An architectural competition was organised to convert the former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings to our new National Art Gallery.
We read this twinned site as a rich historical-artistic object in itself, capable of generating a contemporary response from artists and their public. Our proposal attempts to engage three key notions. First, to contemporize the historical event space of the ‘Surrender Chamber’ at City Hall as a thematic strategy for curating art. Second, to create a new vast public arena on the second level of the City Hall. Lastly, to make two spatially different homes for art, drawing on the distinct spatialities of each monument.
A contemporary architectural element inspired by the mythical Southeast Asian dragon called the Naga, weaves through these monuments to connect, enclose, and invite, bringing together the City and Art. The Naga as an architectural device takes on various functions, forms and scales to reinforce the historical contexts and negotiate future spaces. Rising and uncoiling from within the interior of City Hall, it infiltrates the two monuments variously as skin, façade, wall, roof, platform, gallery and bridge. It creates exciting new spaces, moments and events to embrace the city, to enclose art, to provide orientation and to breathe new life into the old.