This grand dame has seen some of the most important milestones in Singapore’s history.
In 1954, it hosted the People’s Action Party’s inaugural political meeting and the party’s 10th anniversary later in 1964.
Singapore’s first television broadcasting service, Television Singapura, launched its pilot service here as well.
Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall's new refurbished atrium which links the two buildings, as well as connects to The Arts House
This weekend, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall will set another milestone of sorts when it finally opens its doors after a four-year makeover.
Arts lovers and architecture buffs may have a sneak peek at the venues at this weekend open-house event, which will feature guided tours and special performances by more than 10 arts groups spanning theatre, dance and music.
Its first official event was a concert by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) at the Concert Hall on Tuesday 15 July.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong marked the occasion by passing the baton to Lan Shui, the music director of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
Many pioneers of Singapore’s arts and culture community also attended the concert.
A MIX OF OLD AND NEW
The "floating Rubik's Cube" feature at the theatre foyer is made of salvaged timber theatre seat backings
The $158 million overhaul mixes classical and modern design elements, done by W Architects. The firm is also behind the revamp of the National Museum Of Singapore.
Russell Lim, the National Arts Council’s deputy director of precinct development, told inSing: “Our brief to the architects was ‘restore what we could’, ‘refurbish what we must’ and ‘redevelop what we cannot restore or refurbish’. Most importantly, we just wanted a space that could function as an arts venue.”
Before the revamp, Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall were two separate venues, but now, it is an integrated arts complex.
“What we have now, in the context of Empress Place – with the Asian Civilisations Museum and The Arts House next door and the National Gallery opening next year – is a complete arts and culture destination. We want visitors to feel that they are going to a place that is alive with the arts, and yet respecting the history of the area,” Lim said.
The 673-seater Victoria Concert Hall went through minimal refurbishment.
Built in 1905 in honour of England’s Queen Victoria, it was initially called the Victoria Memorial Hall (the queen died in 1901) before it was turned into a concert hall in the 1970s.
The next-door Victoria Theatre, completed in 1862, underwent a complete overhaul this round. Its previous sitting capacity of 900 people has been reduced to 614 to improve acoustics and visibility.
The refurbished 614-seater theatre. Recycled cast-iron parts from the original seating are used to form horizontal bands across the theatre's acoustic timber walls
The central passageway between the two buildings has been turned into an atrium, where the public may enter both from the front and from the back, where The Arts House is situated.
Two walls in the atrium were laid in pre-cast concrete panels with a modern interpretation of the old wall design.
Lim said: “There is a lot of history here and many people have fond memories of performing here or coming to catch a performance. There is a lot of historical connection to Singaporeans and we have to respect that.”
Close-up of detail on a wall column. More than 25 artisans and craftsmen were flown in from Indonesia and India as well as students from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to work on restoring all the intricate pattern-work
To present layers of the building’s historical evolution, the architects salvaged and installed pieces from the past in the newly refurbished spaces.
One of the design highlights is the “Rubik’s Cube” structure, located at the theatre foyer. It is constructed out of the timber seat backings from the old theatre chairs to contrast against the building’s classical facade.
The refurbished concert hall
As part of the weekend’s festivities, the National Arts Council has partnered with the Singapore Memory Project to capture and document precious moments and stories related to the performance venue.
Visitors are encouraged to take along and share old photographs taken at the iconic monument, or pen their memories at the “irememberVictoria” memory collection booth.
Images taken at the venue may be shared by uploading to Instagram with the hashtag #irememberVictoria.
Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall Open House | Date: 19, 20 July 2014 | Time: 10am-7pm | Address: 9 Empress Place | Free admission