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Peace Centre PlayPan

Exploring the Peace Centre PayPan at Sophia Road in Singapore offers a unique journey through history, art, and community engagement. Come the Peace Centre PlayPan, which ran for six months till today. Let’s check out what the arts and thrift hub has to offer. Let’s go!

Thrift shops galore!
Thrift shops galore in the Peace center mall!

History of Peace Centre

First, off some background of the mall. Peace Centre was once a popular mall but lost its shine to newer malls in the neighbourhood. Located at 1 Sophia Road in District 9 of Singapore, the Peace Centre has a history dating back to its construction in 1977. Also, Peace Centre was and has a 99-year lease that started on June 2, 1970.

Peace center building at Sophia road.
Peace center building at Sophia road.

Also, the mall consists of 319 strata units in a 10-storey front podium block and a 32-storey rear tower. Within it sits 232 commercial units, 86 apartments and a 162-lot car park.

KTV signs
Peace center exterior
Building overview

Notably, in the last two decades, this mixed-use complex, with its 10-storey front podium block and 32-storey rear tower was mostly known for its printing shops and seedy karaoke lounges. In 2021, the building was sold en-boc for S$650 million and slated for demolition. However its fate took a turn when owners decided to postpone it to early 2024.

Birth of the Play Pan Peace Centre

Mall lobby and center stage with live bands, line dancing for all ages.
Mall lobby and center stage with live bands, line dancing for all ages.

Hence, the Peace Centre PlayPan emerged as a result of this decision, transforming the 400,000 sq ft retail space into a vibrant hub for creative collaboration and community-building efforts.

Bubbles joy at the event.
Bubbles joy at the Playpan event.

Also, led by the arts social movement, the PlayPan hosted a variety of events and activities from October 2023 to February 2024. It emphasizes positive change and societal impact.

Stage dances with seniors in the community.
Stage dances with seniors in the community.

Moreover, the mall, in its last hurrah, became a thriving space for artists, social enterprises, and thrift shops. The sustainability message echoed throughout, with thrift shops showcasing the importance of closed supply chains.

View of the mall central staircase and lobby area.
View of the mall central staircase and lobby area.

Here, stores hawking vintage vinyls, cameras, clothing, and artwork were on display, creating a paradise for those seeking unique finds. Crowds can be snaking outside the Sun Fatt watch dealer now-turned Thrift store outside the mall.

Popular thrift store in a closed watch store.
Popular thrift store in a closed (Sun Fatt) watch store. Though its still a mystery why is unusually popular.

Also, the PlayPan initiative extended its space to social enterprises, contributing to community-based activities and events like World Sight Day, offering eye screenings to elderly residents.

Vintage cameras and toys on sale
Vintage cameras and toys on sale, albeit quite pricey.

Throughout the weekend, a stage was setup at the mall’s ground floor with live singing, band performances and line dancing too.

Self made goods on second floor
Self made goods on the buzzing second floor.

A thrift and community paradise

The three floors of the mall unfolded a myriad of experiences. This ranges from thrift shops, art galleries and quirky graffiti, creating a diverse and engaging atmosphere. Furthermore, the message of sustainability is strong within the area.

Thrift stores in the mall common areas.
Thrift stores in the mall common areas.
Thrift’s the game here.
Local thrift
Clothing shops

Within, you can find several artworks and thrift shops emphasising the need for lower consumption, reduced waste (especially from fast fashion) and closed supply chains.

A thrift pile!
A thrift pile! Emphasising a closed net zero economy.
Fashion parade textile art and giant cloth ball.
Fashion parade textile art and giant cloth ball.

Some galleries has art blended in their stores too, like a giant textile ball in a gallery with walls of textiles. Also, here, you can find a variety of thrift shops selling with vintage music vinyls, cameras, clothing including converse canvas shoes, jackets, T-shirts.

Pre-owned and to a good future home
Pre-owned goods for purchase to a good future home.

The graphic tee offerings on sale have a vibe similar to that as those offered at Excelsior Shopping Centre mall we visited sometime back.

Classic converse shoes as some of the finds in shops here.
Classic converse shoes as some of the finds in shops here.

Additionally, the PlayPan has offered its space to various social enterprises for community- based activities, and worked with about 50 collaborators to host events. Examples includes World Sight Day, where eye screening has been offered to more than 120 elderly residents. Workshops on art and crafts like a jewellery making one were also side events organised by independent groups too.

Jewelry making workshops.
Jewelry making workshops a hit with groups.

Also, navigating the mall was a simple yet slightly challenging task, as the escalators were not operational during the visit. You have to manually traverse the stairs, although the elevators remained in operation, albeit tucked in the dark corners of the mall.

3 floors of thrift and art.
Dimly lit top floor
Stopped escalators

Art galleries and quirks in the mall

It is not just thrift shops here either. Several shops here are also turned into art galleries. They are usually all managed by the artists themselves with artwork and merchandise on sale.

Creative village mini art galleries
Creative village has a number of mini art galleries like this altar with hell notes for instance.
Creative village event spaces with live performances.
Creative village event spaces art galleries and live performances.

Also, these independent art galleries were scattered throughout the mall. Some galleries tucked within each of the store each offering a unique perspective and creative use of the available shop spaces for exhibitions.

Textile artwork motifs.
Textile artwork motifs.
Rebranded Art Galleries
Free galleries
Artwork and tufting mats for sale.

