Saturday, November 21, 2015

A tour of the Singapore Conference Hall

This year, the year of 2015 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Conference Hall. The Singapore Conference Hall (then called the Trade Union House) was completed in September 1965 and opened by founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 15 October 1965. On 28 December 2010, it was gazetted a national monument and is now the home of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Conference Hall, several events have been organized. For more information, please visit:

On 31 Oct 2015, I had the pleasure to participate in the SCH Building Tour, in essence, a tour of the building of the Singapore Conference Hall.

When I was a teenager, I had visited the Singapore Conference Hall at least once a year to attend music concerts at the then auditorium. I even had the privilege to perform at least once at the Singapore Conference Hall before it went through a major renovation that was completed in 2001. The Singapore Conference Hall was also the place where I took part in at least two Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) competitions.

The tour, was an avenue for me to recollect my memories of Singapore Conference Hall and for me to learn more about the history of this building. I valued the opportunity to explore the Concert Hall and the backstage.

I learnt that the Singapore Conference Hall which was formerly known as the Trade Union House, was the first modern building on Shenton Way. When I saw a photo of Shenton Way before the Singapore Conference Hall was built at the SCH Photo Exhibition, I felt in awe how much Singapore has progressed over the decades.

One of the most impressive design features of the former Trade Union House was that it was designed for our local tropical climate. Cantilevered roof and terraces were used to provide sun-shading and a natural ventilation system was used to keep the interior cool.

A part of the SCH Photo Exhibition.

During the tour, I learnt from our tour guide and a few of the tour participants that there used to be a famous Teochew Restaurant that used to operate in the Singapore Conference Hall. Does anyone know its whereabouts now?

The mosaic tiles that were placed near the entrances to the Concert Hall have been there witnessing the changes that have taken place to the Singapore Conference Hall. The mosaic tiles are inspired by the Malay mat pattern. Looking at them reminded me fondly of my past memories of the Singapore Conference Hall.

Before I knew it, the tour led me into the Concert Hall. Strangely, I prefer the previous design of the auditorium of the Singapore Conference Hall before the completion of the renovation in 2001. Somehow, while I did not like sitting on any of the seats that were on the slope of the auditorium, I like the idea that the space could be flexible to changes to cater to multiple functions. Possibly, familiarity with the previous auditorium made me more biased in preferring it over the current design of the Concert Hall?

During the tour, I had the privilege to visit the backstage of the Concert Hall. Our tour guide also shared with us an interesting story about the Steinway piano. If you are curious, this is one reason to join this tour.

One of the interesting aspects of the building tour was to have the privilege to take a good look at some of the gifts that were housed in the Singapore Conference Hall. The Seiko time-piece that comes with life-time warranty drew my attention because it immediately resonated with me because I had seen it before at least more than a decade ago before the Singapore Conference Hall became home to the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.

This is one tour that I was glad that I had signed myself for. It gave me an hour to reminisce the positive memories of the past and I learnt a lot more about this building which is a gazetted National Monument.

SCH Building Tour
Daily: 26 October to 31 December 2015
Tour timing: 10.30 a.m. - 11.30 a.m., 2.30 p.m. - 3.30 p.m., 4.30 p.m. - 5.30 p.m.
Write in to to register
SCH Building tours are available on a first-come-first-served basis by registration only.