National Art Gallery, Singapore Open House

For two weekends starting last Saturday, the Old Supreme Court and City Hall along St Andrews Rd. fronting the Padang, is opened for the last time to the public to see, appreciate and experience both buildings as they are before it will go major renovation and will be transformed into National Art Gallery, Singapore.

Curiosity was my main motivation why I was there last Saturday. The first time I came to visit Singapore years ago, it was these two buildings while standing in the middle of the Padang were I have myself photographed. Back then I was wondering why it was closed on a weekday. Last Saturday was my chance to see the interiors of these grand buildings.

I did not register online for the guided tour because I thought that I don't need to as I planned I'll be doing it my own. Alas you can not come inside the Old Supreme Court building unless you are on the guided tour, and alas more the guided tours were all booked for the entire duration of the open house. Lucky they open up on the spot a wait list registration in case someone who booked online did not make it for the scheduled time. I registered and managed to join the 4:30 tour. For those who can not wait and get a slot, can still explore the City Hall without joining a guided tour. A few activities was being held inside the building like bazaar at the open court yard, barcamps, flea market, and snack fair.

The tour to the Old Supreme Court started at the back entrance of the building. The trail we were following is the route where the alleged criminal brought to attend court hearing and will end at the main entrance of the building and back to the City Hall building. The duration of the tour is one hour and during the entire tour we were closely watched by personnel of the event and acted as if we were convicts ready to run away, what an experience.

Anyway below is the chronology of the tour.

1. The Holding Cells. This is were the hardened criminals were brought in from prison were they were to attend hearing. From the carpark at the back of the building, they will passed through a steel caged stair leading to the second floor where the Cells are located. When its time for the hearing, they will be brought to the court room through a narrow stair that lead directly to the middle area of the room just beside the incased cubicle where they'll be confine while the court is in session. There are ten holding cells for men and two for women. There is toilet in each cells where the flushes are located outside so that inmates could not harm themselves.

2. The Court of Appeal. This is one of the two court rooms of the building that was open for public viewing. Looking at the entire room, especially the ceiling, the intricate woven wood was so elegant, one word comes to mind : grandeur. But looking back when this room served its function and you will find yourself there, the ceiling is the last thing you'll notice.

3. The Main Corridor. According to our tour guide, the construction of the building suffered lack of funding resources. This does not reflect on the grand facade of the building but on the interiors. Economical building materials were used like gypsum plaster for the plastering of the cornices and the rubber tiles on the flooring of the main corridors.

4. The Chief Justice Chambers. Upon entry of the chambers the first room you'll be seeing is the conference room where the long table legs has built in ventilation ducts. Adjacent is the Chief Justice office.The Chief Justice has his own private lift, own powder room. Like the conference table, his Y-shape table also has duct on its legs.

5. Court No. 1. Adjacent to the Chief Justice Chamber is this room. I believe this is the room where the Chief Justice and his Associates held session. The room has the same interior as the Court of Appeal except with the podium.

Second floor lobby

One funny incident happened during the tour. After completing the tour we went back to City Hall, the tour guide realized she missed one part during the tour to the Supreme Court. So she gathered us again and drag back to the building. I obliged to join back as I thought if I wont go I would miss something and my tour would not be complete.

This is the reason. The tour guide believed that this is one important thing she should not miss to share.

The foundation stone of the building, then the biggest foundation stone in the whole of Malaya, was laid by then Governor, Sir Shenton Thomas on April 1, 1937. Buried beneath, is a time capsule containing six Singaporean newspaper and a handful of coins and due to be retrieved only in year 3000, so she says. I have been standing directly to the marking while waiting the group before that and learned the significance of it from the other group! But at least she's consistent with the itinerary. As a result I decided not to joined the group on the tour inside the City Hall building and just rest at the steps of the building and admire the facade and the people antics on the steps.

Our tour guide with a red flag. Thank you for the fun tour

The City Hall steps has serves as a backdrop of the many national events, such as proclamation of self-government, national day parades.

The transformation of these two iconic buildings into the new National Art Gallery, Singapore. They will make the future home of the largest visual arts when it opens.

More photos here