deck trashed”. The Straits Times. March 2, 2017. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/artistic-tower-of-items-at-hdb-void-deck-trashed
  7. Zaccheus, Melody. “Yishun retiree Or Beng Kooi invited to create and exhibit his latest toy tower at Chong Pang CC”. The Straits Times. January 22, 2018. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/yishun-retiree-or-beng-kooi-invited-to-create-and-exhibit-his-latest-toy-tower-at-chong
  8. Zaccheus, Melody. “Retiree to rebuild Yishun toy tower at Substation”. The Straits Times. November 6, 2017. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/retiree-to-rebuild-yishun-toy-tower-at-substation
  9. Zaccheus, Melody. “Retiree to rebuild Yishun toy tower at Substation”. The Straits Times. November 6, 2017. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/retiree-to-rebuild-yishun-toy-tower-at-substation
  10. “The Substation presents Discipline the City: Responding to the Question of Control, Access and the Politics of Space”. The Substation. August 10, 2017. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56fcaa737da24fa2afc22beb/t/5a4f4ba4652dea1f601c531b/1515146244209/01+The+Substation+presents+Discipline+the+City_Media+Release+10+Aug+2017.pdf
  11. Zaccheus, Melody. “Yishun retiree Or Beng Kooi invited to create and exhibit his latest toy tower at Chong Pang CC”. The Straits Times. January 22, 2018. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/yishun-retiree-or-beng-kooi-invited-to-create-and-exhibit-his-latest-toy-tower-at-chong
  12. Zaccheus, Melody. “Yishun retiree Or Beng Kooi invited to create and exhibit his latest toy tower at Chong Pang CC”. The Straits Times. January 22, 2018. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/yishun-retiree-or-beng-kooi-invited-to-create-and-exhibit-his-latest-toy-tower-at-chong
  13. Zaccheus, Melody. “Yishun retiree Or Beng Kooi invited to create and exhibit his latest toy tower at Chong Pang CC”. The Straits Times. January 22, 2018. Accessed on 30 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/yishun-retiree-or-beng-kooi-invited-to-create-and-exhibit-his-latest-toy-tower-at-chong