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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Dec 29, 2013

National Theatre 50th Anniversary

This photo was taken in front of the inverted crescent-shaped fountain in the 1970s.  In the background, the former National Theatre at the foot of Fort Canning, Singapore.

The location under construction at the same spot at the foot of Fort Canning

The same location at the foot of Fort Canning before construction
In the open field between Clemenceau Avenue and Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road, a site-based reading @ Singapore Biennial 2013 National Theatre@50.

The National Theatre@50 video produced by my blogger friend, James Tann and shared at YouTube.

This is an intuitive blog to express my memories of the former National Theatre with thanks to Alvin Pang and Lai Chee Kian who initiated the "National Theatre @ 50 - Memories and Lost Space" as part of the Singapore Biennale 2013.  This year's theme is "If The World Changed".

Interesting.  If the world changed, if places changed, if people changed, if all conditioned things are impermanent and changed  ...

Tbe Buddhist Concept of Impermanence is found here .

For centuries, how many countries in the world have changed their physical landscape, land use, national economy, education, lifestyle and social changes  from generation to generation?

Global climate change  and the rise and fall of civilizations beyond the control of Man since time immemorial..

What else do not change even if Man can become immortal ...

Before I start rambling off-topic on the blog, in a daze with fuzzy thoughts spinning about the end of the world , I had better bring my mind home, or "homeless"  to where it should be.  Another "Dooms Day" blog sucks!

The National Theatre in Singapore 

The National Theatre, a public theatre for performances, concerts and conferences,  located at the corner of Clemenceau Avenue and River Valley Road. It was completed in 1963 and demolished in 1986.

The photos and descriptions on this blog with "For online reference viewing only" watermark, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) as "memory-aids",  with thanks and acknowledgement to NAS.


Opening of the brand-new $2-million National Theatre (Panggong Negara) on 8 August, 1963.  The theatre was opened by the Yang Di-Pertuan Negara, Tun Yusof Bin Ishak.  Singapore also launched the first-ever South-East Asia Cultural Festival at the National Theatre in a glittering pageant, attended by 1,500 artists from 11 countries.  The Yang Di-Pertuan Negara described it as "A South-East Asian Cultural Renaissance".

Among those taking part in this "Greatest Show in the East" are princesses from Cambodia, glamorous film stars from Hong Kong and folk dancers from all the neighbouring countries.

Among the audience at the South-East Asia Cultural Festival at the National Theatre, I was seated at the back rows with my late second brother-in-law.  He had joined a long queue on the first day for the sale of the tickets and the "bricks" at the National Theatre. He brought me from Bukit Ho Swee where I stayed and then sent me home after the show by bus.  I didn't realize that I had participated in the history of the former National Theatre.  Memories of the performance 50 years ago for me was vague.  I prefer to watch the Chinese "kungfu" movies at the Atlantic Theatre in Great World Amusement Park in those days.

Fond nostalgic memories during my childhood days are adhered in the "memory bank storage" but I did not take notice of the date of the opening of the National Theatre until I research on this stuff for the blog.

However, I cannot understand the meaning of "lost spaces" in the Singapore Biennale 2013 theme.

It is too "chim" (deep) for me to comprehend ... such as "inner space" or "outer space" on thoughts.

If space were to be defined as land. building or places, I have lost many things in my lifetime and are gone forever.  A wise man once told me, "whatever that is lost to one generation is gained by another generation".

Thus the loss of certain heritage buildings in Singapore such as the National Theatre, the red-brick National Library at Stamford Road where I grew up with memories and sentimental feelings, my children, their friends of  a younger generation, it is difficult for me to fathom.

Certain places such as those in Acheh in Indonesia during the tsunami many years ago, the space and land was totally lost.  Bukit Ho Swee kampong was burnt in 1961 and the residents were homeless but the space and the land had remained for public housing development and to rebuild the homes of the fire victims.

Space for better utilities and improvements of the future generations is merely to recycle and reuse the land for schools, hospitals, public housing, the Marina Costal Expressway (MCE), airports, mass rapid transit (MRT) lines and other public amenities including recreational park.  The expansion of reclaimed land in the East Coast Park, cemeteries in "Mah Kow Thiong" in Bukit Ho Swee HDB housing estates, the Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng (广惠肇碧山亭)cemetery in Singapore that was established in 1870 by immigrants and rebuilt as a sprawling HDB housing estates in Bishan, the Teochew cemeteries called Tai Shan Ting owned by the Ngee Ann Kongsi (义安公司) and became the Orchard Road tourist belt including Takashimaya today.

"Space lost" is not tangible and gone forever like the Atlantis to the bottom of the sea (God forbid) ... "space reused, space recycled" should be developed for the benefit of our future generations. 

The building was designed by two architectural firms working in conjunction: by DP Architects (DPA) of Singapore and the London-based Michael Wilford & Partners (MWP), although the latter left the project in May 1995. The original design, presented to the public in 1994, consisted of unadorned glass cases over the theaters, and initially elicited criticisms from the public, including calling it "two copulating aardvarks". Critics also accused that the design is insensitive to Singapore's location and climate as it would have created a greenhouse in the tropical climate of Singapore, but according to DPA director Vikas Gore some form of shading was always intended, and a cladding of aluminum sunshades was added to the final design. The unique architectural design has been said to have an appearance similar to either a durian (a tropical fruit) or the eyes of a fly. Hence, the building is colloquially known to locals as "the durians".  (Source: Infopedia).

Best Wishes for Happy New Year 2014 and God Bless!



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