National Gallery Singapore Landscape by ICN Design

National Gallery Singapore--for-WLA-a-
The new National Gallery Singapore comprises two national buildings that are integral to Singapore’s modern history and emergence as a nation. The former City Hall & former Supreme Court embody her colonial history. The global competition to design the National Gallery, was won by Studio Milou Architecture, converting the existing buildings into one museum specialising in South-East Asia art from the 19th century to the present. The opening of this grand gallery was held in November 2015, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Singapore’s Independence.

The landscape resonates with both the surrounding civic district and the signature elements of the heritage architecture. Key initiatives were to preserve the dignity of these historic monuments by respecting their classical form, scale and materials whilst forging a contemporary series of external spaces for circulation; for arrivals, ceremonies, gathering and interaction. For outdoor activities; outdoor refreshment, art display, functions and events. And to allow for special civic and national occasions and parades.

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Being a national monument, conservation guidelines had to take precedence. Converting 19th century municipal buildings into a 21st century museum required massive structural and M&E services for the new functions and demands. Vents and voids are well-integrated into the overall landscape design for both street frontages and roof spaces. Structural constraints were overcome with in a large roof court garden. This was also designed to reduce the heat-load within the building with planting, and skylight water features. Movable planters and large pots were also used for flexible space creation and where loading capacity was restricted.

At the ground levels the street frontages double as formal and informal urban spaces. Layers of hedges and Roystonea palms reinforce a civic character and invoke personal and historic memories. These linear elements are echoed internally with massive green-walls extending the length of the building and roof court with fresh tropical greenery softening the light to interior galleries. Over one hundred metres and five metres high the walls create a strong visual and physical connection. One is adapted to suit shady conditions, and the other to Singapore’s tropical climate.

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National Gallery Singapore--for-WLA-e-

Set above the two classical buildings, the grandly proportioned court looks skyward. The landscape space organized for spectacular views of the dome and surrounding cityscape. Flanked with four planters, the delicate Bauhinia trees with lush tropical planting beneath, anchor the main deck area. These trees attract Sunbirds, and other avian visitors. A series of verdant spaces and terraces extend from the upper galleries and court encouraging all Singaporeans and visitors to experience activities ranging from exhibitions, performances, events, and dining throughout the day and evening.

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The landscape creates new public spaces, where accessible gardens and vertical planting are integrated into the museum for visitors to appreciate, relax and enjoy the Gallery. It provides the opportunity for the public to appreciate unique and close-up views of the civic district and Marina Bay, from the spreading canopies of mature trees of St Andrew’s Cathedral, to the green Padang and the blue esplanade beyond, an overview of Singapore’s wonderful Civic District.

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National Gallery Singapore

Location | Civic District, Singapore
Landscape Architect | ICN DESIGN Landscape Architects
Client | National Gallery Singapore
Design Architects | Studio Milou Singapore Pte Ltd
Photography | ICN DESIGN Landscape Architects


About Damian Holmes 3313 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at