One of the more exciting events in the history of our firm was the competition for Singapore’s new National Art Gallery. For this competition, we were lucky to partner with Chan Sau Yan Associates (CSYA), one of the region’s finest architectural firms, as well as a visionary team from Web Structures and Arup Acoustics. We were also fortunate to find a good working synergy with our extended team; the participants managed to produce a truly collaborative product, through a process of sketching and technical development, with no formal division of labor.
Our scheme passed the first round from 111 participants to a shortlist of 5. The second round focused upon the technical development of the scheme. At the conclusion of this second round, our scheme passed the second selection from the shorlisted five to a final three winning entries. Some months later, an elegant scheme by France’s Studio Milou was finally selected to build the NAG.
Our scheme was built around a very simple, perhaps aggressively naive, notion of accessibility. At present, the arts scene in SIngapore is considered remote from the general population, and our understanding is that it can be difficult to cultivate a community of regular gallery-goers.
With this in mind, we were somewhat concerned about the two existing buildings that are to be converted into the NAG. The former Supreme Court and City Hall are rather imposing, frontal neo-classical structures. Given their histories as centers of power, we were worried that these would have to make a very unambiguous gesture of open-ness to public.
To this end, our added elements take the form of portals and windows, which face the adjacent public spaces and are used to display artworks visible from the surroundings. The new Entry Portal, which centralizes a new access to both buildings, is open to the street. It acts as a sort of hybrid between the gallery and the pavement; it can be entered easily, almost by accident.