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‘Hidden Doors’ documents Singapore’s old shop-house architecture.

The project started when one day Ricky found himself wandering around one of the backstreets of the shophouses.

The project became a reason for Ricky to explore his own city-state in a more personal way.

Constructed between the 1840s and the 1960s, these shophouses formed the majority of the pre-WW2 urban fabric of the old city centre as well as several other parts of Singapore

Each door has a truly distinct personality.

Ricky confesses that sometimes he sees a construction site and just a few years later, a new building appears, almost magically. This made him realise the some of these doors might disappear very soon and in a way, his project is saving their memory through documentation.

After his project was completed though, Ricky spent a lot of time learning more about the architecture in Singapore which also helped him to expand his services as a commercial photographer

He specified though that while he was shooting the project, it was purely for personal exploration. “I just loved the process of roaming around in the back alleys to discover the next interesting ‘Hidden Door’.”

Ricky is now thinking about releasing a book based on the project and to also have a ‘Hidden Door’ exhibit at the Singapore Art Museum sometime in the future.

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Showcase 16 Jun 2017

Elements: Doors. Photographer Ricky Gui documents Singapore’s ‘Hidden Doors’

Doors can be effortlessly romanticised, not just for the unknown stories they act as guards to but also for being an important part of architecture and history. About 600 doors in Singapore were documented by commercial and documentary photographer Ricky Gui for his project ‘Hidden Doors’, executed for over a year. Each door has a truly distinct personality – a different shape, colour, material and paraphernalia. What makes this documentation interesting still is that these are the doors located behind shophouses in lanes where people – except the working staff – don’t usually venture into.

Talking about the conception of the project, Ricky told CQ that it all started when one day he found himself wandering around one of the quiet backstreets of the shophouses. “I started shooting a few doors just for fun, and then I came across a bright red door with a cat sleeping in front of it. I liked the simplicity of the scene at that moment. Then it just occurred to me to do this as a series,” he said. He executed the series mostly over the weekends when there wasn’t too much crowd.

‘Hidden Doors’ documents Singapore’s old shop-house architecture.

The project started when one day Ricky found himself wandering around one of the backstreets of the shophouses.

The project also became a reason for Ricky to explore his own city-state in a more personal way and dispel some of the myths about photography in Singapore. “I had always heard from people that ‘Singapore is so small and there is nothing to shoot’. I disagree with that. Rather than shooting aimlessly, you should take a walk in a street to get inspired and then create a project which is meaningful to you,” he said.

The project became a reason for Ricky to explore his own city-state in a more personal way.

One of the most interesting aspects of ‘Hidden Doors’ is the documentation of the old architecture in Singapore, which has been changing rapidly. As the website of Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority states, shophouses are mixed-use spaces found throughout the historic cities of South East Asia. The website mentions that “they are narrow, small terraced houses, with a sheltered ‘five foot’ pedestrian way at the front. These buildings can be used for both business and living.

“I had always heard from people that ‘Singapore is so small and there is nothing to shoot’. I disagree with that. Rather than shooting aimlessly, you should take a walk in a street to get inspired and then create a project which is meaningful to you...”

Constructed between the 1840s and the 1960s, these shophouses formed the majority of the pre-WW2 urban fabric of the old city centre as well as several other parts of Singapore.” Ricky, founder of Capture Asia Photography confesses that sometimes he sees a construction site and just a few years later, a new building appears, almost magically. This made him realise the some of these doors might disappear very soon and in a way, his project is saving their memory through documentation.

Constructed between the 1840s and the 1960s, these shophouses formed the majority of the pre-WW2 urban fabric of the old city centre as well as several other parts of Singapore

Each door has a truly distinct personality.

Ricky confesses that sometimes he sees a construction site and just a few years later, a new building appears, almost magically. This made him realise the some of these doors might disappear very soon and in a way, his project is saving their memory through documentation.

He specified though that while he was shooting the project, it was purely for personal exploration. “I just loved the process of roaming around in the back alleys to discover the next interesting ‘Hidden Door’.”

After his project was completed though, Ricky spent a lot of time learning more about the architecture in Singapore which also helped him to expand his services as a commercial photographer. Ricky is now thinking about releasing a book based on the project and to also have a ‘Hidden Door’ exhibit at the Singapore Art Museum sometime in the future.

After his project was completed though, Ricky spent a lot of time learning more about the architecture in Singapore which also helped him to expand his services as a commercial photographer

He specified though that while he was shooting the project, it was purely for personal exploration. “I just loved the process of roaming around in the back alleys to discover the next interesting ‘Hidden Door’.”

This is the first article in a four-part series on Doors, under 'Elements', an ongoing column that builds on various smaller elements that go into making architecture. The stories are in fashion to Tiles and 3 stories that were featured earlier on CQ. To check out the stories on Tiles, click here.