Bras Basah – Centre for the Creative Soul

By : Jane Chang
28 August 2013

Arts, Books and Complexes


The Singapore Art Museum, Raffles Hotel, the School of the Arts, CHIJMES, Singapore Management University… what do all these local landmarks have in common?

Not only are they beautiful buildings with cultural, heritage or educational significance, they are also all housed along Bras Basah Road, which is widely known as the main avenue in Singapore’s arts and heritage district.


From Wet Rice to Bras Basah

Do you know how Bras Basah Road got its name?

The road first appeared as Beras Basah” in G D Coleman’s 1836 Map of Singapore. In Malay, beras’ refers to rice with the husks removed, while basah’ means wet – so Bras Basah was named after wet rice! Stories tell of how wet rice was dried on the banks of a nearby stream in the past, resulting in this interesting concoction of a name.


Today, Bras Basah is a hum of activities with its many museums, art schools and indie cafes. Its eclectic mix of architecture old and new, western and oriental, brings extra flavour and identity to the district. I remember how, when I was a design student, I would make weekly pilgrimages there to browse through gleaming new books and magazines, print my design work, study at the nearby National Library, purchase art materials, or simply soak up the atmospheric arts haven that is Bras Basah.


Bras Basah After Dark

The vibrancy of this place doesn’t end after office hours. Bras Basah at night is, by far, one of the more happening places in Singapore, offering a rich palette of food and entertainment for the creative soul. Even though the museums and some of the shops may be closed, they serve as a backdrop to the many bars and restaurants, which spot patrons unwinding with some after-work food and drinks. This colourful, vibrant district with bright lights is one of my favourite hangout spots at night.


Here I present my homage to the ever-lively Bras Basah with a photo trip after dark!


During my little photo trip, I also passed by Bras Basah Complex. It is one of my frequent haunts – and that of all who love books and the arts.


The complex opened in 1980, and still serves as Singapore’s ‘City of Books’ till today. It boasts a wide variety of bookstores, offering not only new but secondhand books too. I recall lugging my old textbooks here to sell them at the shops when I was still schooling.


Bras Basah Complex is integrated with a number of HDB blocks. Here’s a little secret to share with you: these 24-storey flats offer a really beautiful view of the city at night.


A view of Bugis, with the National Library Building on the right

Having been around for more than three decades, Bras Basah Complex will be undergoing a major makeover under HDB’s Revitalisation of Shops Scheme. Its facade will see some rejuvenation works to help this gem in the city catch up with its trendier neighbours such as the National Library Building and Bugis Junction.


Renovation works started in January this year, and shop owners have already promised that the complex’s internal offerings will remain as unique as they have always been! I am definitely looking forward to this.


Night Lights and Awesome Art

Here’s another reason why Bras Basah is awesome at night – the annual Singapore Night Festival! Brought to you by the National Heritage Board, it is a showcase of amazing artworks, light installations, special events and performances that will take place across the streets of Bras Basah district, as well as within cultural venues such as the National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, the Substation, and the School of the Arts.


And the good news is that the festival is currently on! It’ll be here this Friday and Saturday, and I’ll definitely be going, so I’ll see you there! For more details, do check out their official website.


I Heart Bras Basah


Does Bras Basah have a special place in your heart too? Show some love by sharing your stories! Let us know on the MyNiceHome Facebook page.


Tags: Central,




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