Magnificent precinct of Singapore’s Presidential abode Istana to remain open to public today

Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and people who have recently relocated to Singapore now get a chance for a brush with history as the magnificent precincts of Istana, the abode of the President Halimah Yacob, will be opened to the public on February 17. There will be an open house at Istana for Singapore’s people on the occasion of Chinese New Year.

Istana means ‘palace’ in Malay and is the official residence of the President of Singapore, where the Head of State receives and entertains official guests. Spread over an area of 106 acres, Istana is similar to many 18th-century neo-Palladian style buildings designed by British military engineers.

Istana means ‘palace’ in Malay and is the official residence of the President of Singapore.
Istana means ‘palace’ in Malay and is the official residence of the President of Singapore. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

It has a tropical layout like a Malay house, surrounded by statuesque columns, deep verandahs, louvred windows and panelled doors to promote cross-ventilation. The central three-storey, 28-metre-high tower block dominates the building. The reasonably well-proportioned two-storey side wings feature Ionic, Doric and Corinthian orders with Ionic colonnades at the second storey and Doric colonnades at the first storey.

 As visitors enter the Istana, most will notice the two luscious rows of rain trees. The rain trees not only provide shade but also give visitors a warm welcome to the Istana.
As visitors enter the Istana, most will notice the two luscious rows of rain trees. The rain trees not only provide shade but also give visitors a warm welcome to the Istana. Photo courtesy: Facebook page of President Halimah Yacob

On February 17, President Halimah will also launch a new series of memorabilia for the annual President's Challenge charity campaign. The memorabilia includes keychains and luggage tags, and will be available to visitors who make a donation to the President's Challenge during the open house. 

The memorabilia have items that have emotions literally etched on them as they have been designed by artisans who have autism, cerebral palsy, hearing impairments and mild intellectual disabilities, among others. Each artisan brought a different skillset to the table, like stitching and punching, to create the final products. 

The cannon on display at the Gun Terrace was captured from the Japanese during World War II and was given to Singapore by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander of the South East Asia Command, Governor General of India and British Military Administrator of Malaya from 1945 to 1946.
The cannon on display at the Gun Terrace was captured from the Japanese during World War II and was given to Singapore by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander of the South East Asia Command, Governor General of India and British Military Administrator of Malaya from 1945 to 1946. Photo courtesy: Facebook page of President Halimah Yacob

Overwhelmed by how art could bring colour to the lives of beneficiaries, President Halimah said, “All of us are able to make meaningful contributions to society regardless of our abilities. That was why I invited beneficiaries from various organisations to showcase their talent through art.”

Various cultural activities have been planned in the open house including lion dance performances, Chinese acrobatic performances, martial arts and music shows by students. 

In addition to this, there will also be an animal display, Chinese calligraphy, guided walks to view the Istana's biodiversity and tours of the main Istana building.

The open house will be open from 8.30am to 6pm and is free for Singaporeans and permanent residents. Other visitors have to pay an entrance fee of SGD2.

Istana Open House is generally held for the public five times a year on the occasion of Chinese New Year, Deepavali,  Hari Raya Puasa, Labour Day and National Day.  

Author
Ashraf Jamal
Ashraf Jamal – Senior Writer

Ashraf Jamal brings a rare depth to writing equipped with a degree in journalism, a postgraduate degree in political science, and a degree in law from the Allahabad University. His experience includes editing and publishing the Northern India Patrika and writing for Times of India for almost a decade covering just about any topic under the sun including NRIs and Indian diaspora.

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