the Singapore National Library is quite a marvel: steel and glass wrought into elegance manifest. It is much taller than its 16 storeys suggest, for each floor is lavish – positively indulgent – with its space. From certain angles on the outside it looks almost like bookshelves
from other angles, more like science fiction –
And what a building it is from the inside! Surely there can’t be many other public libraries that would place their rare books, untouchable collections and archive material on the very top two floors of the building, its research library on the next top five floors of the building, and the books for the masses in the basement? — Rather than the other way around, with the archive boxes squirrelled away into the dark, windowless basements that literally bury the researchers with the past, and the books for normal people out in the sunshine?
But in the Singapore National Library, as an academic researcher, you find yourself enticed – nay, positively obliged – into those lofty glass towers of scholarship. And you sit at vast desks that command such spectacular views over the city, and you wonder that perhaps it is only in Singapore, whose 43-year-old modern history is in many respects so scant and yet so hard-won, where the past is so literally elevated to such heights, and where its value to Singaporeans (and of course, to the Government) is made so utterly, architecturally explicit, in the way that they do best: corporately…
and now the Contraband:
I only got this one shot before being assaulted (quite politely, however) by the librarians. It’s the highest floor of the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library that can be accessed without permission, on the 11th floor – the Singapore (of course) and Southeast Asian collection, where I shall be spending much of my weekends in the coming weeks – and it is truly marvellous.