SAM Architecture - A National Monument
This venerable building once housed St Joseph’s Institution (SJI), a Catholic boys’ school, run by La Salle Brothers. In 1855, the cornerstone was laid by its founder, Father Jean-Marie Beurel. After 135 years in Bras Basah Road, SJI was relocated, making way for SAM.
The Central Building
The galleries in the Central Building were formed by knocking down cross walls that made up the classrooms. The new floors – reinforced concrete with timer-strip finish, were designed and constructed to take the load expected of galleries. A new wall system, comprising a light weight wall, insulation material and vapour barrier, was added to the existing walls.
The Glass Hall
This hall was originally a gymnasium and opened on three sides. It was 'modernised' in the 1950s to become the school hall, then known as the Oei Tiong Han Hall. All arches were flattened, Doric columns were turned into cylindrical columns and external walls and windows were added to enclose it. This hall was restored to its original state based on an original drawing found on site. The Glass Hall is commonly used for exhibition openings and related programmes.
Once the chapel of the school, it has now been converted into a space for special Museum events like talks, symposiums, seminars and film screenings, and the installation of large artworks. All the important elements of the chapel are preserved. These include the small 'basins' for holy water, Stations of the Cross, original pressed steel ceiling and dado panels, and original concrete floor tiles. Salmon is the original colour of the walls. When the school was taken over for the construction of the Museum, several pieces of old floor tiles were found missing. These were reinstated with the new tiles specially manufactured to match the old. A plaque outside the chapel commemorates Brother Michael (1856-1936) who, as Director of SJI (1900 – 1914) played a major part in the development of the 3 historic buildings that are preserved.
This building, originally known as Anderson Building, was named after Sir John Anderson. Governor of the Straits Settlements 1904 – 1911. The Straits Settlements Government had made a generous contribution towards the building funds. Originally, this building had a staircase projecting into the courtyard, taking up much courtyard space. It was removed possibly in the 1950s and modern staircases were added to either of the block. These modern staircases greatly marred the beauty of the exterior of the building and were removed as part of the effort to restore Anderson Building into its original splendour.
Queen Street Wing
This used to be the site of the Brothers’ Quarters. Built too small and narrow for conversion to Museum use, the building had to make way for the current new structure, designed to harmonise in rhythm and composition with the historic building and yet have a contemporary look. They are clad with the machine-made precast concrete panels with stylised details, which contrast with the hand-made classical details of the historic buildings. More galleries can be found in this part of the Museum.
These were originally the school quadrangles. They were of tarmac finish and served as basketball courts and carpark. One level of the basement has been constructed under the Eastern courtyard.