HDB says leaf motif in Bidadari inspired by Japanese maple; some netizens thought it was cannabis
The leaf motif found on the facade designs of HDB blocks in the Bidadari estate was inspired by the leaves of the Japanese maple, not the cannabis plant.
Found at the blocks of the Woodleigh Glen project, the motif had drawn public attention after photos of the design were posted on social media and forums around September 2022.
Some netizens had raised concerns that it appeared to look like a cannabis leaf, with some asking if it was meant to be a joke.
The curious similarity had raised eyebrows as cannabis is listed as a controlled drug in Singapore, and those convicted of trafficking more than 500g of the drug may face the death penalty.
Photos of the motif had gained traction again on social media recently, with humour platform SGAG posting a photo of the design on May 23 with a caption saying the blocks in the estate were “quite high”.
Many netizens commented with jokes, but others questioned why the design was chosen.
Facebook user Claudia Lee said: “Is the designer trying to advocate that marijuana is safe for use?”
Another Facebook user Ahad said: “Like this also can approve? (sic)“
In response to queries from The Straits Times, an HDB spokesman said the design is inspired by the heritage of the estate site, which was previously occupied by the former Alkaff Gardens.
The Alkaff Gardens was the first Japanese-style park in Singapore, and was used as a prisoner-of-war camp during the Japanese occupation of Singapore.
It was also a popular leisure destination, and was used as a backdrop for movies in the 1950s.
The HDB spokesman said a permanent information panel at the main drop-off point of Woodleigh Glen clearly explains the motif.
She added that some of the panels with the motifs in the estate are also painted with a reddish hue, similar to the distinctive colour of the Japanese maple leaf.
She said: “Residents can learn about the heritage of Bidadari, as well as the urban design and architectural features of Woodleigh Glen, through the information panels at Woodleigh Glen.”
The information panel said the motif is derived from the “signature palmately-lobed leaf-form (with smooth edges) of the maple”.
In comparison, the cannabis plant has serrated leaves that are green.
A spokesman for the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) also responded to queries from ST, saying that it was aware of the public interest in the motif.
She said: “CNB is aware of the interest expressed by the public in the Japanese maple leaf motif on the block of flats and in its resemblance as well as dissimilarity to the cannabis leaf.”
She added that CNB produces educational resources that carry photos or mock-ups of what various drugs look like, so the public can keep themselves and their loved ones safe, especially when travelling overseas to countries where cannabis is readily available for sale or used in food and beverages.