Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall

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Coordinates: 1°17′17.7″N 103°51′05.9″E / 1.288250°N 103.851639°E / 1.288250; 103.851639

Victoria Theatre and Memorial Hall

The Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall is a complex of two buildings and a clock tower joined together by a common corridor and is located in the civic district of Singapore.

On 6 February 1919, which marked the centenary of Singapore's founding, a statue of Stamford Raffles by T. Woolner was moved from the Padang to the front of the memorial hall. The statue was complemented with a new semicircular colonnade and a pool.

In the lead-up to World War II, the memorial hall was used as a hospital for victims of bombing raids by the Japanese forces during the Battle of Singapore before their successful occupation of the colony. During the occupation, the buildings themselves escaped major physical damage, although the colonnade was destroyed, and Raffles's statue moved to the National Museum. At the end of the war, the statue was returned to its original site in 1946. In 1947 The Straits Settlements coat of arms that was hung on the tympanum of both wings of the building was replaced by the newly formed coat of arms of the Crown Colony of Singapore. It was later brought down in 1959 to make a plaster cast of the Coat of Arms of Singapore, which was topped of with two flagpoles with the Flag of Singapore on it. The hall also served as the venue for Japanese war crime trials.

In 1954, the memorial hall underwent renovations by Swan & Maclaren, and on 21 November, it was the venue where the People's Action Party was founded. The town hall was also internally restructured to allow air-conditioning and soundproofing to be added. It was reopened as the Victoria Theatre.

In 1979, the memorial hall was renovated again to accommodate the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), upon which it was renamed as the Victoria Concert Hall. Additional works up to the 1980s added a gallery to the Concert Hall, adding seating capacity and enclosing the second storey balconies on the front and back facades with glass.

The Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall was gazetted as a national monument on 14 February 1992. In June 2010, the complex was closed for major renovations. The S$180-million refurbishment is being undertaken by W Architects.[1] The buildings, whose facades were retained, reopened on 15 July 2014.[2] [3]

Construction of Town Hall[edit]

Town Hall, Singapore - ca. 1880

The Town Hall was built to replace the function of the older Assembly Rooms, where local operas and dramas had been held, that had fallen into disrepair. The foundation stone was laid in 1855, and the building completed in 1862.[1]

Designed by the Municipal Engineer, John Bennett, it was built during an era of Victorian Revivalism that was occurring in Britain. Its design hence reflected this architectural influence with Italianate windows, and was the first among Singapore buildings to reflect this style. The completed town hall originally housed both a theatre on the first floor as well as offices and meeting rooms on the second floor. However, the town hall was unable to cope with increasing demand for the use of both and by 1883, the offices had moved out of the town hall.

Construction of Victoria Memorial Hall[edit]

Victoria Theatre and Victoria Memorial Hall

In 1901, it was decided that a public hall would be built in memory of Queen Victoria who died that year. Public funds for its construction amounting to $368,000 were collected, exceeding the construction costs, thus leaving a surplus of $22,000 for renovation of the town hall so that it blends in with the new hall.[4] The foundation laid in 1902, and the building was officially opened by the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir John Anderson on 18 October 1905 as the Victoria Memorial Hall.

The memorial hall was designed by Major Alexander Murray and the Public Works Department, with additional input by R. A. J. Bidwell from an architectural firm, Swan & Maclaren to harmonise it with the neighbouring town hall.

Construction of Clock Tower[edit]

Statue of Stamford Raffles in front of the clock tower

The two buildings, the town hall and the Victoria Memorial Hall, were joined together by a clock tower built in 1906 to give the impression of a single building. The 54 metre-high tower connects the two buildings with a common corridor, and is topped by a timepiece donated by the Straits Trading Company. The tower is built on an axial line with the Anderson Bridge nearby. A portico was duplicated on the town hall mirroring that of the new Memorial Hall, creating a unified appearance.

The construction of the signature clock tower was delayed due to delays in donation of the clock and chimes by the Straits Trading Company. The clock, four meters wide, weighs 1 tonne and had cost $6000.[1] Its dial faces look in four directions, and there is a bell turret above it, capped by a cupola.[5]

The Pirates of Penzance was the first performance to be staged in the renovated building when it reopened in 1909.[4] The town hall was later renamed Victoria Theatre in 1954.[6]

Facilities (1990s–2000s)[edit]

The Victoria Theatre had a seating capacity of 904, with a stage 167.28 square metres in size. The Victoria Concert Hall had 883 seats, and a stage which could be expanded up to 139.76 square metres in area. The concert hall was considered the venue with the best acoustics in the city, and was the main performance venue for the SSO until the completion of the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay in 2002 whereby the orchestra moved its home base to take advantage of superior acoustics and facilities brought about by technological and architectural advances over the years.

Refurbishment (2010–2014)[edit]

The interior of Victoria Concert Hall.

In June 2010, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall were closed for major renovations. The S$180-million refurbishment is being undertaken by W Architects, and Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) Singapore as the project manager and quantity surveyor, with Architectural Restoration Consultants Pte Ltd (ARC) as its conservator and Arup Singapore Pte Ltd as acoustician and theatre planner. The refurbishment repaired and updated the buildings to meet contemporary standards. The façade of the buildings is retained, and some elements belonging to the original 1905 structure restored. This includes reinstating the central passageway between the theatre and the concert hall, which leads to the Arts House. New spaces was created to accommodate building services and for commercial rental and amenities like a café.[7] While the significant interior features of the concert hall were retained, most of the theatre (save the façade) was completely demolished during the renovations.

Refurbished interior of Victoria Theatre

The monument now boasts new spaces for the public, performers and support crew. The theatre has new changing rooms and a loading bay, while the central atrium has been opened up and has become an additional area for the hosting of arts activities.

But having new spaces means some sacrifices were necessary. For instance, the theatre now seats fewer people - about 600 from some 900 before - to free up space in what is now the atrium. The concert hall's balcony was also made smaller and higher, so that acoustics are not compromised for those sitting below. [3]


  1. ^ a b c Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall – NLB Infopedia. Retrieved on 4 July 2013.
  2. ^ NAC Arts Venues. Retrieved on 4 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b [1] Channel News Asia. Retrieved on 15 August 2014.
  4. ^ a b Susan Tsang (2008). Discover Singapore: The City's History & Culture Redefined. Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte Ltd. p. 202. ISBN 978-9812613653. 
  5. ^ Preservation of Monuments Board. "Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall". Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  6. ^ Marianne Rogerson (28 February 2011). In Singapore: 60 Fabulous Adventures in the City. Marshall Cavendish International Asia Pte Ltd. p. 28. ISBN 9789814435406. 
  7. ^ National Arts Council. "Key Consultants Appointed for Refurbishment of Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall". Retrieved 4 July 2013. 

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