National Library Building (Victoria Street)



The National Library Building at 100 Victoria Street is the headquarters of the National Library Board (NLB). Opened in 2005, the Victoria Street premises replaced the old National Library Building on Stamford Road. The 16-storey complex houses mainly the collections of the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, with the Central Public Library occupying the first of three basement floors. Designed by ecologically conscious architect Ken Yeang, the building is replete with environment-friendly architectural features, and has garnered many accolades both at home and abroad.1

Development of the building
In March 2000, then Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan announced that the National Library Building on Stamford Road would be demolished to make way for the construction of a new road tunnel and a new Singapore Management University campus. Members of the public petitioned to have it preserved, but the Preservation of Monuments Board deemed the architectural and historical merits insufficient for the building to be gazetted as a national monument.2


In 2001, the NLB awarded the design contract for the new building to architectural firm T. R. Hamzah and Yeang, following a competitive tender. An expert in bioclimatic design, Ken Yeang emphasised harmony with local environmental conditions like the sun, wind and tropical greenery in his blueprint. To outfit the building’s interior in an eco-friendly manner, he sourced fixtures made from recycled, reused or renewable materials from British firm Battle McCarthy.3

At the foundation-stone laying ceremony on 15 September 2003, the NLB announced that the Lee Foundation, set up by the late Lee Kong Chian, would be donating S$60 million to defray the building’s construction cost and that the National Reference Library would be renamed Lee Kong Chian Reference Library to honour this contribution.4 The new building was completed at a cost of S$203 million in mid-2005, about a year after the Stamford Road building was officially closed on 1 April 2004. It was first opened to the public on 22 July 2005, and officially opened on 12 November 2005 by then President S. R. Nathan.5

Building features
Located on an 11,304-square-metre site, the building is approximately 103 m high and has a gross floor area of about 58,800 sq m. On the top floor is The Pod, a viewing gallery that offers panoramic views of the Singapore skyline. The public can access The Pod only during special functions or while attending guided tours conducted by the National Library. Level 14 houses the corporate headquarters of NLB, while the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library spans Levels 7 to 13. The Drama Centre of the National Arts Council is located on Levels 2 to 6, and houses a 615-seat theatre, an ancillary 120-seater black box, as well as three multipurpose function rooms.6


The National Library Building consists of two adjoining blocks linked by bridges on the upper floors, creating an atrium in between that funnels air through to facilitate natural ventilation. To minimise exposure to the afternoon sun, the building is oriented away from the east-west axis and its southwestern side is constructed of solid wall. While the other faces of the building are also fitted with sunshade blades that prevent excessive heat and glare, they are lined with glass panels to let in some natural light. Light shelves that reflect sunlight deeper into the building also help to maximise daylighting, thus reducing usage of indoor lighting.7

An architectural highlight of the building is the incorporation of environment-friendly technologies such as intelligent sensors that help reduce energy consumption. For instance, rain sensors reduce the amount of water channelled to the irrigation systems for the indoor gardens during rainy days, while light sensors dim or switch off indoor lights when there is sufficient sunlight entering the building. Motion sensors are also installed within escalators and toilet taps so that they switch on only when being used. Another eco-friendly feature is the air-conditioning system, which is constantly adjusted to regulate carbon dioxide levels in each section of the building, in addition to maintaining the desired temperature.8

There are 14 landscaped gardens in the complex. Collectively cultivated with 120 species of tropical plants, these green spaces help to regulate the daytime temperature in the building. Only two gardens are accessible to the public on a daily basis. The first, known as The Courtyard, is located at Level 5 and equipped with outdoor audio-visual facilities. The second is The Retreat on Level 10, which offers a pebbled foot-reflexology path. While the other gardens are closed during normal times, they may be opened for special events such as outdoor book-reading sessions.9

Located just outside the Central Public Library, the bamboo garden at Basement 1 features a brick wall constructed using red bricks taken from the former National Library on Stamford Road. It was built to preserve memories of the old building. The garden also has several sculptures of people engaged in reading, which are works of local artist Chong Fah Cheong. Another relic retained from the Stamford Road building is a geometric floor-pattern known as the St Andrew’s Cross. Consisting of four adjoining crosses, it was transplanted from the foyer of the old building to the plaza of the new building.10

Accolades and VIP visits
The National Library Building on Victoria Street has garnered several awards recognising its ‘green’ features. These include the Green Mark Platinum Award by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore in 2005, and the top prize in the ASEAN Energy Efficiency Award in 2007.11


Since its opening, the library has been visited by such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, former First Lady of the United States Laura Bush, and Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan.12



