Stamford Arts Centre, Singapore


Built in the 1920s by the Japan Club and used as a Japanese elementary school up till WWII, Stamford Arts Centre consists of three different blocks constructed in the Neo-Classical and Art Deco styles that has undergone changes in use and inhabitants over the last few decades.

The project tackles the challenge of conserving while refreshing the 100-year-old buildings. Rather than the application of broad-stroke architectural massing intervention which could be invasive to the spatial quality of the conservation buildings, a series of intimate interventions and architectural strategies have been employed instead to retain the building existing character as much as possible.

The external facade which has peeled and deteriorated with time were completely restored with rising damp treatment and painted in a timeless colour with the preserved timber fenestrations emphasized in a distinctive fiery red as a nod to the heritage and tradition of Asian culture and arts.

The conserved buildings are elegantly illuminated at night, accentuating the decorative elements such as the pediments, frieze and fluted pilasters, crafting Stamford Arts Centre identity as a beacon along Waterloo Street. In conjunction, new entry points have been carved into the building to improve visual connectivity and footfall into the compound.

Recognizing that the existing courtyards were core circulation spaces inhabited by the art residents for various purposes such as extensions of their studio spaces but were either unable to be used during adverse weather or visually dark and unappealing due to temporary additions of zinc roofing, glass volumes were inserted into the courtyards using skylights in the pattern of tropical art deco motifs and designed to allow all-weather use of the space imbuing a dappled-light effect to the courtyard.

Without compromising the original building aesthetic and character, interventions for accessibility and fire safety such as new accessible lifts and link bridges are inserted without affecting the overall building envelope. Sensitivity is also applied when interfacing the new interventions with the old. As the existing building was unable to meet prevalent safety codes for fire escape, a new staircase is required to allow for safe discharge. Rather than re-creating the staircase to look like an original extension, the staircase is expressed using contemporary materials and constructed to be self-supporting and cantilevered such that it does not touch the existing building.

The renewed SAC has enlivened the area with the overspill of activities from the performing arts groups, bringing traditional arts closer to the community while the increased porosity and visibility of the building from along Waterloo Street and Middle Road via the various strategies have attracted visual attention from pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

Building Type: Civic
Location: 155 Waterloo Street, Singapore
Site Area: 1950 sqm
Gross Floor Area: 3500 sqm 
Status: Completed, 2018
Photography credits: National Arts Council