The case of the missing fountain

3 09 2011

There is a pretty little fountain whose whereabouts are not known. It was a fountain which graced the courtyard of that red brick library along Stamford Road we all loved, and hasn’t been seen since the National Library moved to new premises where an Empress once stood. The red brick library has since bid farewell to this world, going the way of several other easily identifiable buildings that were once scattered around the foot of Fort Canning Hill and all that is left are two pillars to remind us of its existence, leaving little else behind. What seems to have disappeared with the building is the fountain, a pretty Renaissance styled one and a more recent addition to the courtyard of the library.

The Renaissance style fountain that was in the courtyard of the old National Library (photo courtesy of Mr S N Tan).

Those who frequented the library in the late 1990s up to its closure in 2004 may remember the courtyard café and the fountain that came after a renovation of the library in 1997. The previously closed courtyard was then opened up to the public. The National Library’s Singapore Infopedia pages mentions: “the Courtyard was constructed as part of the National Library Building which opened in 1960. The area was not open to the public then and it appears that no (staff and public) activities took place there. The Courtyard was renovated in 1997 when the National Library Building went through major renovation and upgrading works. It subsequently opened with a new look: containing a café and a renaissance fountain, in January 1998. The Courtyard can accommodate up to 120 people”.

The courtyard café and the fountain was a much later addition to the National Library (postcard image courtesy of Mr S N Tan).

The Renaissance Fountain is also mentioned in detail: “the National Library Board Chairman, Dr Tan Chin Nam mooted the idea of a renaissance fountain in the middle of the Courtyard in keeping with the notion of Singapore enjoying a renaissance of the arts. The fountain design is composite of pre-manufactured components put together. The base is a quatrefoil and superimposed square-emblematic of the transition from the medieval or Gothic into the quattrocento (the totality of cultural and artistic events and movements that occurred in Italy during the 15th century, the major period of the Early Renaissance). This design was also used quite extensively by Italian artists of the period. The fleur-de-lis at the top is unique, as it is the symbol of Florence: the birthplace of the renaissance”.

Based on information at the National Library's Singapore Infopedia site, the idea was mooted by the then NLB Chairman, Dr Tan Chin Nam, to signify Singapore enjoying a renaissance of the arts (photo courtesy of Mr S N Tan).

While the fountain is a recent addition and probably not really representative of the old National Library as we wish to remember it, it does represent a period of revival, not just for the red brick building, but also one of public consciousness for the conservation of heritage. There is a chance that it may still be intact – it seems it may have been passed on to the Singapore Management University (SMU) which now dominates the Stamford Road area (although no one I have asked who are connected with SMU seems to have seen it). And if it can be found, it should really be put on public display, not just as a reminder of the red brick library, but for what the red brick building, in those final days, had stood for.

Another view of the courtyard and fountain (photo courtesy of Mr S N Tan).


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3 responses

3 09 2011
T T Tan

I almost forgotten there was a fountain like this! Thanks for sharing!

4 09 2011
Charlotte

How I missed the old library and the wonderful courtyard….thanks for the photos Jerome..though it leaves me feeling sad looking at them. Let’s hope someone can find the fountain and install it at the courtyard of the Lee Kong Chian library perhaps?

Charlotte

23 11 2011
Charles Lim

I saw something which looked abit like it in LTA. well half of it.

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