Author

Yong Chun Yuan




References
1. Bingham-Hall, P. (Ed.). (2007). Recent Malaysian architecture. Singapore; Balmain, NSW: Pesaro Publishing; Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia, pp. 154–155. (Call no.: RART 720.9595 REC); Intelligent building. (2005, August 2). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Library Board. (n.d.). About the National Library Building. Retrieved 2011, March 3 from National Library website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/VisitUs/NationalLibraryBuilding.aspx; National Library Board. (2005). Self-discovery tour of the National Library. Singapore: Author, pp. 1–5. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SIN-[LIB]); Tan, Y. (2001, December 12). Library for the 21st century. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Lim, L. (2000, March 7). National library building to go. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Tan, Y. (2001, December 12). Library for the 21st century. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. $60m donation for National Library HQ. (2003, September 16). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Azizah Sidek, et al. (Eds.). (2007). The people’s library: 50 years of national and public library services. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SIN-[LIB])
5. Chew, D. (2005, November 14). More than just books. Today, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Library Board. (2005). Self-discovery tour of the National Library. Singapore: Author, p. 1. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SIN-[LIB]); Azizah Sidek, et al. (Eds.). (2007). The people’s library: 50 years of national and public library services. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SIN-[LIB]); Chia, A. (2005, July 2). A-Z guide to the new national library. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. National Library Board. (2005). Self-discovery tour of the National Library. Singapore: Author, pp. 3, 7, 11, 29. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SIN-[LIB]); National Library Board. (n.d.). About the National Library Building. Retrieved 2011, March 3 from National Library website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/VisitUs/NationalLibraryBuilding.aspx; Drama Centre. (n.d.). Drama Centre Theatre. Retrieved 2017, February 28 from Drama Centre website: https://www.dramacentre.com/venues/drama-centre-theatre/; Drama Centre. (n.d.). Drama Centre Black Box. Retrieved 2017, February 28 from Drama Centre website: https://www.dramacentre.com/venues/drama-centre-black-box/
7. Chia, A. (2005, July 2). A-Z guide to the new national library. The Straits Times, p. 2; Intelligent building. (2005, August 2). The Straits Times, p. 10; Tan, Y. (2001, December 12). Library for the 21st century. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Library Board. (n.d.). About the National Library Building. Retrieved 2011, March 3 from National Library website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/VisitUs/NationalLibraryBuilding.aspx
8. Intelligent building. (2005, August 2). The Straits Times, p. 10; $60m donation for National Library HQ. (2003, September 16). The Straits Times, p. 1; Tan, H. Y. (1999, March 27). National Library building will not be conserved. The Straits Times, p. 51; Tan, Y. (2001, December 12). Library for the 21st century. The Straits Times, p. 4; Tom, K. (2005, June 25). New library is smart – and full of ‘green’ stuff. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Library Board. (n.d.). About the National Library Building. Retrieved 2011, March 3 from National Library website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/VisitUs/NationalLibraryBuilding.aspx; National Library Board. (2005). Self-discovery tour of the National Library. Singapore: Author, pp. 3, 9, 15. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SIN-[LIB])
9. National Library Board. (n.d.). About the National Library Building. Retrieved 2011, March 3 from National Library website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/VisitUs/NationalLibraryBuilding.aspx; Tay, S. C. (2005, July 23). Green and bear it. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Chia, A. (2005, July 2). A–Z guide to the new national library. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Library Board. (2005). Self-discovery tour of the National Library. Singapore: Author, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SIN-[LIB])
11. Chia, A. (2005, July 2). A-Z guide to the new national library. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Library Board. (n.d.). About the National Library Building. Retrieved 2011, March 3 from National Library website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/VisitUs/NationalLibraryBuilding.aspx
12. Azizah Sidek, et al. (Eds.). (2007). The people’s library: 50 years of national and public library services. Singapore: National Library Board, pp. 98–100. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SIN-[LIB])



Further resources
Diary of a nation: National Library [Videocassette]. (1988). Singapore: Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.

(Call no.: RSING 027.55951 DIA-[LIB])

Lee, P. (2004). Moments in time: Memories of the National Library. Singapore: National Library Board.
(Call no.: RSING 027.55957 MOM-[LIB])

National Library Board. (2004). Moments and memories: National Library, Stamford Road [CD-ROM]. Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SIN-[LIB])



The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Law and government>>Culture and community>>Public libraries
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Public Buildings>>Libraries
Libraries--Singapore
National libraries--Singapore
Libraries
Library buildings--Singapore