Stunning communal spaces at the National Gallery Singapore

National Gallery Singapore has been elegantly restored to display artworks

1. Supreme Court foyer PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
2. Rotunda dome PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
2. Rotundadome PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
3. Keppel Centre for Art Education PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
4. Padang Atrium PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

There is more to the new National Gallery Singapore than its huge collection of art from South-east Asia.

The gallery is created from City Hall and the former Supreme Court, two colonial buildings that were focal points for many important events in Singapore's history.

It was in the City Hall building that Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces on Sept 12, 1945, on behalf of the Allied forces.

French architects studioMilou Architecture and Singapore architects CPG Consultants have successfully married the old and new spaces to create an art gallery that showcases not just the art, but also many stunning communal spaces that are Instagram-worthy.

1. Supreme Court foyer

Keeping history intact - that is the impression one gets when one walks into the foyer of the former Supreme Court. This beautifully restored area has the same terrazzo flooring, imposing pillars and a stairway that evoke its rich past.

The foyer has a foundation stone weighing 2,000kg, as well as a time capsule.

The cylindrical brass container contains one copy each of The Straits Times, Free Press, Malaya Tribune, Warta Malaya (Malay) and Sin Chew Jit Poh (Chinese), two half-cent pieces, one piece each of one cent, five cents, 10 cents,

20 cents, 50 cents and one dollar. These are placed beneath the foundation stone.

The newspapers feature stories of a Europe arming itself for World War II. The foundation stone was removed by the Japanese in 1942 in their bid to remove vestiges of colonial rule. It was replaced after the war.

There are four courtrooms in the former Supreme Court building. All the original timber panelling and the ceilings of the courtrooms have been restored.

2. Rotunda dome

Beneath the dome lies the old Supreme Court library that housed more than 20,000 leather-bound publications.

3. Keppel Centre for Art Education

Young ones can create art pieces and play curator by selecting artworks for an exhibition and writing the wall text at the spacious new facility here.

The 1,000 sq m facility, located on Level 1 of the City Hall Wing, was made possible by a $12-million donation by Keppel Corporation.

There are four art spaces, an orientation room and workshop facilities to support school visits. The space also has an art corridor which has a Tactile Art Wall for the very young and visually disabled. They are encouraged to touch and give their own twist to art by using the moveable art pieces on this wall.

4. Padang Atrium

The atrium, which is the gallery's Padang entrance, was previously an open-air carpark between the former Supreme Court and City Hall.

The atrium connects the two buildings via two link bridges and a basement. The metal filigree veil roof, which starts from the Supreme Court building and runs the length of City Hall, extends outwards to form a "rattan-like" awning over the gallery's entrance facing the Padang.

The roof is made of more than 15,000 perforated aluminium panels of various patterns and in shades of gold, allowing for a stunning play of light on a sunny day. Five tree-like steel structures, which are between 12m and 30m tall, support the roof.

5. Main dome - PHOTO: ST FILE

5. Main dome

The main dome of the former Supreme Court building is fixed by intersecting steel trusses imported and fabricated in Britain. A new glass area has been added to allow the public to view the internal structure.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2015, with the headline Stunning communal spaces at the National Gallery Singapore. Subscribe