NAFA (Middle Rd Campus)

Text by Eugene Tan

Now the National Design Centre, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts called this building home (reliefs, courtyard, arched five foot way and all) until 2004.

NAFA's central courtyard (Photo credit: Yeo Shihyun)

Site history:

In 1879, this plot of land housed St Anna's School, started by Fr Jose Santa Anna de Cunha of St Joseph's Church (which is still next door). In 1886, it became known as St Anthony's Boys' and Girls' School before a boarding school and an orphanage were added in 1895. In 1906, the school became known as St Anthony's Convent. During the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese military police took over the school.

NAFA Singapore view from Middle Road and Victoria Street junction

Open air central courtyard of NAFA Middle Road campus

In 1952, the old wooden structure was demolished and a new 5-storey building for St Anthony’s Convent was constructed in its place (the pictured building). The new school was officially opened in 1953 and served its purpose until late 1994 when the Convent moved to new premises in Bedok.

Corridors along the open air courtyard of NAFA Middle Road campus

In 1996, the National Arts Council sponsored the acquisition of the premises by NAFA after the San San and Nan Hua campuses made way for the construction of the North East MRT Line.

Religious reliefs in the courtyard of NAFA Middle Road campus

This became NAFA’s main campus and housed the School of Performing Arts, the School of Fashion Studies, and school administration. As this edifice was placed under URA’s conservation program, some elements of the Catholic missionary school could still be seen.

Ground floor sculpture area of NAFA Middle Road campus

In 2004, NAFA moved to their new campus in Bencoolen Street, allowing this building to be used as a student hostel until redevelopment works began in 2012, transforming this historic educational building into the new home for DesignSingapore.