Forum Architects's proposal for new education centre in Singapore
Designed for a 2008 competition for a new resource centre in the planned residential extension to the existing NUS campus, the ERC was envisioned as an exuberant new hub for tertiary learning. The brief called for a facility able to promote key drivers of an evolving educational framework - a pedagogical shift to intimate, interactive, integrated and self-directed learning - and support of critical thinking and confidence. As the heart of the planned University Town, dynamism and vitality were fundamental requirements of the brief. The design responded by envisioning the ERC as an icon – holding a key location its context; visually stunning; creating new meaning for its users.
The unique form was developed from a trefoil into three orbiting lobes. The cores placed eccentrically about the atrium gave a rotational effect to the plan, adding to its dynamism. The client brief required facilities equipped for video-conferencing and wireless connectivity. Functional spaces included group learning and independent study areas, visualisation and presentation rooms, an e-café, and a 450-seater lecture theatre. Serving as a resource centre, intuitive orientation was a specific requirement. The orbiting lobes responded by generating movement centrifugally and centripetally about a central atrium, pulling people inwards whilst spreading its reach out to other elements of the Master Plan.
Conceptualised as a ‘sculpture in the round’, the ERC’s different faces are unique from the next. The spiralling horizontal fins of north-south facades placed at controlled levels double up as light shelves, while fins on east-west facing facades act as sun-shading devices. The need to attract more students to the buzz of this community called for visibility of a large number of functional spaces. The building is designed to be permeable at all levels, with highest porosity on the first storey. Facades are designed in fritted glass, with patterns at once allowing privacy and translucency.
The atrium roof is designed to induce a difference in air pressure, pulling wind inwards for a breezy, naturally-ventilated environment. Three strategically located heliostats on the atrium roof reflect light deep into the atrium space. Roof gardens occur at different levels in the three lobes, terracing towards the adjacent town green. The green roofs reduce the solar heat gain while acting as water collectors to irrigate the town green. For its excellent response to the context and design brief, the proposal was shortlisted as one of the two competition finalists.