SINGAPORE - The public will next year be able to enter the Istana grounds at night for the first time during an open house, as part of the 150th anniversary of the presidential residence.
The Istana Open House will be held on Oct 6, 2019 - a Sunday - almost to the day when the heritage site was first opened on Oct 8, 1869.
President Halimah Yacob announced this, along with other commemorative events, on the sidelines of the largest turnout in five years for a Deepavali Istana Open House which drew 17,000 visitors on Tuesday (Nov 6).
"I really hope that Singaporeans will come so that they can get to experience the Istana at night," said Madam Halimah.
She added: "Istana 150 will be a useful opportunity for us to reflect on our history as a nation and the values that have guided us so far.
"The Istana has journeyed with Singaporeans over the past 150 years, becoming a key part of our collective memories and identity.
"It is important that we see this commemoration as an occasion to dig deep into our heritage as one people, because how we have arrived at where we are today will shape who we will be tomorrow."
The 150th anniversary celebrations will also include an exhibition featuring the Istana's history and heritage. The exhibition will travel across Singapore to the heartland and libraries.
A series of new books that cover the history, architecture and wildlife of the Istana grounds will be launched as well.
The Istana 150 logo was unveiled at a ceremony held during the Deepavali Istana Open House on Tuesday.
It was designed by School of the Arts Singapore student Charlie Chua, 18, whose idea beat more than 100 others that were submitted through the Istana 150 Logo Competition.
The design, which will feature on Istana 150 memorabilia, shows a white outline of the building against a strong red background.
Mr Chua, who attended the unveiling ceremony, said: "When my design was chosen, I was elated. The first thing I did was to call my mother because to have my design selected is such an honour."
He said the logo was inspired by his visit to the Istana grounds when he was three years old. He recalled playing in the garden and seeing the building's facade in the morning sun.
"With the 150th anniversary celebrations, what better way to contribute to the occasion than by designing a logo? Especially since I have fond memories of the Istana as a child."
His mother, Chinese teacher Xia Bing, said in Mandarin that she is proud of her son.
"Seeing him want to design something for his country makes me very happy," said Madam Xia, 51, who attended the ceremony as well.
Scientist Jadegoud Yaligar was at the Istana with his wife, Ms Shilpa Kala, 34, and daughter Ashwitha Yaligar, seven.
Dr Yaligar, 41, said it was the family's first time visiting the grounds, and they were especially excited to see Madam Halimah up close.
"It's really good that we're celebrating Deepavali here. Usually we'll go to the temple or stay at home. This is really different," the Singapore permanent resident said.
Visitors to the Deepavali Istana Open House were treated to musical performances by groups such as the CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) School concert band and Sampada Dance Studio.
They also enjoyed guided nature walks and tours of the Istana building.
Engineer Nicholas Chong was there with his sons Marcus, five, and Joshua, seven.
"You seldom get to come inside here, and it's a very nice residence with a good atmosphere," said Mr Cheong, 45. "It's a concrete jungle out there in Singapore, so this is a good contrast and a good way for the family to come together on Deepavali."
The crowd stayed until heavy rain broke at around 5.45pm, an hour before the open house closed. By then, visitorship numbers had hit the highest level since such data was first collated.