A gathering of artists on the steps of their future gallery

8 10 2010

The National Art Gallery (NAG) Open House was officially launched today by Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts. The simple but symbolic launch also saw the gathering of a hundred or so local artists – a representation of Singapore artists, on the steps of City Hall for a photograph session that serves as a symbolic gesture of the transformation of the former Supreme Court and the City Hall into the NAG, which will be a home to the works of our local artists.

In a symbolic gesture - 100 representatives of Singapore artists gathered on the steps of City Hall for a photo.

It is probably fitting that the buildings, long seen as icons of Singapore, both having played a significant role in shaping Singapore’s history are being converted for use as a gallery that will be a home to Singapore artists. As Mr Michael Koh, CEO of the NAG put it in his welcome remarks, the two neo-Palladian style buildings had served as crucial settings to many important moments in Singapore. Mr Koh also spoke of how many Singaporeans young and old would have identified with the buildings at some point in their lives, some with personal memories from events such as National Day and F1, some may have worked there or had relatives or friends working there, or had graduation or wedding photographs taken in thier shadows … which to most have become national icons etched in their memories. I for one have one particular memory that I will always treasure – that of visiting a friend of my mother’s who worked at the Supreme Court as a verbatim reporter regularly via a caged lift from my early childhood.

The Open House was officially launched by Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts.

Mr Lui was presented with a framed photo - the winning entry in a photo competition organised for the two historic buildings.

The Open House will certainly provide many of us with a rare opportunity to see the inside of the magnificent works of architecture – and also to photograph them – something we were not allowed to do when they were in use. It would also provide the opportunity to find out some interesting facts about the buildings – one being that the floor tiles used in the Supreme Court are made of rubber – something due to the fact that construction materials were in short supply at the time of the construction as Europe was preparing for war (rubber being abundant in Malaya). It would in fact also be the last chance to see them as they would be replaced during the makeover due to their asbestos content. Another interesting thing that may interest visitors are that the building was designed without air-conditioning and to retrofit air-conditioning at a later date, ducts and vents were built into the furniture.

The Open House will provide a rare opportunity to photograph the inside of the two magnificent works of architecture before their transformation into the National Art Gallery.

The rubber floor tiles of the former Supreme Court.

Vents built into the furniture - a means to retrofit an air-conditioning system to the Supreme Court.

While due to overwhelming response, guided tours which will provided access to the former Supreme Court are fully booked, those interested in seeing the City Hall and the historic City Hall Chamber can still do so – that will be opened to all – and the opportunity to visit the historic room should not be missed.

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We’re having our day in Court …

8 10 2010

It’s wonderful that the National Art Gallery of Singapore (NAG) has decided to open the doors of the old Supreme Court and City Hall to members of the public to allow us a lasting last impression of the grand former civic buildings as it would have been like before they are transformed into the future art gallery. While there would be some of the rooms of the buildings that would be kept as they were for historical reasons, such as the City Hall Chambers and the Chief Justice’s Courtroom and Chambers, most of the internal areas of the buildings would be made over and given to the display of art works, with the former Supreme Court being reserved for the South East Asian collection, and the Open House this weekend offers a rare opportunity not just to have a feel of the buildings, but also to photograph them as they were. City Hall Chambers in particular, is of historic significance. This was where the Japanese surrendered to the British at the end of the Second World War on 12 September 1945, and is as well the venue where Mr Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister and the first Singapore cabinet were sworn in in 1959 on the occasion of full self-government. Other rooms that will be preserved include the Chief Justice’s Courtroom (Courtroom 1) and Chambers and the Court of Appeal.


The old Supreme Court and City Hall seen from the Padang - then (c. 1950) and now ... both buildings are being converted into the NAG which will open in 2012.

The Open House will feature guided tours (access to the old Supreme Court Building would only be through the guided tour) for which overwhelming response was received, as well as exhibition displays that portray what the galleries would look like after the makeover. There will also be film screenings, a photo exhibition and lots of activities for the family. Visitors to the City Hall will get a glimpse of areas that include City Hall Chambers and the former Law Restaurant, while those on the guided tour will see among other things the magnificent foyer, the Chief Justice’s Courtroom and Chambers, the Rotunda Library, the Court of Appeal, and the Holding Cells.

There would be free access to City Hall during the open house.

City Hall Chambers: once the grandest room in Singapore, was where the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII in Singapore was formalised, and also where the first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and the first cabinet of Singapore were sworn in.

The Chief Justice's Office.

The Chief Justice's Chambers.

Courtroom 1.

One of the wonderful things you will see inside the old Supreme Court is not just the sheer magnificence of a building, once referred to as “undoubtedly the finest Malayan building”, erected at a time when materials were in short supply, but how light flows softly into the building providing natural illumination without much of a need for lighting in the daytime – brilliant work by the architect Frank Dorrington Ward and certainly worth braving the crowds for this weekend.

Old Supreme Court lobby.

Old Supreme Court lobby.

Stairway - old Supreme Court - love how the soft light streams in!

The Rotunda Library under a minor dome.

Prisoner holding area.

Windows at the Old Supreme Court.

The view from the Chief Justice's Office.

Holding Cell.

Holding Cell.

Lock on the door leading to the Holding Cells.

Skylight inside old Supreme Court.

Former Law Restaurant in City Hall.

Courtyard inside City Hall.

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