chap lau chu

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Borrowed from Hokkien 十樓厝十楼厝 (cha̍p-lâu-chhù, “ten-storey house”). Originating in the 1960s, with the building of pioneering HDB satellite flats.


  • (Singapore) IPA(key): /tʃɑp laʊ tʃu/


chap lau chu (plural chap lau chus or chap lau chu)

  1. (Singapore, colloquial) A ten-storey housing flat built by the Singapore Housing and Development Board (HDB) in the 1960s (now mostly vacated).
    • 2014 July 6, Kezia Toh, “Ghost town in Commonwealth Drive comes alive”, in The Straits Times (Singapore)[1]:
      Now empty, Singapore's chap lau chu in Commonwealth are the highlight of a quirky showcase… A group of recent Nanyang Technological University (NTU) graduates have zoomed in on the chap lau chu, Singapore's first 10-storey flats, built in 1962 by the Housing Board in Commonwealth Drive. … While the chap lau chu were not the tallest flats ever built - the Singapore Improvement Trust, the predecessor of the Housing Board, built the now- demolished 14-storey Forfar House in Queenstown in the 1950s
    • 2015 August 20, Aw Cheng Wei, “My fond memories of 'chap lau chu'”, in The Straits Times (Singapore)[2]:
      Even as the years go by, chap lau chu still binds me to my childhood friends, many of whom have moved away to start their own families.
    • 2015 October 2, Jerome Lim, “Goodbye to the $1 flats”, in OMY[3]:
      The cluster of 10-storey blocks of flats also referred to as Chap Lau Chu, while not aesthetically pleasing in the context of today’s public housing designs, served as the face of the HDB’s public housing efforts and were featured on the backs of the new nation’s very first one dollar currency note.
    • 2015 November 5, Bryan Chua, “A Forgotten Past: Bidding Farewell To Commonwealth Drive Blocks 74 to 79”, in The Smart Local[4]:
      The chap kau chus were very alluring to everyone who passed by the dilapidated estate, attracting long gazes and inducing slower footsteps.
    • 2017 October 5, Fabian Koh, “Normanton Park sold en bloc: Singapore's old housing estates that are going, going, gone”, in The Straits Times (Singapore)[5]:
      The seven blocks of brown and beige-coloured flats were the country's first 10-storey flats, and were colloquially known as chap lau chu...

Usage notes[edit]

Possibly used amongst residents of ‘kampong’ who were relocated in the 1960s. More recently used in the media with the preservation of the building's heritage.