Entering Gillman Barracks for the first time may leave you slightly bewildered. Low-rise, pre-war colonial architecture dot the arts belt with its whitewashed facade. Enigmatic and still, the apparent allure of this place is really more about a soulful vibe. The quiet placidity of this bohemian 6.4-hectare development may seem intimidating at first. However, we urge you to move beyond its romantic veneer and explore every threshold.
Gillman Barracks is a conserved military barracks that has been turned into a contemporary arts cluster. As a joint initiative among three organizations, huge aspirations are in place for the two-year-old project development. Truth be told, the site is still coming into its own. Yet, this is precisely what gives the place its intimate scale.
To get the most out of the galleries, go in with a proactive and curious mind. The lack of signage on the building exterior to guide you through the space actually calls for your creative mind to wander. If you really need a clue though, start trekking from Block 9 or Block 47. The two buildings house some of our favorite galleries like the acclaimed Michael Janssen Gallery, Tomio Koyama’s personal salon, and the Equator Art Projects. The high-ceiling interior, gifted with its original architecture, is especially captivating. The generous expanse creates the perfect setting for each of the 17 international galleries on site.
As part of the Centre for Contemporary Art, blocks 37 to 39 serve as art residencies for local and international artists. We advise you to nudge the studio doors open because beyond every room is a wealth of insight. Soak in the artistic offerings and ask the gallery owners questions. We promise you will find more than you have asked for.
For those who would rather invest an afternoon in a more active set-up, check the calendar of events on its main website. Past events have proven to draw in quite a crowd, but the atmosphere stays amiable and laid-back. Otherwise, the energy of the barracks starts to pick up after 6pm when the three resident restaurants and bars open to the public. Food options are limited, although we do recommend Masons for an indulgent fine dining fare. A line-up of pocket friendly food and beverage offerings are also in the works. Till then, take privilege in the tranquility of the site before it gets too populous.
9 Lock Rd, Singapore 108937; gillmanbarracks.com
Words by Dawn Lim
Photography by Franz Navarrete