Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Glimpses of City Hall building at Singapore Biennale 2008

The City Hall, Singapore. I do not know about you, but this was one of the places that I was out with my ex-classmates to take outdoor graduation photographs, wearing our graduation robes. I believe quite a number of people had also taken their outdoor graduation photographs at the main entrance of the City Hall building?

Other than being the place where I had taken outdoor graduation photographs at, the steps leading to the main entrance of City Hall were where I had sat on a few occasions, simply to watch time passing by and to sketch. It was a lovely place to be at, especially on a breezy and cloudy day. From those steps, I could have a pretty view of some of my favourite places in Singapore: The Victoria Concert Hall, the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, and the open spaces of the Padang.

A sketch that I did.

City Hall was built originally in 1929, and was then known as the Municipal Building. This neoclassical building was designed by Municipal Architech A. Gordo and Assistant Architect F.D. Meadows. In 1951, the Municipal Building was renamed as City Hall, when the town of Singapore was proclaimed a city of the British Commonwealth by the Royal Charter granted by King George VI.

In the year 2005, City Hall was decommissioned. Subsequently, its spaces were used for the first Singapore Biennale in 2006. I remember that I had an enriching time viewing the various exhibits of Singapore Biennale 2006 when I was at City Hall two years ago.

A couple of days ago, I visited City Hall so as to view the exhibits of Singapore Biennale 2008. It was with nostalgia that I shall share some of photographs of City Hall that I had taken during my most recent visit to City Hall. The thing is that after the Singapore Biennale 2008, City Hall and the adjacent Supreme Court building will be converted into the National Art Gallery. I wonder how the Supreme Court and the City Hall would look like when they open their doors as the National Art Gallery sometime around 2013? Anyway, I believe my memories of City Hall will last for a long time. Would yours too?

If you should have the chance to, do find time to check out the Singapore Biennale 2008, particularly the following two exhibition venues: City Hall and the South Beach Development. The Singapore Biennale 2008 ends on 16 Nov 2008.

This room was formerly City Hall's restaurant.

In City Hall's former restaurant: Han, Jong-Gun's "Evolutional Mythology". 2007.

City Hall's former restaurant.

Previously one of the Judges' Chambers.

Previously one of the Judges' Chambers.

The corridors.

Another former Judges' Chambers.

When I was attending one of the guided tours of the Singapore Biennale 2008, the tour-guide shared briefly about historical significance of City Hall. I understand that it was right inside the City Hall Chambers that Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten accepted the surrender of the Japanese to the Allies in the year 1945. Many other historical events have also taken place at City Hall. For example, it was at City Hall that the then 'Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew proclaimed self-government for Singapore in 1959, and where he declared the merger with Malaysia in 1963 and then announced that Singapore was an independent republic in 1965'.

The City Hall Chamber.

I cannot fully explain why. When I was at the Singapore Biennale, the work by Pimkanchanapong, Wit's Singapore somehow got me into a reminiscent mood. In this work, the artist recreate a Google Earth image-map of Singapore to be installed as a wall-to-wall floor covering for the Cith Hall Chamber. Visitors are provided with stickers on which they could write information about specific places and attach these stickers onto the map. It was definitely an interactive piece of art. As I went around the City Hall Chamber searching for the location of several places in Singapore on the art-work-cum-map, I could not help but recall some of the good memories that I have had of the places and the people who have shared those good times with me.

In City Hall Chambers: Pimkanchanapong, Wit's Singapore.

Closed up of a section of Pimkanchanapong, Wit's Singapore.

I shall then end this post by sharing two photos that I had taken about a year ago at the Surrender Chambers of Fort Siloso, Sentosa. The life-size wax-models that you would see in the following two photographs reenact the Japanese surrender to the Allies in 1945 at the then Municipal Building of Singapore, now City Hall. I was not even born yet when that historical moment took place. Did you have the privilege to have witness this event in 1945?

Photo taken at Surrender Chambers of Fort Siloso, Sentosa. The actual surrender took place at City Hall.

Photo taken at Surrender Chambers of Fort Siloso, Sentosa

What memories do you have of the City Hall building?

Maybe it would be worthwhile to visit it soon, before it undergoes major conversion into the National Art Gallery.

- G. Byrne Bracken. (2004).A Walking Tour: Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions.