Museums always have a penchant for being artful inside and out, as the stylish galleries that dot Singapore’s Civic District can attest to. One such icon, the Singapore Art Museum, has been missing in action since renovation works began in 2017 – but it’s set to return to our cityscape with a lustrous new face.
Originally slated for completion next year, SAM is now only projected to reopen by 2023, thanks to unanticipated conservation issues. Helming the S$90 million makeover is SCDA Architects, the brains behind sleek projects like Singapore’s National Design Centre and New York’s Soori High Line. Their newly unveiled design promises a modern interplay of light, space, and airiness, married with heritage features from what were once the old St. Joseph’s Institution and Catholic High School buildings.
Strolling down Bras Basah Road, the first thing that strikes your eye might be a shimmering expanse of glass, soaring atop the main building’s iconic red-roofed facade. This series of reflective glass panels will front the new Sky Gallery, a capacious ‘floating box’ above the museum’s courtyards. Featuring lofty, double-volume ceilings and flooded with natural light, this is where large-scale artworks can be displayed to stunning effect.
Whereas a driveway used to dominate the Bras Basah Road entrance, SAM has plans to turn it into a fully pedestrianised lawn – a lush green space for strolling, lounging, and admiring outdoor art. Meanwhile, a new Queen Street entrance will transform the former Queen and Waterloo courtyards into an airy atrium to welcome visitors.
Lastly, in a long-overdue move, SAM’s two distinct buildings – the main Bras Basah Road building and SAM at 8Q, which are currently separated by Queen Street – will be linked by a gallery-bridge, so wet weather can’t get in the way of art appreciation. The bridge itself will double up as a gallery space, enabling you to enjoy a seamless art experience.
Given SAM’s grand plans, you can imagine that its new digs are much more expansive – a thirty percent boost in overall space, to be exact. While it’s certainly shaping up to be a sleek, modern facelift, SJI old boys needn’t worry because heritage features of the former SJI building, such as the stamped metal ceilings in the old chapel and the historic 1903 pediment, will be preserved. Three years is certainly a long time till the museum’s long-awaited reopening. But as they say, all good things come to those who wait!
Singapore Art Museum is slated to reopen at its former site along Bras Basah Road and Queen Street in 2023.
All images courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.