The Building


The National Museum of Singapore is an iconic architecture - bringing together the old and the new on one single site. Originally built by Colonel Sir Henry Edward McCallum as the former Raffles library and museum in 1887, the elegant neo-classical National Museum building is seamlessly joined by a new modernist extension of glass and metal. This redevelopment more than doubles the capacity of the existing building to be become the biggest museum in Singapore at 18,400 square metres. With a rich history dating back to 1887, the National Museum of Singapore is Singapore’s oldest museum with the youngest and most innovative soul.

Glass Passage

For the first time in the Museum’s history, the exterior façade of the historic Dome can be admired by everyone from within the museum walls. Previously, due to the height of the Dome, visitors would have to stand across Stamford Road to be able to see the Dome in its entirely.

The Glass Passage is the only modern intrusion allowed by the Urban & Redevelopment Authority (URA). This “intrusion” has been designed to blend into the old neo-Palladian architecture, with its frameless glass-form seemingly disappearing. The main function of this corridor is to enable visitors a celebrated access through the old building into the new modern extension.

The Glass Passage rises almost 11 metres (four storeys) off the floor and is one of the world’s largest outdoor self-supporting glass structures ever constructed. Built entirely of glass, it allows visitors walking through the corridor a clear view of the elegant Palladian motifs. The Glass Passage conveys the experience of viewing the old building in an art gallery setting. While visually simple, the engineering behind this structure, being formed from glass alone is extremely complex. Engineers from four different countries took more than a year to design this structure. To enhance visual transparency, optical glass is used in various parts of the Glass Passage. Vertically supported by only two sheets of glass, the entire structure has been designed as an unobtrusive and simple box. Within this simplicity and without a complicated form, visitors are allowed to view beyond the glass, accentuating the true highlight of this area, which is the old 19th Century neo-Palladian architecture.

Rotunda Dome: Stained Glass Restoration

The Rotunda stained glass restoration work started in late 2004 and was completed in mid 2005. There are 50 pieces of stained glass, each about nine feet long.

The Victorian glass patterns were carefully inspected on site, and their condition assessed by a professional stained glass artist in Singapore. All 50 pieces of stained glass were removed and delivered to the artist's workshop to be restored. The reinforcement system as well as most of the joints and lead work also required to be rectified.

As the stained glass was curved in shape, timber moulds following the profile were constructed for the restoration process. Specially made timber boxes were also made to house the delicate glass works, for the delivery to the workshop.

Upon receiving the glass, all the individual glass and lead profiles were recorded and damaged portions tagged. All damaged glass pieces were removed and replaced with new glasses. Prior to removal, templates or moulds individual glass pieces were fabricated for the new casting of the replacement glass.

Glass Rotunda

Designed as a modern interpretation of the old Rotunda Dome, the Glass Rotunda is the main feature of the new Museum extension. Standing at 16 metres high and 24 metres in diameter, the Glass Rotunda serves as the main entry into the Singapore History Gallery.

During the day, 360 degrees of projected images would surround visitors when they are within the interior of the smaller drum.  At night, the Glass Rotunda will transform into a lantern, with images appearing on the 'skin' of the inner drum, visible on the exterior façade, illuminating the city skylight.The cylindrical image projection would be one of the largest and most complex outdoor projection images ever to be constructed. 

In the future, the Glass Rotunda has the potential to be one of the most visible artistic platforms in Singapore, as artists can be challenged to create new 360 degree video works. The transformation will illuminate the foregrounds of the Fort Canning Park, announcing the “re-birth” of the National Museum of Singapore.

The Canyon

Modelled after the part of the Fort Canning Hill which was cut, the museum extension is finished in off-form black pigmented concrete, which has been treated to review its aggregates & textures.  The concrete expresses this intrusion by reflecting the rawness of the earth in the floor and walls of The Canyon and The Concourse.  Panels measuring up to 9m in length are used on the floors of the atrium, extending to the driveway and up on to massive 5 metres high retaining walls fronting the museum's entire main entrance. Within these walls, textures and finish will vary, depicting the stratification of earth layers within the cut hill.

The Concourse

While simple modernism dominates the extension wing, visitors are constantly reminded of where all this came from, as the old facade forms the atrium backdrop, linking the old with the new.

Author: National Museum of Singapore
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2017