Some galleries focused on electronics displays and personal play spaces, while others provided interactive photo booths or areas for board games and electronic play. Interestingly, these galleries are what some artists humorously calls this their second home too.

Tech as art
Tech as art at the Bring your own Arduino tech-art gallery.
BYOA: Bring Your Own Arduino
Got haircut?
Haircuts and portraits

Also, there is also a barber shop offering haircuts, and photo portrait services added to the eclectic mix. It creates a holistic experience for visitors. Notably, there was long a at one of the barber shops where patrons can get a professional photo taken of you.

Creative village galleries
Board games
Got mahjong?

Moreover, artists offering caricature are can also be found on the upper floors by the main escalator and stairwell. Here you can find a couple of flea market tables hawking various handmade goods, thrift cloths products, as well as offering services such a fortune reading.

Digital Art
A pile of digital art.
Emo art as an expression
Interactive art
OneSight booth

Time and again, I often hear artists lamenting about the difficulty to find art venues or one within their budget. Rental for galleries spaces, especially in town with good foot traffic is usually very expensive. And seldom do most business are able to sustain or support arts cause for long.

Inclusive art
Fashion parade wall
Clothing shops

Beautiful Graffiti

Some of the pieces are really nicely detailed.
Some of the pieces are really nicely detailed.
Ghostbusters mural
Ghostbusters graffiti mural.
Mall central stairs
Out of bounds
Marine graffiti

Furthermore, the mall’s main entrance stairwell is a canvas for beautiful graffiti. It depicts greenery and marine themes, tad of an “ever evolving stair art”.

Evolving staircase
Evolving staircase of graffiti with several artists putting their mark on it.
Alleyway graffiti
No space untouched
360 Graffiti

PlayPan’s invitation to local artists resulted in murals and street art throughout the mall, even transforming a toilet into Singapore’s first “glow in the dark toilet”. Additionally, the glow in the dark art galleries are a pleasant one, tucked within the cubicle offices.

Glow in the dark graffiti gallery.
Glow in the dark graffiti gallery.
Peace center graffiti artwork on all levels
Peace center is littered with a mix of graffiti artwork of all levels.

Also, you tend to find the graffiti plastered on the walls and floor on the mall back alleys and the rear-end toilets. In checking out the artwork, you can see the remnant storefronts of several businesses.

Graffiti on disused shopfronts.
Graffiti on disused shopfronts.

This includes offices, pubs and KTV lounges too which used to dot and operate here. Also, some of the graffiti here are created to cheeky offer a creative and arts take on the outgoing shop tenants.

Backalley way graffiti
Backalley way graffiti.
Mall alleyway
Creepy corner
Open liminal spaces

Artists from all over the country came to place their random artworks of expressionism in the building too. A notable one is the Zombie nest on the second floor, with adorable but creepy doll parts seen sticking out of the old tenant postal boxes.

Halloween horrors came early!
Halloween horrors came early!
Street lobby wear
Any stranger things?
Letterbox zombie attack

Also, the toilets do have a post-apocalyptic vibe to it with Zombie mannequins and graffiti all over the floor.

Zombie infestation
Zombie dumpsters
Graffiti street

One peculiar offering was the confession booth, featuring two pink booths for visitors to write confessions that adorned the walls and glass shop fronts. This random yet interesting addition showcased the creativity and diversity within the PlayPan.

Confession booth area sector.
Confession booth area sector.
Confession alleyway
Lots of confessions
Toilets not spared

Wrapping up

After about an hour or two of good explorations, especially if you were to cover every corner of the 3 storey mall, that pretty much wraps it up. I reckon the mall probably had not seen so much foot fall in visitors in a long time.

Main entrance beckons of the art which awaits.
Main entrance beckons of the art which awaits.

As the PlayPan closes at the end of January 2024, the Peace Centre’s future remains uncertain. It is likely to face redevelopment into a new residential and commercial project by the owners who purchased it in 2021.

Stringers hanging overhead at the mall entrance.
Stringers hanging overhead at the mall entrance.

Still, the eclectic mix of pop-up stores, art tours, and musical performances has transformed the once lackluster mall into an unexpected art haven. Despite its imminent closure, the PlayPan initiative successfully breathed new life into the Peace Centre, attracting visitors in the final years of its existence.

In conclusion, a visit to the Peace Centre PlayPan offers a glimpse into the dynamic fusion of history, art, and community engagement. The mall’s transformation from a slated-for-demolition building to a thriving arts and thrift hub is a testament to the power of creative collaboration and positive change. While its closure marks the end of an era, the impact of the PlayPan initiative will undoubtedly resonate as a concept. It does leaves behind memories of an extraordinary last hurrah for the Peace Centre.

Additional photos of Peace Center Playpan

Eateries still operating
Vinyls vinyls!
Snippets of history
Projection shows
Glimpse of the yesteryear.
Flea market
Ground floor stores
Wall murals
Laid out bare
Vintage stashes
Makeshift mobile theater
Calligraphy space
Vintage clock
Pop up shops
Pre-owned jewellery
Trinkets sale
Common area stores
Looking out
Hats and electronics
Random sale items
Concept galleries
Packed central atrium
Creative village
Beers to chug
Gallery stringers
Electronics art gallery
Dimly lit
Play for good!
Central stage
Pon Teng art shop
Caricature drawing pieces
Art for sale
Clothing shop
It is art
Art workshops
Art or vandalism?
Dragon lion
Top floor
Pro wrestling talks


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