The Istana is the official residence of the President of the Republic of Singapore. It occupies over 40 hectares in Orchard Road and is an important part of Singapore's history and heritage.
The Istana building was built by the British Colonial government to house its governors. Completed in 1869, it was designed and built by Colonial Engineer, Major John Frederick Adolphus McNair, and was known then as the Government House. When Singapore attained self-government in 1959, it was handed over to the Singapore Government and renamed Istana (“Palace” in Malay).
A budget of $100,000 was originally approved by the Legislative Council for the building of a Government House of a smaller scale in July 1867. A plan for a larger building was subsequently approved but there were insufficient funds to complete the project. Fortunately, the Duke of Edinburgh – the second son of Queen Victoria – was to make a visit to Singapore, and Major McNair seized the opportunity to increase his budget. The Government House was eventually completed at a cost of $185,000.
The Istana underwent extensive renovation in the 1990s, to add more space and modern conveniences. The building today has six function rooms used for ceremonies and to receive foreign dignitaries and guests.
The President is responsible for safeguarding the national reserves and the integrity of the public service. The President also receives foreign dignitaries, officiates at state functions and performs other ceremonial and community duties.
Besides official functions, the President actively supports community and social causes. The President often graces events organised by grassroots, community and welfare groups, as well as ethnic and religious organisations.
The portraits of President Halimah and her spouse, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, are displayed in public buildings. The Presidential Standard is flown at the Istana in the day, when the President is in the country. The Presidential Crest is used on state crockery, gifts and stationery related to the President.