National Library (1960-2004)

Text by Kelly Koh

A three storey building laid out at the top of a landscaped garden terrace with steps leading up to its main entrance

The old National Library (Photo source: Lai Chee Kien)

Moving from the west wing of what was then the Raffles Museum, the National Library took root in Stamford Road, previously home to the St. Andrew’s Chapel and Mission School. Built from 1955-1959, the building was of a reinforced concrete framed structure, with walls of the famous red bricks in the style of its British contemporaries.

Windows and brick of the old National Library

Old National Library Front Porch

The building opened to a mixed reception with many against its distinct aesthetic, but over the years and through multiple outreach campaigns, Singaporeans grew to accept the landmark.

Fountain at the old National Library courtyard

This new library building possessed a courtyard which lay fallow until 1997, when the building underwent a major renovation. Open to public in 1998, the courtyard became the social epicentre of the library, replete with a renaissance fountain and café. In that same year, a dark shadow of destruction loomed.

Old National Library first floor plan

Old National Library second floor plan

A plan to demolish this beloved national building was revealed to the public, incurring the wrath of its many fond users. Locals rallied together to defend the building, but after years of heated exchange, debates, and counter-proposals, the decision to demolish the building did not waver, and it turned its back on the people on 31 March 2004. Today, all that remains of the once-loved building is 5000 red bricks, reassembled to form a wall in a bamboo garden of the new National Library building.