National Gallery, Singapore

My urban sketching travels begin with one of the most recognisable monuments in Singapore: The National Gallery. My initial plan after National Service was to travel around USA with friends and start sketching on location but given the current ban on international travel, I figured it would be best if I first mastered my technique locally before exploring abroad. 

Photo: National Gallery, former Supreme Court (left) and City Hall (right)

National Gallery sits opposite the Singaporean famous Padang, along St. Andrew’s Road and is at the heart of Singapore’s cityscape for Colonial Architecture- with other monuments in walking distance. However, the current National Gallery is in fact, a combination of the Old Supreme Court and City Hall connected through an architectural addition by Studio Milou (led by Architect Jean François Milou) in 2008. 

The building is currently hosting the largest and ever-present Southeast Asian Art Gallery whilst managing galleries by guest artists on an ad-hoc basis. Given my numerous yet fulfilling visits to National Gallery, it has grown to become my main source of inspiration during my college years.

My sketch on location focused on its central feature of the dome connected to the Old Supreme Court, with its tympanum perfectly measured and paired with its iconic vertical columns. Symmetry: just one of the many elements that I love about this building.

Photo: Scanned image of Sketch on location- National Gallery, Singapore


After my first sketch, I immediately reflect on the style as it still felt too rigid.

My concept of this style has to be sketching from lines that resemble scribbles but consciously adding tone and value to the sketch- with each stroke complementing one another.

Though many lines are eventually hidden behind one another, these lines provide me with a sense of freedom as no rigid and straight lines but rather, lines that best capture the building at that moment.

Notably, one’s drawing technique should and does heavily reflect who you are as a person. That’s why it is art: no one has the same technique when creating.

Photos: Sketches on location – exterior and interior of National Art Gallery


Although many architects and designers argue how Colonial Architecture is an archaic style that is no longer adopted today, I refuse to stop admiring its vast and expansive presence in Singapore. This daunting effect Colonial Architecture has on its viewers, even for passers-by, cannot be compared to the clean exterior finish as presented through Modernism. I believe buildings like the National Gallery illustrate a monumental glimpse into the olden day Singapore- an era I would have loved to live in.

Even for its interior, Studio Milou has conserved significant, if not all of its features, providing visitors with a chance to immerse themselves in both its traditional features and contemporary additions (i.e the bridge connecting the two separate buildings and its sun-shading feature). 

This is undoubtedly an way to conserve iconic monuments such as the Former Supreme Court and City Hall itself.

A source for inspiration, even when Colonial Architecture is no longer given the same limelight it had, I believe there has to be an Architectural style yet to be discovered that will provide viewers with its monumental presence whilst adopting contemporary features. Until then, I will appreciate The National Gallery and similar buildings that have provided me with a vast range of Architectural styles in Singapore.

Photo Sources:
National Gallery Singapore

Check out my opinion article on Singapore’s Architectural Identity here:

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