At the hub of higher education

Kerry Boettcher
Tuesday 28 Apr 2015

The Learning Hub at Nanyang Technological University, designed by Heatherwick Studio and executed by CPG Consultants, is a new educational landmark for Singapore

The recently completed multi-use Learning Hub at NTU Singapore is part of a larger redevelopment plan for the campus. The cutting edge building will be an important centre of learning, meeting and networking for the University’s 33,000 students. 

The innovative design moves away from the traditional idea of an educational building that has long corridors and box-like classrooms. The brief was to come up with a forward-thinking design that took into consideration new and contemporary ways of teaching and learning. 

With the rise of digital, learning can take place almost anywhere, and the most important function of this new university building was to be a place where students and professors from various disciplines could meet and interact with one another. In response to this, Heatherwick came up with a structure that combines both social and learning spaces to create a dynamic environment more conducive to casual and incidental interaction between students and professors. 

Twelve towers, each a stack of rounded tutorial rooms, taper inwards at their base around a generous public central atrium to provide 56 lecture rooms without corners or obvious fronts or backs. The shared space of the atrium, interspersed with open spaces and garden terraces, allow the students to be visually connected while also leaving space to linger, gather and pause.

NTU Professor Kam Chan Hin, Senior Associate Provost said: “The new Learning Hub provides an exciting mix of learning, community and recreational spaces for NTU students, professors and researchers from various disciplines to gather and interact. By bringing people and their ideas together, NTU can spark future innovations and new knowledge that increasingly happen at the intersection of disciplines.”

Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio said: “Heatherwick Studio’s first major new building in Asia has offered us an extraordinary opportunity to rethink the traditional university building. In the information age the most important commodity on a campus is social space to meet and bump into and learn from each other. The Learning Hub is a collection of handmade concrete towers surrounding a central space that brings everyone together, interspersed with nooks, balconies and gardens for informal collaborative learning. We are honoured to have had the chance to work with this forward-thinking and ambitious academic institution to realise such an unusual project.” 

Project lead Vivien Leong of CPG Consultants, who was in charge of the sustainability aspects said: The most exciting aspect of this project is to see such an inspired design develop into a uniquely contextual and functional building through a highly collaborative process. Managing this project was no mean feat as we had to ensure that our work complied with Singapore’s rigorous building regulations and that it achieved the highest standards of sustainability, while working hard to retain the integrity of the original design and vision of NYU. The opportunity to challenge convention by introducing several first-of-its-kind environmentally friendly features and innovative solutions that embody the spirit of modern day learning has been a truly rewarding experience for us.”

A concrete construction was necessary due to the local building codes and environmental requirements, which came with the challenge of how to make this humble material look extraordinary.

As a result, the concrete stair and elevator cores have been embedded with 700 specially commissioned drawings, three-dimensionally cast into the concrete, referencing everything from science to art and literature. The angled concrete columns have a distinctive undulating texture and the curved façade panels are cast with a unique horizontal pattern. The result of the building’s various raw treatments of concrete is that the whole project appears to have been handmade from wet clay.

Another important consideration was the climate in Singapore, where daily temperatures range from 25-31 degrees Celsius. The atrium is naturally ventilated, maximising air circulation throughout the building. Each room is cooled using silent convection, which does away with the need for energy heavy air conditioning. For this reason it was awarded the Green Mark Platinum status, the highest environmental standard in Singapore. 

This innovative and future-forward Learning Hub reasserts the role of an educational building in the 21st century and will become an important collaborative space for students for many years to come.

Kerry Boettcher

News editor

Key Facts:


Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team