The Old Supreme Court on St Andrew’s Road has long been a stately presence in the heart of the city since it was built in 1939.

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
Inspired by the Old Bailey courthouse in London, the Old Supreme Court was the last classical building completed in Singapore.

Photo by Yeowatzup via Foter.com

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 Cavalieri Rudolfo Nolli and carved out of gypsum plaster.

Symbols of law and order
The Old Supreme Court features detailed workmanship and distinctive design elements that are noteworthy.

Photo by Choo Yut Shing via Foter.com

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 austere interior is a reminder that the building 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, with the added advantage of absorbing loud noises.

Do check out the exquisite Rotunda Library in the middle of the building – its detailed workmanship, relief panelling and distinctive cornices are especially noteworthy.