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The Supreme Court of Singapore is a building with a lengthy history. The truth is that it is not one, but several buildings that have been extended to suit the needs of Singapore justice system over the course of the years.
On the one hand, beside the Padang there is the Old Supreme Court, which underwent comprehensive reforms and since 2015 has been home to the National Gallery of Art, in conjunction with City Hall Just behind this, on the other hand, is the new Supreme Court building, erected early in the 21st century.
Initially Sir Stamford Raffles had earmarked this space for public use, though subsequently the Administrator of Singapore, William Farquhar, allowed the construction of private residences. On the basis of this, in 1830, George Drumgold Coleman designed the residence of Edward Bouestead, which was later remodelled on several occasions to become the Hotel London, then l'Esperance, then Europe and, by 1900, the Grand Hotel de l'Europe. It is perhaps the only local hotel comparable to the historic Raffles Hotel, since at that time it already boasted a lounge, reading room, shops, bar and even a rooftop garden. Unfortunately, in 1932 the hotel went bankrupt and was demolished to make room for the Supreme Court of Singapore.
Thus, the first stone of the Old Supreme Court was laid on the 1st April 1937 by the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Shenton Whitelegge Thomas. As a curiosity you should know that both a selection of Singapore newspapers from the same year and a handful of coins lie buried next to the stone and, according to legal provision, must not to be unearthed until the year 3000.
The building was designed by Frank Dorrington Ward of the Department of Public Works. It is certainly his most majestic work and is reminiscent of classic European architecture. Its structure, ionic columns, arcaded atrium, façade featuring a representation of justice and, of course, its beautiful green bronze dome house even more secrets inside, such as paintings and sculptures by Milanese artist Cavalieri Rodolfo Nolli.
As an architectural detail, it may surprise you to know that the building not only features a wonderful bronze dome, but also another, smaller one that originally covered a circular library.
The building was officially inaugurated on the 3rd August, 1939, and handed over the same day to the President of the Supreme Court, Sir Percy McElwaine. Eventually the Supreme Court required more space, and this was borrowed from the neighbouring City Hall. The lack of space was such that Dorrington Ward himself devised a plan to demolish this and other buildings and rebuild everything. Fortunately his plan was truncated by the onset of World War II.
Construction of the new Supreme Court building did not begin until this century. The design carries the signature of Sir Norman Foster, who worked in collaboration with a local architectural firm, CPG Consultants.
More than 72,000 square metres of exquisite design. The building is spacious, bright, open, and contemporary and pays special attention to the needs of the disabled, the young and the elderly. If you look closely you will see he has employed transparent materials on the façades, atriums and lifts to represent the transparency of the law at all times.
The building features an architecture that is flexible in the long-term, meaning everything is designed with future expansion in mind.
It is also eco-friendly. The visible stonework is actually stone laminate and the glass appears dark, causing one to think that interior artificial light would need to be increased. This is not the case, however, as this is a special glass that allows the passage of natural light at all hours of the day and night. In addition the building features climate control devices, for example a rooftop garden with trees that not only provides insulation but also offers a pleasant space for a rooftop stroll.
Perhaps the most spectacular element is the flying-saucer shaped structure on the roof. You'll find even more spectacular if you photograph it at sunset. The new Parliament House gardens on North Bridge Road offer a good perspective.
The courts were transferred here in 2005 and the building was officially inaugurated on the 7th January 2006 by President Sellapan Ramanathan as the home of the civil, criminal and appeals courts, in addition to other offices. It also features an auditorium, a library, a cafeteria and a gym.
Visitor entrance is permitted during office hours, offering access to the Heritage Gallery on the first floor and the Viewing Gallery on the eighth. It's worth going up. You'll see why when you get there.
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