Text by Eugene Tan
An integrated knowledge base in the heart of town, the National Library has established itself as a prominent presence in the heart of town since its completion in 2005. Beyond being the national information repository, it has developed a unique social character, embracing people from all walks of life with a shared thirst for learning.
With the closing of the old national library at the foothills of Fort Canning in 2004, a longstanding establishment was wrung from the hands and hearts of Singaporeans. A newer, better premise was promised, this new library was to be an integrated learning centre, where locals could amass and apply the knowledge readily available in multiple forms of media.
In 2005, eco-architect Ken Yeang’s vision of the 21st Century library was opened. Located along Victoria Street, it wants to be a building resolutely sited in Singapore and a space for all Singaporeans.
Apart from detailed studies of climatic conditions, consultations were also made with user groups, moulding the building into the user and climate centric form it now takes. Sunshades and blades are incorporated into the building’s overall aesthetic, providing thermal protection, whilst still maximising the natural lighting entering the reading spaces.
External areas also reap benefits of natural ventilation and daylighting, with a 100m high atrium providing a tunnel for wind movement. Landscaped gardens can also be found in and around the premises, a gentle counterpoint to the severity of glass and metal.
Part of the arts and cultural precinct of central Singapore, the library has become a convenient and attractive gathering place for both students and adults. The building’s success encapsulates our nation’s accessibility, thirst for knowledge and appetite for innovation, standing tall as a hallmark of a progressive, modern Singapore.