The Istana is the official residence and office of the President of Singapore
. Meaning "palace" in Malay, it is where the president receives and entertains state guests. The Istana is also the working office of the Prime Minister of Singapore. It is in a large open compound in the otherwise urbanised setting of the Orchard Road
The 106 acre (0.4 km²) estate was once part of the extensive nutmeg plantation of Mount Sophia. In 1867, the British colonial government acquired the land and built a mansion to be the official home of the British governor. This continued until 1959 when Singapore was granted self-government, and the governor was replaced by the Yang di-Pertuan Negara, who was in turn replaced by the president.
Since its first occupancy in 1869, the Istana has seen 21 terms of governorship (1869–1958), two terms of Yang di-Pertuan Negara (1959–1965) and six terms of Presidential occupation (since 1965), not to mention the Japanese occupancy between 1942 and 1945.
Today, the Istana is the official residence of the President of Singapore. However, no presidents have lived there since 1959 nor any cabinet ministers. The villas which are meant to be used for foreign heads of state are used rarely. The Istana building and its grounds are open to the public on five selected statutory holidays — Lunar New Year, Deepavali, Hari Raya Puasa, Labour Day and National Day. Due to the closeness of Deepavali and Hari Raya Puasa in some years, the grounds of the Istana are sometimes open only once during this period in commemoration of both public holidays. Other times, its grounds are often used for state functions and ceremonial occasions such as swearing-in, investitures and the presentation of credentials by heads of foreign missions. The Prime Minister, Senior Minister, and Minister Mentor have their offices in the Istana Annex.
On the first Sunday of the month, there is a Changing of the Guards parade, which is a popular public event.
The Istana is similar to many 18th century neo-Palladian style buildings designed by British military engineers in India
. 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. The building sits in the its elevated position overlooking its stately grounds, the Domain, reminiscent of the great gardens of England
Buildings throughout the grounds
- Sri Temasek, also built in 1869, for the colonial secretary and was the official residence of the prime minister
- The Annexe
- The Istana Villa (1938)
- The Lodge (1974)
- The Japanese Gun, presented to Lord Louis Mountbatten after the Japanese surrender in 1945
- Marsh Garden (1970)
- Lily ponds
- A nine-hole golf course
- A burial place of the Bencoolen Muslims, who came to Singapore between 1825 and 1828, located on the southern slopes of the grounds close to the Orchard Road entrance