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National Art Gallery of Singapore

The National Art Gallery of Singapore is a planned art gallery to be located in the Downtown Core of Singapore. It will incorporate two national monuments, the Old Supreme Court Building and City Hall, and is scheduled for completion in 2012.


The National Art Gallery will be a new visual arts institution dedicated to the display, promotion, research and study of Southeast Asian art, including Singapore art. It will also host international art exhibitions, and the Singapore Government hopes that the gallery will contribute to building Singapore as a regional and international hub for the visual arts.

The art gallery will be an integrated development that could include food and beverage and retail components to make it a lifestyle destination within Singapore's Civic District, which overlooks the Padang. The government targets to attract one million visitors a year to the National Art Gallery. The combined floor area of 40,000-50,000 square metres (430,600-538,200 square feet) at the Old Supreme Court Building and City Hall will be developed at a total cost of between S$200 million and S$400 million. The National Art Gallery will have at least 11,000 square metres of exhibition space.



At his National Day Rally speech on 21 August 2005, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned the government's plan to convert the Old Supreme Court Building and City Hall into a new national art gallery. On 2 September 2006, Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts officially announced the setting up of the National Art Gallery of Singapore, during the Singapore Biennale 2006 at the National Museum of Singapore.

The Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) proceeded to implement a process designed to enable stakeholders and interested parties to contribute their expertise and their views to the project. A steering committee, chaired by Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and MICA, oversees the art gallery's implementation plan. The steering committee is supported by an executive committee and four advisory groups. The advisory groups provide advice on museology, architectural conservation, finance and communications.

Design competition

On 23 February 2007, MICA, together with the Singapore Institute of Architects, launched a two-stage architectural design competition to identify the most suitable architect and design for the National Art Gallery. The first stage of the competition called for design and concept proposals, and began on March 19 with a site tour of the two buildings for competing architects to get design concepts and ideas. It drew 111 entries from 29 countries worldwide, with five proposals shortlisted in May 2007. Members of the jury consist of a panel of eminent local and international professionals headed by Tommy Koh, Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large and chairman of the National Heritage Board, and include officials from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Musée national des Arts asiatiques-Guimet in France and the Asian Civilisations Museum.

For the second stage, the shortlisted candidates had to develop their designs, from which the winning proposal will be selected by the jury. As the Old Supreme Court Building and City Hall are national monuments, certain aspects of the buildings cannot be altered, such as the façade, the Surrender Chamber, the office of Singapore's founding Prime Minister and the panelling in four rooms of the Supreme Court. However, this still leaves open many design options such as the addition of roof and basement floors. The participants also had to submit entries within a budget of S$320 million.

On 29 August 2007, the seven-member international jury panel named the top three designs out of the five shortlisted. The three firms — Studio Milou Architecture from France, Ho + Hou Architects from Taiwan, and Chan Sau Yan Associates from Singapore — each received S$150,000. The jury made their decision after appraising models and digital mock-ups, as well as engaging the five finalists in a presentation and question-and-answer session. The other two firms that were shortlisted in the first stage are DP Architects and Australia's Smart Design Studio.

An exhibition of the five finalists' proposals was held at City Hall in October 2007, and the public will be invited to give feedback on the designs, programmes and events. The jury's decision will be presented to MICA, which will then decide on who to commission to design and build the art gallery. An announcement on the final design will be made in the first quarter of 2008.

Architectural proposals

France's Studio Milou Architecture, in collaboration with CPG Consultants from Singapore, designed a linear draped canopy supported by tree-like columns to link the Old Supreme Court Building and City Hall at the roof level. The design incorporates an extended staircase linking the basement to the upper levels, and makes use of solar energy to provide electricity. Fine metal mesh has been proposed to cover most of City Hall. Panel members agreed it had "the most delightful design and appeal", and was ranked first among the top three designs.

Working together with AEDAS from Singapore, Taiwan's Ho + Hou Studio's design keeps the two buildings separate above ground, but links them at the basement. Its proposal includes building a framework of tall columns in wood laminate which resemble the stilt structures of a kelong. Natural light is controlled through lattices and louvres through a glazed roof. It was praised by the jury for its "well-thought-through arrangement of its terraced gallery and related spaces", and was ranked second.

Singapore's Chan Sau Yan Associates partnered with environmental design company Lekker Design, and their design involves building a main entry portal between the two buildings. The firm created an extra storey on the roof of City Hall, which can be used as additional gallery space. The design has translucent walls that allow viewers to see the adjacent historic walls of City Hall and the former Supreme Court. Overhead bridges are used to connect both buildings, and the naturally lit and ventilated entrance helps to conserve energy. The design was complimented by the jury for its "pure simplicity and clever integration of spaces".

DP Architects sought to retain the buildings' original character and uses moving images on screen to create movement, while Smart Design Studio's design sports orchid-inspired structures and has a "porous" internal street.

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