Singapore’s old Supreme Court and City Hall, which stand side by side, are the last two colonial buildings on the island to be built in the Classical style. They will be open to the public on October 9 and 10 for one last time, before being converted into the National Art Gallery. These buildings have seen huge changes in their time. Here are some images from their past, present - and future.
Left: The main entrance of the Supreme Court. The court was built on the abandoned site of a luxury hotel, the Hotel de l’Europe, that had gone bankrupt. Its foundation stone was laid by Shenton Thomas – the man who lent his name to Shenton Way – on April 1, 1937. There’s a time capsule under the stone, containing six Singapore newspapers and some Straits Settlements coins. The capsule is slated to be retrieved with the smashing of the stone in the year 3000.
Photo credit: National Art Gallery, Singapore
The former Supreme Court was opened in 1939. It was designed by Frank Dorrington Ward and modelled after London’s Old Bailey. Built at the time of the Great Depression, the monument is grand on the outside, with its massive Corinthian and Iconic pillars, but rather frugal on the inside. The Art Deco-style rubber tiling on the corridor floors were locally manufactured, and the corridor cornices were finished in gypsum plaster, using European methods adopted by Chinese plasterers who had fled Shanghai during the Sino-Japanese War.
Photo credit: National Archives of Singapore
View of an arch in front of the Supreme Court depicting Singapore as a city-state. During the war, the Supreme Court was used as, among other things, a rice storage area and a bomb shelter.
This photo shows the Japanese surrendering to the British at the end of World War II. Later, the Court of Appeal would be the setting of the British war crime trials of the Japanese.
Japanese delegation led by General Itagaki Seishiro leaving after signing the surrender documents at the Municipal Building. Their surrender was announced by Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Singapore's first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, speaks at the National Day Rally at City Hall.
A view of the Supreme Court today. The Court and the City Hall will be opened as the National Art Gallery in 2014.
The Attorney-General's chambers
The Chief Justice's stairwell. The Supreme Court is full of Art Deco design elements, and its lamps are particularly beautiful.
According to war accounts, Europeans apparently hid under the table of the Chief Justice’s Chamber in fear, at the moment of the invasion of the Japanese during World War II. The British were marched out to the Padang, the large field in front of the Court, and then on to Changi on the east coast.
Photo credit: Clarissa Tan
The second-floor landing of the Supreme Court
These are holding cells where inmates had to wait until they were called in to court. The cells are spartan and the flushes of the toilets are located outside the cells, to prevent any inmates from hanging themselves with the flushing chain. There were 10 holding cells for men, two for women, demonstrating the belief at the time that women had less propensity for crime.
The balcony on the third floor
The Rotunda Library. A large part of the architectural features and furnishings of the Supreme Court will be retained, even though the functions of the various rooms may change.
The grand Chamber of the City Hall
An artist's impression of the future National Art Gallery. The main core of the buildings will be maintained, with the sole major addition being a roof canopy that will shelter restaurants and cafes at the top of the old Supreme Court.
This is how the main flight of stairs will look once the building is turned into an art gallery, housing Singapore and Southeast Asian art.
The Supreme Court and the City Hall will be connected by the roof canopy, as well as flights of stairs.
A futuristic view of the two buildings from the Padang. You can sign up for the guided tours during the Open Days on October 9 and 10 at the National Art Gallery website.