As Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay turns 15 this year, the national performing arts centre will be adding a new venue to its stable, enabling it to create more unique Singapore stories and shared experiences for society through the arts. To be completed in 2021, the new building situated along the Esplanade Waterfront will feature a flexible theatre which can seat about 550 people and an outdoor activities plaza integrated with popular dining outlets at the Esplanade Annexe. This waterfront theatre hopes to inspire our young and nurture the next generation of artists, by commissioning and producing more new works by Singapore artists and companies and taking them from home to the world stage.
When Esplanade was first mooted in the 1990s, it was originally conceived as a much larger arts complex which included two large and three medium to small venues. However, the decision was made then, that the large spaces – the Theatre and Concert Hall – were to be built first in Phase One, with rehearsal spaces and the three medium-sized theatres in Phase Two. While Esplanade managed to convert the two rehearsal spaces during Phase One to two small Studios alongside the large Concert Hall and Theatre, it is still lacking its medium-sized venues that seat between 500 to 1,000 people and for which a majority of new works created in Singapore and internationally are best suited.
While the development of Phase Two is not viable amidst the current economic climate, Esplanade will build a 550-seat theatre to meet the more immediate needs of the Singapore arts community, as well as the schools and communities served through its programmes. For this, Esplanade has outlined its social and cultural priorities for its next stage, in which the new theatre will play a role (please refer to Annex A for details). The new theatre will be located within Esplanade’s existing site, along the waterfront as part of the Esplanade Annexe.
The goal is to develop a raw and casual theatre space that is functional, accessible and welcoming to both audiences and those who come to enjoy Esplanade’s waterfront. Based on a feasibility study which was completed in September 2016, such a new theatre of this nature will cost an estimated S$30 million to build. To complete this project, Esplanade will need to raise and secure funds of $30 million, of which its parent Ministry, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth has committed to kick-start this effort with the first S$10 million contribution.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu, said,
“Esplanade is truly a national arts centre that belongs to all Singaporeans and is loved by all. This new waterfront theatre will meet the needs of our theatre companies and community arts groups that often require a smaller venue to showcase their works. We look forward to Esplanade enlarging the space for Singaporean content and talent to emerge, as well as enriching our arts and culture scene.”
Esplanade will be calling for interested Project Consultants to submit their design proposals for Esplanade’s new waterfront theatre later this year. Construction of the new venue will commence in 2019, and the venue will be operational by 2021. Esplanade has convened a fundraising taskforce chaired by board member Dr Ming Tan, and comprising other members of the arts centre’s board of directors.