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City Hall And Former Supreme Court At A Glance

City Hall Building

They are older than you know, and they may be older than you will ever be. History has calcified in their granite bones. They
remember the time where rickshaws roamed the streets and the footsteps of great personages and alleged criminals alike echoed
through their halls. They witnessed the fall of a colony, in a flash of bayonets; they stood by in silent attention, as a new nation
arose. In time to come, they will be transformed, reborn again as the National Art Gallery, Singapore.
Welcome to the City Hall & former Supreme Court buildings!
could keep cool when the heat was on. A ventilated system called
the Solo-Air system, invented by E H Hindmarsh, provided a
cooling current of renewed air routed through the floor and up into
the legs of the tables, where concealed ducts directed jets of air.

Former Supreme Court

The Facts

Built on the site of the Hotel LEurope, one of the palatial hotels in Southeast Asia in the 1900s.
Built at the cost of $1.75 million and said to be modelled after the Old Bailey Court House in
Declared open in 1939
The Supreme Court moved to new building, just a stones throw away from the former site.
The new Supreme Court was designed by Lord Norman Foster





Do you know?
Chief Justice Yong Pung How, the second of three local Chief Justices that Singapore
has had, was the one who abolished the wearing of traditional wigs for the justices.

Foundation Stone
Laid by Sir Shenton Thomas on 1 April 1937, the 70th anniversary of
the proclamation of the Straits Settlement as a separate colony. Being
seven feet across and weighing two tonnes, it was the biggest foundation stone in Malaya at that time. A time capsule, fashioned from brass
and containing 6 Singapore newspapers and Straits Settlement coins
from that period of time, slumbers under the stone. They will be
unearthed in the year 3000, 900 years from now!
Main Corridor
Built during the
time of the Great
Depression, the
former Supreme
Court suffered
from a lack of
resources. You
probably could
not tell it from
looking at the
grand faade
alone. Economical building materials were used and the inside of the building is
rather austere and practical.
Gypsum plaster was used for the finishing of the cornices and the
main hall. The rubber tiling on the floors of the main corridor reflect
an Art Deco influence. Locally manufactured, they are soundabsorbing to make sure that the halls of the Supreme Court would
remain suitably quiet.


Supreme Court Balcony

The balcony is fronted by Ionic and
Corinthian columns, belonging to
two classical orders of Greek and
Roman architecture. These columns
are made of gypsum plaster,
commonly known as Shanghai
plaster, in reference to the skilled
Chinese artisans who fled China
during the Sino-Japanese war and
came here to work.

Chief Justices Chambers

The Chief Justices chambers are served by their own private lift.
The Y-shaped table you see in the Chief Justices office is the only
one in the building.
On the bookshelves, you can see the emblems featuring arms of
the Inns of Court, a professional association which provides legal
training, selection and regulation for every barrister in England
and Wales. These will be conserved as testimonies to the
buildings former functions in the future Gallery.
Rotunda Library
Once upon a time, the rotunda library used to hold the law library.
Then when the collection outgrew the circular space, the library was
moved to the City Hall building, and this room was converted into
a police post, back at a time when policemen were still wearing
The furniture here was designed by William Swaffield. Notice their
elaborate workmanship: distinctive cornices, relief panelling and
the like. You can see his handiwork in many of the pieces present in
these historic buildings.

Look up at the tympanumthe little

triangular section over the the
columns. You can see that the
depiction of Justice here is not
blindfolded, as it usually is (on the United States Supreme Court, for
example). The sculptures were carved by Italian Cavalieri Rudolfo Nolli,
who was also responsible for moulding the internal columns of the

Designed by F D Meadows and completed in 1929

Known as the Municipal Building until 1951
Housed many offices of several government departments, including
the office of Singapores first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
City Hall Steps:
The City Hall steps and building
have served as the backdrop for
many national events. The surrender of the Japanese forces in 1945
was announced by Admiral Lord
Louis Mountbatten on these steps,
as was then-PM Lee Kuan Yews
proclamation of self-government in
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew
speaking at the National Day Rally at
City Hall, 3 June 1961.
(Collection of National Heritage Board)

City Hall Chambers:

Originally built to be the grandest room in the building, it was used as a
meeting room by the then Municipal Commissioners to discuss
Singapores development during the colonial age, in addition to hosting
official functions. It was here that the Japanese surrendered to the Allied
forces on 12 September 1945. The swearing in of the first fullyindependent Singapore Government was also carried out here on the 5th
of June 1959.

Courtroom 1
One of the four original courtrooms in the former Supreme Court. The
furniture in Courtroom 1 will be preserved in the National Art Gallery.
Even in the days before air-conditioning, judges, lawyer and spectators

Holding Cells (restricted access)

Notorious murderers, from self-styled medium Adrian Lim to
Anthony Ler, who manipulated a teenager to kill his ex-wife, have
sat here as they waited for their verdicts to be announced. There
are 10 inmate holding cells reserved for men in the former
Supreme Court, and two for women. The flushes for the toilets are
located outside the cells, so that inmates could not harm themselves. In the future, two of these cells will be kept in the future
National Art Gallery as a reminder of what this place used to be.

Anticipating the Future

These two iconic buildings which were symbolic of Singapores nationhoodCity
Hall and former Supreme Courtwill be transformed into the new National Art
Gallery. They will make our future home the largest visual arts venue in Singapore
when it opens.
For more information, visit nationalartgallery.sg. Do also friend us on Facebook
(Facebook.com/artgallerysg) and follow us on Twitter (Twitter.com/artgallerysg).

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