Nov 5, 2013

A Mini National Theatre at Tank Road

National Theatre@50

I read on Facebook that Prof Lai had dug into his pockets to put up an installation for the Singapore Biennale 2013, a chibi version of the National Theatre demolished some years ago. When it was first announced and photos up, the exact location was not specified; photos showed a "clean surrounding" (park in the foreground, condo in the background), quite unlike the construction ongoing at Fort Canning station, the old location of the National Theatre and where I thought the installation would be.

After a sumptuous Samurai Beef Burger Set Meal at MCD Liang Court (my original plan was to have lunch settled at the food court but was told "no more" by staff there), I crossed the road via an overhead bridge to the Fort Canning side; and as expected saw the construction for the station and no chibi National Theatre.

National Theatre@50
I first caught sight of the facade of the National Theatre at the junction of Clemenceau Ave.

National Theatre@50
The installation address is at Tank Road. In reality, it is located on the grass patch between Tank Road and Clemenceau Ave. You can see the latter and slope of Fort Canning Hill in this photo. Guess address was picked for the convenience of drivers.

National Theatre@50
Lai Chee Kien's National Theatre@50 commissioned for Singapore Biennale 2013 explained.

National Theatre@50
Side view of the installation. The original National Theatre was opposite the road at the foot of Fort Canning Hill. Judging by the people visible in photo, I might be the only Singaporean within 40m of the installation.

National Theatre@50
Interesting to see how the mini National Theatre is only the five elongated diamond shaped facade, propped up by three cantilevers? anchored on huge concrete blocks. Another view here.

National Theatre@50
Mini National Theatre dwarfed by Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay.

Two things strike me about this installation. Designed by local architect Alfred Wong and completed in 1963, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Theatre ... if it was not demolished. According to ST, Prof Lai "had spent much of the last year thinking of ways to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the iconic and now defunct National Theatre of Singapore" and the Singapore Biennale 2013 with the theme "if the world changed" provided the opportunity. The second is somewhat of a personal curiosity unrelated to the National Theatre. Prof Lai, who came up with this idea of a half-scale model of the facade, was born in 1965, the year independence was gained from expulsion from Malaysia. Wouldn't this make him as old as Singapore?


PanChongLai said...

I still cannot get over the fact that it was demolished. The reason was that it was structurlly unsafe and have to be put to sleep. Have engineering advances not able to reinforce it and gave it a new lease of life... So many other lesser building will given conservation status, and the outwards shell was preserved and the interior were done up beautitfully.
Sometimes, i think it could be a fear of traffic conjestion around these areas if too many concerts and shows are happening that might affect the prime residents staying around its perimeters.

Icemoon said...

Hi Chong Lai, agree with your view on the traffic congestion.

Moreover when it was demolished in 1986, Singapore was not yet at the forefront of conservation AND it was in the first stage of redevelopment with the construction of the MRT. In the 90s, its fate could have been different.