Thursday, June 25, 2015

National Museum of Singapore Architectural Tour


I signed this up few weeks ahead of the tour during the Singapore Heritage Festival. I did miss a few interesting tour, such as the synagogue tour. 

National Museum of Singapore, was one of the few tour location I visited during my 'grad trip'. Yes, trying to be less depressed about unemployment and low on finance, I found a better way to spend my time during that phase, doing things I like which took not much of my money. It was not as splendid and glamour as those of my peers' grad  trip, which mostly took place in places overseas or camera-friendly. Back to this topic, yes, museums in Singapore has become one of my favourite spot because they are quite organized and educational at times, though I do have a certain opinion about European history and art part. But this tour was not about its content, it was about the building itself.

For people who are curious how did the museum looked like, it was this. There was a dome and very classy looking exterior. I loved how it was painted.

Our first stop was to gather under this rotunda covered by a dome roof. It was right at the entrance of the building. Once you're in, you are covered by this area, a dome with these stained glass panels. When the tour started, we were introduced to this dome. There were 50 panels of stained glass, to commemorate the reason why this museum of built. The museum was opened on 12th of October 1887. If that didn't mean anything to you, that's the same year as Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Hence, this museum's opening is to commemorate Queen Victoria's fifty years' reign, hence the number. This rotunda area was supposed to be open air but was re-furbished to be air-conditioned and closed.

To support the claim, there is Queen Victoria's coat of arm at the roof of the building. That was not a common sight and when that was put on a building, it was supposed to be big! The exterior of the building could see the museum was designed in a Renaissance and neo-Palladian style. The reminiscence of ionic columns was seen from outside. The pineapples at the corner of the roof was meant to mean prosperity in the European culture because it was such rarity during the time, which makes it almost meaning the same thing as in local culture.

It was explained to us that the older part of the building was designed by Henry McCallum, while extra search on the internet told me that there was another architect, J. F. McNair, involved.

Standing from inside facing out of the entrance, the left side of the building was once a library. Therefore, we could see real solid iron column at this section. These columns were put in to withhold the weight of books from the second storey. In this area, the palladian style windows could be observed clearly, the windows and lighting. Note also the patterns of floor tiles, which could be seen in many of the Sino-colonial styles buildings which was very common around Singapore.

That guy in the yellow and black checkered shirt was our tour guide. It was the second time I followed a tour by him. The previous one being the Leichtenstein's gallery tour years ago. Look at the high window at the side, allowing maximum sunlight into the interior of the building.

Motre look on the old building area. Each window, frames and wall were made with such intricacy.

This part was the right side of the building, the old building. It used to be museum area but is now instead a library. According to the guide, we could actually pay the library a visit and enjoy the quiet environment inside.

Outside, there was a sculpture with straw-like figure. It was a handicraft by a Taiwanese artist. This piece of work was previously placed in front of the museum but the contract was changed hence a new house for it.

Along the road, we could see little pillars like this. They were actually the old gate of the museum. They were more inside and nearer to the building than the road now as there was a change in the road and museum area. The wall showed the museum compound was once smaller with the road nearer to it. And due to frequent increase of earth while making of new road and tiling, the old gate looked lower than the ground by several inches...

Going through Fort Canning Park and reached the behind side of the building, which was nearer to the newer area of the museum, we could see the wall separating the hill and the museum. The design used for the wall was to remind us of what was behind, the geographical strata. Behind this would be Fort Canning and the cemetery. 

From there, we passed by the galleries exhibiting for Lee Kuan Yew's memory and into the building. The newer side of the building has more glasses and was designed by a local architect company. What was interesting was, once the museum of gazetted, the new regulation require no modification of original building with similar design. Hence, the old and new part of the museum were distinctly different. However, there were certain part linking the old and new part which was not quite different whereby the new add-ons were almost similar to the old building. According to the guide, it was because the modification was made before the regulation was set, hence that was still allowed. 

By the end of the tour, I made myself a little collectible souvenir.

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