Joel Navarro conducting the Singapore Bible College Chorale at the Victoria Concert Hall (“Victoria Memorial Hall”)

It’s always tough to return to a place you grew up in, with the knowledge that it has been renovated, refurbished, and is in all likelihood a shell of its former self.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)

So it was with trepidation that we arrived at the neoclassical Victoria Concert Hall (“Victorial Memorial Hall”) on 23 March 2015 to watch the Singapore Bible College Chorale in concert.

plaque to the memory of those who were killed during the mutiny in Singapore in February 1915. Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
plaque. Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)Plaques to commemorate people who died during the 1915 mutiny and another for Queen Victoria (“Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India) just inside the entrance seemed a little brighter.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)That bit between the two staircases now led to the information counter, situated in one corner of a big empty the hall.

staircase. Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
staircase, Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)Up the mirrored staircases, the marbled flooring looked different (cleaner?) but was probably original. Think there used to be a red carpet running up the middle of the stairs.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Half-way up the stairs, there was a way down to the left side of the VCH, which opened up into the glass-roofed central atrium between Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall:
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
I will never forget the desperate walks to the lift that used to be at the end of the atrium. That old lift would take you to a music studio where your ABRSM examiner would be waiting. I never practiced and would have been attempting to memorise the score for the first time on the way to this part of the civic district.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
I liked Mok Wei Wei (W Architect)’s gentle irony of etching a reflection of the columns of VCH onto the new facade of VT.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Returning to the staircase, there was this guy’s bust, which was always a good sign if you were slightly late for a concert and could hear them closing the doors above.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
We used to run in this set of doors (to sit on the left side of the hall, facing the stage). They were white and wooden and a little creaky, but these seemed taller, narrower (but perhaps a perception error), and heavier (probably not the exit you’d take in event of a fire).

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)The space where autograph and CD selling sessions used to take place was now dominated by a circular staircase. Stark juxtaposition between white Victorian and burnished modern.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)’round the corner, another corridor of lights by .PSLAB, overlooking the central atrium. The clustered circles were another self-possessively modern touch, made more classy by a brushed metal exterior and anodised gold inner surface.

The interior of the concert hall was much fresher. The old VCH had a certain smell to it that I liked because of a long association with the place and its innards, but this just smelled neutral and new – which would generally be preferable!
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)Not sure about the necessity for that shade of green. But taking advantage of Arup‘s theatre and acoustics consultancy paid dividends in a delightful clarity of sound. The stage seemed smaller (or I might have just grown bigger), but the seating had definitely changed for the better – the gallery was higher than it used to be, and with less seats. Hopefully, this meant the sound under the gallery (which used to bounce around rather oddly) would have improved.

After a good organ work by Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen (pipe organ sounded very different), and good controlled choral work by the Singapore Bible College Chorale, a docent offered to take us on a 20 minute tour of the building.

Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
She was animated, informative, and in short, brilliant.

“Look outside. Can you see Singapore’s national bird outside? No? Look! Singapore’s national bird – the crane!”
Victoria Concert Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall)
A light-hearted moment, after a concert with pieces dedicated to the memory of Lee Kuan Yew who had passed away at 3.18 a.m. that morning.

R. LANGGAARD                       Prelude in E major for organ
H. MATTHISON-HANSEN    Fantasy on a Danish folk tune for organ
J.S. BACH                                  Fantasia in G major, BWV 572
J.S. BACH                                  Motet BWV 227, Jesu, meine Freude
P. MØLLER                              “Transfiguration” – 3 Meditations for Organ

Architecture Appreciation at SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road

Popped into 99 Beach Road, where SingaPlural 2015 was being held, for a session on Architecture appreciation.

Architecture Appreciation Session, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeThe speaker gave the same pointers about appreciating buildings as this article:

  • understand the historical context – the history of the building, and the purpose for which it was built, its place in that time frame, the community or society into which it was introduced;
  • appreciate the innovators – understand how certain architects bucked the trend and set building design on a new course;
  • get a sense of scale – scale of a building influences human psychology; how we feel using the place;
  • get a sense of space – look at the void between the walls as well. Colours, materials, lighting/natural light, help to evoke certain emotions;
  • get into the details – the best architects pay attention to detail. “God is in the detail” said Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It demonstrates that the building is a piece of art;
  • understand its meaning – the emotions that the building evokes, its relationship with society

Having just done a training session on Bible reading that morning, I was amused how most things in the world can only be appreciated when one understands the various contexts in which these things were placed (literature, art, science, music, philosophy, politics, Scripture, etc).

What made the presentation more useful than just reading the article off the screen were the visuals put up by the speaker as he talked through the relevant aesthetic features.

Sense of scale
Albert Speer’s Reich Chancellery that he knocked up for Hitler in just a year was designed to make people feel small, but somehow cause the short Adolf to loom larger than life. The not-for-human scale at St. Peter’s Basilica was to induce another kind of worship – that of God.

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican by P.Landy, Wikimedia

In contrast, the human-scale repetitive architecture in Haji Lane in Singapore, and Laneway in Melbourne, give a feeling of warmth and cosiness.

Sense of Space
Using colours, Luis Barragán’s buildings (Casa Gilardi, Casa estudio) give a sense of warmth and energy.

While Peter Zumthor’s Haldenstein, in concrete and neutral colours showcase the nature outside and exert a calming effect, which, the speaker said expressed itself in his work. (I suppose it is a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing since arguably, he could have designed his own house to suit his character, so it wouldn’t necessarily be the house itself influencing his work…)

The Details
The little details in Carlo Scarpa’s Fondazione Querini-Stampala – the shape of the doors, the flow of the water – were beautifully proportioned. Oh look at those “floating stairs” in the Olivetti headquarters:

via skibinskipedia

*photos that aren’t mine were used under a Creative Commons licence