An architectural icon that dates back to 1939, The Old Supreme Court on St Andrew’s Road has a history longer than modern Singapore. This striking building was given a new lease on life in 2015, when it was repurposed as the National Gallery Singapore

Designed by Frank Dorrington Ward, chief architect of the Straits Settlements Public Works Department, it was the last classical building completed in Singapore and said to be one of Ward’s greatest works.

Inspired by the Old Bailey
Architecture of Old Supreme Court features the central dome anchored by Corinthian and Ionic columns

Photo by Yeowatzup via

It is believed that his inspiration came from the Old Bailey Courthouse in London. It is easy to see the similarity, with the central dome backing the classical façade anchored by Corinthian and Ionic columns.

The columns and the tympanum (the triangular piece over the columns) are of particular interest, created by Singapore-based Milanese sculptor Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli and carved out of gypsum plaster.

Symbols of law and order
Interior architecture of Old Supreme Court

Photo by Choo Yut Shing via

The sculptures in the tympanum are dominated by the central figure of Justice. On the left, a figure represents the need for Mercy, while on the right, the Law is depicted by two legislators carrying books. Other figures symbolise Gratitude and Prosperity—the results of a system where law and order prevail.

The building’s austere interior is a reminder that it was built during the Great Depression. Gypsum plaster was used to finish the cornices and the main hall, while the Art Deco flooring was done in rubber, which lent it the added advantage of absorbing loud noises.

The exquisite Rotunda Library—in the middle of the building—is particular notable for its detailed workmanship, relief panelling and distinctive cornices.