$740m plan to revitalise civic district

$740m plan to revitalise civic district

A TOTAL of $740 million is being invested in the civic district, from mapping out a commemorative Jubilee Walk to mark the nation's 50th birthday, to refurbishing the forecourt of the Esplanade - Theatres On The Bay.

"It's an important investment in our heritage, to remind us of the common history that unites us as a nation," Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong told Parliament yesterday at his ministry's budget debate.

The National Gallery Singapore - housed in the City Hall and former Supreme Court buildings and scheduled to open in November - is among several sites along the 8km Jubilee Walk in the downtown and Marina Bay area, with trail markers to help passers-by appreciate their cultural and historical importance.

The Esplanade is another site on the Jubilee Walk. It will close its forecourt for upgrading works from March 22 to July 31, though the area can still be accessed via underground links from the City Hall and Esplanade MRT stations. The forecourt reopens in August with more garden features, seating and better pedestrian connections to public transport, Esplanade Park and the new Jubilee Bridge to the Merlion Park.

As for the National Gallery, Mr Wong said it will give sneak previews of its refurbished premises in the next two months. A gallery spokesman said details will be available on the gallery's Facebook page soon. He also said that the ministry is looking into enhancing and conserving the Singapore Art Museum, to complement a major revamp of the displays and public spaces at the National Museum of Singapore, to be completed by September. Other upgrades include a paved connection and new lawn between the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall and the Asian Civilisations Museum. The museum is adding new galleries and a new entrance opening onto the Singapore River.

Three works by home-grown artists have been commissioned for the Jubilee Walk by the National Arts Council's Public Art Trust, set up last year to bring art closer to Singaporeans. Along the Singapore River will be a series of stone and steel sculptures reinterpreting the national symbols, titled The Rising Moon by Han Sai Por and Kum Chee-Kiong, and Cloud Nine: Raining by Tan Wee Lit, which will mimic a floating cloud and shower water drawn up from the river.

At the Asian Civilisations Museum will be a sound sculpture installation, 24 Hours In Singapore by Baet Yeok Kuan, which will broadcast a day's worth of sounds from around the island, from a school's raising of the national flag to the chatter at a market.

"I grew up in the 1960s and have seen the changes in Singapore, so I wanted to do something related to memory," Mr Baet, 53, told The Straits Times. "This can be an archive of sounds and 20 years later, people can listen to the sounds and see how things have changed."

Mr Wong also said a public consultation would begin on two mid-sized theatres that were part of the original building plans for the Esplanade. No timeline was given for the consultation and eventual building of the theatres.

The Esplanade's concert hall seats 1,600 and its theatre holds 2,000 but Mr Benson Puah, chief executive of the Esplanade, told The Straits Times that medium-sized spaces "are most ideal" to present traditional arts from Singapore and the region as well as "85 per cent of what happens around the world for theatre and dance".

akshitan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 13, 2015.
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