SCDA transforms former convent school into new home of DesignSingapore Council
Last week, the very first Singapore Design Week was held in the city’s cultural district of Bras Basah-Bugis, bringing together creative minds from product design to architecture and fashion to photography. The event was hosted by Singapore’s National Design Centre, a recently-completed scheme by Soo K. Chan and his firm SCDA Architects.
The site where the National Design Centre now stands was once home to a convent school and a chapel. Chan and his team have transformed these original buildings by inserting four cantilevering translucent volumes and renovating the interior spaces.
As Chan explains: “This is a conservation building. Whatever we added were just key functional elements, such as the required fire stair. We turned that into a design element. We wanted to create a secondary layer of complexity. That is why we introduced pivoting walls that really change the nature of the space, creating additional surface area for exhibitions and revealing some of the programmes behind.”
Singapore has developed a keen architectural flair in recent years, becoming a strong presence on the world stage for its building design and development of new infrastructure. Projects such as Marina Bay Sands and the Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay have bolstered Singapore’s position in the industry and the opening of a National Design Centre is intended to foster this design culture and ‘deepen the appreciation of good design’.
Mr. Chan continues: “Our concept was to create big public spaces - the internal courtyard and an external courtyard. The indoor court we enclosed with a sculptural skylight. That was the beginning of it - two communal spaces that all the other spaces would focus upon.”
The former chapel at the Saint Anthony’s Convent site has been converted into a lecture theatre and spaces for public exhibitions and think tanks have been inserted to enable design industry professionals to meet and engage in debates. Training will also be provided at the Centre for designers wishing to acquire new business and innovation skills and access to prototyping facilities will be made available.