Old Parliament House, Singapore
The Old Parliament House, now known as the Arts House at the Old Parliament building, is a building in Singapore. It is currently a multi-disciplinary arts venue which plays host to art exhibitions and concerts. The building was formerly home to the Parliament of Singapore from 1965 to 1999, when it moved to an adjacent new building. Built in 1827, the Old Parliament House is the oldest existing government building in Singapore.
The Old Parliament House was completed in 1827 as a Neo-Palladian building owned by a Scottish merchant, John Argyle Maxwell, who was based in Java. It was intended as his private residence. During the refurbishment of the building in 1989, there were some archaeological findings of stoneware and earthenware from the 13th and 14th centuries.
In 1823, the founder of modern Singapore, Stamford Raffles asked the Temenggong or local chief to move to Telok Blangah so that the current plot of land could be put to government use. The site was assigned to Maxwell and architect G. D. Coleman designed the building. Before Maxwell could move in, the colonial government took over the building for government use. The British government leased the building from Maxwell for 500 rupees every month. By June 1827, the Land Office issued Maxwell a 999-year lease for use of the site. A court house and government offices then moved into the building.
In 1839, the court house moved into a new building which is now the Former Attorney General's Chambers building which was to be incorporated into the Parliament House. The vacated building was then converted into government offices. Two years later in 1841, Maxwell's residence went up for auction which the government won with a bid of $15,600. The government offices were sited at the building until 1875 when the Supreme Court moved in.
The building went through several major extension works. The first was carried out between 1873 and 1875. In 1901, the building was extended towards the river. Coleman's original design was lost as a result of the extension works. The architectural style of the building was transformed from Coleman's Neo-Palladian design to Victorian. Two courtrooms were reconstructed and a residence for the Attorney General was built. When the Supreme Court moved into its new building further down the road, the building was used as a storehouse and later for the Department of Social Welfare after the Second World War.
The building was refurbished again in 1953 to make way for the new Legislative Assembly of Singapore, and works were completed in 1954. The design was carried out by T. H. H. Hancock who was the Senior Architect of the Public Works Department of Singapore. The governor then was Sir John Fearns Nicoll. The arches at the porch of the building were part of the original design.
A bronze statue of an elephant is located at the front of the Old Parliament House which was a gift from King Chulalongkorn or King Rama V of Siam (now known as Thailand) as a token of appreciation after his stay on 16th March 1871. The country is the first foreign nation visited by a Siamese King. It was originally located at the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall but was replaced in 1919 with a statue for Stamford Raffles.
The Arts House at the Old Parliament
The Arts House at the Old Parliament opened in 2004 as an arts and heritage centre. The old building was restored, and the furnishings and the design were preserved. The Chambers were converted into a function room where music performances could be held. Art exhibitions and other functions are also regularly held at the gallery, which has Tuscan style-columns and cornices.
- Tan, Sumiko (2000) The Singapore Parliament: The House We Built Times Media, Singapore ISBN 981-232-144-6
- National Heritage Board (2002), Singapore's 100 Historic Places, Archipelago Press, ISBN 981-4068-23-3
- Norman Edwards, Peter Keys (1996), Singapore - A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, Times Books International, ISBN 981-204-781-6
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