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image Project: School of Art, Design & Media

School of Art, Design & Media


School of Art, Design & Media

The site is a wooded valley which was supposed to be left as a green lung in the master plan of the 200-hectare university campus. The designer, however, carved a habitat from the constraints of the valley. And instead of imposing a building onto the landscape, we let the landscape plays a critical role in moulding the building. It allows the original greenery of the site to creep and colonise the building, creating “non-building” in the overall setting.

The unfolding arms of two blocks create an inviting entry court for the school. The double volume entrance leads into a large lobby with circulation elements, namely the elevators, open staircases and a link bridge clearly expressed. Corridors and cosy corners double up as informal exhibition areas for the display of students’ artworks, sculptures and creative works. The interiors create an ambience which is informal, friendly and pleasing, befitting a communal facility where small groups can gather and have easy access to the stores of information and knowledge available.

The building design challenges the traditional linear system of education with a clear teacher-student arrangement. Here, we create different types of spaces — from the formal auditorium seating to the more informal studios, lobbies, passageways and breakout lounges. There are also cosy outdoor corners, a sunken plaza formed by the embracing arms of the building and the turfed roofs.
Together, these provide a variety of spaces for students to interact, explore and learn as well as display their creative works.

A unique feature of the building is its transparency and connectivity — both within the interior spaces and with the external environment. There is a great sense of continuity in the interior — right from the entrance to the main foyer to various spaces inside and right into the turfed roofs. Internal glass walls enhance this visual connectivity and flow, allowing one to see beyond rooms thus promoting interaction and creative exchange.

As this is an art school, it was decided to give it a very raw feel. The designers deliberately left a lot of surfaces, both indoors and outdoors, unfinished. These unfinished surfaces as empty canvasses suggest possibilities, where the art students can use them as giant billboards to express their youthful creativities.

Lighting plays an important aspect to the building. The full expanse of high performance glass lets in daylight to the studios and galleries while cutting off the tropical heat. In the evening, the building glows like a lantern. The interiors of the building are lit and the activities within are fully exposed to view.

The exterior glass façade of the building allows full views to the outside, again providing visual connectivity with the surrounding lush landscape. Lights are incorporated onto the roof to allow students to meet in the evening as well. At night, the building glows like a lantern allowing activities of the school to be observed from the outside. The changing character of the façade lends dynamism, life and interest to the building as day transforms into night.

School of Art, Design & Media

The designer was given a challenge to design a building that symbolizes what an art, design and media school stands for; uniqueness and creativity. And that is what the University got; a building which is iconic and one which epitomizes originality. With its bare concrete and glass curtain walls and verdant roof, the building certainly stands apart from the other school buildings within the campus and this has gone down well with the academics and students who, as design practitioners crave for an environment that is conducive for creative exploration and exchange of ideas.

The interior spaces have been successful in accommodating the varied activities of the school. Given the sloping nature of the architectural form, many of the teaching spaces come in different shapes and volumes which could be easily adapted to different activities and teaching styles. The interior design has resulted in a combination of high-quality public areas with resilient materials in the studio spaces. The designers have leveraged on the high voluminous quality of the spaces by cladding the building with a full curtain wall allowing generous doses of daylight into the building. At night when fully lit, the building is like a beacon with the activities within for all to see.

The curtain wall, with its wide expanse of glass windows also offer users with views of the lush greenery and surrounding trees, many of which were left intact during construction. Finishes are also consciously specified in their natural form, like the off-form concrete walls and columns, cement-sand screeded floors and timber railings. To reinforce the “natural theme”, loud colours and elaborate decoration were avoided. This has provided students with the perfect platform to express themselves by adorning the surfaces of the building with their works thus allowing the building to evolve its own identity. The result is that students are imbued with a sense of ownership and attachment to the school.

The spaces around the building have not only struck a chord with the students of the school but also students from other schools within the University. The grassy slopes of the green roof for example, allow students to bask in the evening sun and soak in the views offered by the surroundings of our green campus. Another popular outdoor space is the sunken courtyard which is enveloped by the three wings of the school. The reflective pond and fountains provide a visual respite for occupants within the classrooms, labs and offices that overlook this courtyard. It also serves as an impromptu performance platform for students. Tutors eager for an outdoor alternative ‘classroom’ find the courtyard, with its tranquil setting, an ideal teaching space for the creative minds.

The university is indeed proud of its new iconic building which have not only caught the attention of the university fraternity but also that of the local media. More importantly, the architectural design and spaces complement the aspirations of the school; that is to become the foremost, art, design and media school in the region.

Honor Award 2007



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