Marine Parade Community Building

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Marine Parade Community Building (Chinese: 马林百列社区综合大厦; pinyin: Mǎlín Bǎiliè shèqū zhōnghé dàshà) is a commercial and community building located at the corner of the junction of Marine Parade Road and Still Road South, in Marine Parade of Singapore. The community building currently houses a community club, a public library and a performing arts group.

History

The current building sits on land which was reclaimed when Marine Parade Housing Estate was developed in the 1970s. The site was first occupied by the Marine Parade Community Centre (later renamed to Marine Parade Community Club) built in the early 1980s.

In March 1995, the People's Association (PA) announced plans to upgrade 54 community centres and clubs that were more than ten years old, at a total cost of S$9.56 million. The plan was to make community centres more user-friendly, with open concept offices and reception areas. Facilities like lifts, dance studios, karaoke rooms and multi-purpose air-conditioned activities rooms would be added.

In June 1995, then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong asked PA to study the idea of combining community centres with other purposes. The community centres could share their premises with other civil users such as libraries, government offices and commercial developments. Goh, who is also a Member of Parliament for Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency, suggested exploring the idea of combining the Marine Parade Community Club, which was slated for upgrading, with the National Library branch in Marine Parade. The new building could have six storeys, with the library and community club taking up three floors each.

In June 1996, Wong Kan Seng, PA's deputy chairman, announced that eight community centres that would be redeveloped would be located with community libraries, day-care centres for children, senior citizens and the disabled, multi-storey carparks or other organisations, due to the scarcity of land in Singapore. These included Marine Parade Community Club.

As 30% of the upgrading cost had to be paid by the community club, Marine Parade Community Club carried out several fundraising activities for the club's redevelopment. These activities, which included music concerts, golf tournaments and cyclethons, raised a total of S$6 million.

The old Marine Parade Community Club building was demolished in 1997 and construction of the Marine Parade Community Building began the same year. SAL Construction was the project's main contractor. Built at a cost of S$30 million, the new building was completed in January 2000, and was open to the public on 6 March 2000. It was officially opened by Goh Chok Tong on 28 May 2000.

Facilities

The Marine Parade Community Building currently houses the Marine Parade Community Club, the Marine Parade Community Library and a professional theatre company, The Necessary Stage. It also originally had an al fresco Starbucks café on the ground floor.

Marine Parade Community Club

Opened on 6 March 2000, the Marine Parade Community Club is equipped with a glass-walled gymnasium overlooking part of the East Coast Parkway, a covered basketball court on the rooftop and an air-conditioned sports hall. There are also a 263-seat theatrette, a roof terrace for gatherings, and music, study and activity rooms.

Marine Parade Community Library

Opened on 10 November 1978, the Marine Parade Community Library was originally located at the town centre of Marine Parade Housing Estate before it shifted to its new premises at the community building. The library is Singapore's second-oldest community library and the only one built on reclaimed land. It started moving in stages to the community building in April 2000, and was officially opened by Goh Chok Tong on May 28, 2000. The Marine Parade Community Library is the first public library in Singapore to be housed together with a community club and an arts group. The library's old premises was renovated for an NTUC FairPrice supermarket.

The library is spread over four floors of the Marine Parade Community Building, with a floor area of 3,500 square metres (37,675 square feet). As one of the first neighbourhood libraries, the library's entire second floor is its children's book section, featuring murals, trivia and multimedia tools. The library has more than 150,000 books and 2,500 videos available for loan. There is a café on the ground floor, and the library is fitted with numerous couches and benches for the public's use. Other facilities include multimedia stations, DIY service stations, and music posts equipped with headphones.

The Necessary Stage

The Necessary Stage was the first arts group to be housed in a community building with a community club by Singapore's National Arts Council (NAC). The move was part of the NAC's Arts Housing Scheme that offered alternative locations to arts groups besides old vacant buildings, in line with PA's plan to repackage its community clubs as fashionable multi-purpose spaces. The Necessary Stage's 672-square metre (7,467 square feet) premises at the basement of the community building was about three times the size of its old premises at Cairnhill Arts Centre, which did not have a proper theatre space for productions. The arts group's facility at the community building features a "Black Box", a stage-less theatre with flexible seating. The NAC spent S$2.1 million on construction costs for the unit at Marine Parade, which includes a foyer and the 120-seat Black Box.

Architecture
Design concept

Sited adjacent to Housing and Development Board apartment blocks of the Marine Parade Housing Estate, the Marine Parade Community Building could be seen as an attempt to engage the wider community. The activities of the community building were planned to overlap and to coalesce, as a one-stop destination for the entire family. The rich congruence of the multiple programmes for the building is expressed architecturally as a collage of diverse elements. The building was designed by a local architectural firm, William Lim Associates, which adopted a postmodern pluralist approach, expressed through a multiplicity of materials and forms.

Wall mural

The community building is clad in a huge wall mural, a commissioned work of art by Thai architect Surachai Yeamsiri. The mural is Singapore's largest piece of installation art, measuring 63 metres by 12 metres (207 feet by 39 feet), and covers the curved north- and east-facing façade of the community building.

Surachai's abstract piece was the winner in the "Art on Wall" design competition, organised by the Marine Parade Community Club Management Committee in 1998. A panel of international judges picked the winning design from a total of 66 entries submitted by artists, architects and designers from all over ASEAN, including 40 entries from Singapore. Led by local art historian T. K. Sabapathy, the panel felt that the winning entry best reflected the contest's theme — dynamism, interaction, fusion and harmony. The mural was installed on the curved facade of the community building at a cost of S$50,000.

Called the "Texturefulness of Life", the artwork made use of a variety of materials such as glass and wood. The artwork's centrepiece resembles a huge human eye plastered on a wall, made up of tiny mosaic tiles arranged by computer-aided design.

Other features

The library block is predominantly clad in glass, fitted with horizontal fins, on its frontage with the main road. The original alfresco Starbucks café has a street frontage, and is spread into the shared forecourt.

The community building's roof resembles the leaves of a palm tree, and covers the community club's rooftop basketball court. The court's location on the roof level was a departure from the norm, as in other community centres then, the basketball court occupies space on the ground floor.

Architectural form

Overall, the architectural form of the Marine Parade Community Building has been described as a "dragon", with the roof as a crest and the artwork as the eye of the dragon. The horizontal louvres on the library block was seen as the tail fins of the dragon, an auspicious beast in Chinese culture.

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