Architect's Tour of the National Gallery Singapore
The exclusive media tour of the National Gallery Singapore, led by its architectural teams CPG Consultants and studioMilou Singapore, was conducted on 4 May.
The two firms are moving towards the completion of the project, which is due to open in late 2015 with an area of over 64,000 square metres and a project cost of S$530 million. The new design is an adaptive reuse and conservation project, transforming two important national monuments—the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings—into one major visual arts institution dedicated to exhibiting artwork from Singapore and Southeast Asian art.
Together, studioMilou and CPG worked closely with the client teams throughout the design development and each phase of the construction to meet the challenges of conservation and the adaptation of the buildings.
An international competition for the gallery’s design in 2007 attracted some 111 entries from 29 countries worldwide. studioMilou’s design won the competition and was awarded the project in 2008. The competition itself set the framework for an efficient launching of the project, and highlighted the need for a sensitive and astute approach to the historic character of the buildings.
From the preliminary design development to the final stages of construction now underway, the two teams have worked intensively on the project linked to the new glass and metal roof draping over the monuments; the basement developed under the two existing buildings; the restoration of the two historical buildings; and the insertion of new services within the fabric of the buildings.
The Roof as the Signature Element
The signature element of the design, a filigree metal and glass roofing structure, drapes over the monuments, supported by steel tree-like structures that give maximum support to the new roofing, while seeking to retain the monuments’ architectural integrity.
It is sloping downwards at the entrance between the two monuments to create a visual continuity between the expansive atrium and the Padang opposite. Jean-François Milou, studioMilou’s lead designer and the company founder says of the roofing, “I wanted the roof to give rise to accessible analogies for the public, such as the fibres of natural weaves and designs.” The space on the roof will be open to the public.
The roof filters the light, filling the atrium and many of the interior spaces with natural light. Within the interiors, the original windows have been maintained and in some cases enlarged. The interior colour schemes and materials have been limited, with the extensive use of wooden flooring. This unified scheme avoids stark contrasts with the historical features of the monuments.
Uniting the Buildings from Below
Beneath the buildings, the massive basement concourse, like the roof, links the monuments with minimal interventions to their historic structures above ground. This concourse area facilitates visitor flow and houses many of the key operational facilities, such as ticketing, beneath the original buildings, leaving the aboveground spaces free for the public.
Conservation And Engineering
CPG Consultants managed, from the preliminary design phase, the civil and structural engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, transportation engineering and quantity surveying.
The company supervised the conservation studies of the architectural restoration consultants, and ensured the conservation of the buildings’ façades, including the restoration and cleaning of shallow relief sculpture panels. CPG Consultants was also responsible for overseeing the restoration works carried out by the project’s main contractor, Takenaka Corporation – Singapore Piling. Lee Soo Khoong, executive vice president (architecture) of CPG Consultants, speaks of the project: “This is by far the most challenging and fulfilling project in our efforts to rejuvenate historic buildings from the colonial era, and going through it feels like all our experiences working on earlier conservation projects were a lead up to the creation of this world-class landmark.”