Behind the Substation, along the walls of Timbre, there used to be a massive banyan tree. Over the years, it had witnessed many of the changes to the art centre, as well as the evolution of the neighbouring civic landscape, such as the demolition of the National Library that used to be right beside it. In 2014, to make way for the construction of a new building for the Singapore Management University, the tree was uprooted to be transplanted to a yet-to-be-decided location.
The tree had been there before the Substation, which was founded in 1990 by Kuo Pao Kun. For many years, it had been part of the Substation’s Garden, sheltering the now-defunct Fat Frog Café, and had been the site of many events. Many artists, administrators and arts goers cherish fond memories of the tree, and some have even grafted parts of it to grow into seedlings.
The tree’s transplantation in late 2014 was a delicate process, in which the tree’s roots had to be slowly removed from a brick wall they penetrated. When parts of the banyan were cut away, some old bricks from the former National Library were found among its roots.