The new extension to the existing Nanyang Primary School and Kindergarten in Singapore is designed around a large ‘internalised’ public Valley, open to the sky and the elements, but facing away from the residential streets surrounding the school. The design objective was to place the school’s communal space at the heart of studio505’s and LT&T’s design.
Part of the previously existing Nanyang Primary School’s campus, namely the hilltop buildings and the Coronation Road entrance buildings had been reserved for demolition under the brief as they no longer provided an environmentup to modern teaching standards. Those previous buildings, in particular the large kindergarten building had not been positioned and designed in sync with the natural sloping topography of the site from street level up to the hilltop. Instead it was located parallel to the street and perpendicular to the direction of the slope, thus creating a ‘wall-like’, uninviting barrier when seen from the entrance. Behind this building, the steep slopes were exposed or bridged over, creating unusable and unsightly space pockets that were difficult to integrate from a user perspective.
These unusable spacesbetween the former large scale buildings, out of proportion and character with a child’s world, created the starting point of our thinking for the new design. Very quickly it became clear that the new concept will have to be centered on a generous, open and usable communal space that draws advantages from the site’s inherent topography.
Studio505 proposed aligning the new building volumes parallel to the direction of the hilltop slope and perpendicular to Coronation Road, creating a large inviting central valley. This Valley is the key space in the extension, and serves as both the entry to the site and the main orientation device. The Valley draws the visitor gently up the slope, through the heart of the school at the top of the hill and into the large open courtyard of King’s Road campus.
When entering the Valley at Coronation Street level the visitor cannot see the Valley’s entire extent as it curves around a strategically placed bend at its geographic centre where a large landscaped staircase is located. The staircase provides easy access to the ‘hilltop’ and the classrooms whilst integrating a small amphitheatre space for outdoor group activities.
The Valley’s landscape gesture is modelled on the underlying contours of the site. Vegetation in the valley is planted in the direction of its length, but in its overall extent tries not to overwhelm the intended civic character of the main outdoor space. The horizontal extent of the valley is countered by the verticality of the stair and bold yellow columns supporting the link bridges that fly overhead and facilitate easy connections between the two parallel wings of classrooms.
Close to the Coronation St entrance the design team located the new kindergarten and indoor sports facilities. Their volumes are fully integrated into the overall composition of the open central valley with interior facilities flanking it either side. A covered outdoor play area for the kindergarten is created via a large, 2 storey high ‘indent’ into the valleys side wall. Studio505 felt it important that children of all age groups, from pre-nursery to the end of primary school, should be empowered to claim the Valley as their own. As these children progress through the different stages of their school life, they will become active participants and custodians of the school’s and their own public space. All circulation is open to the air and orientated towards the ‘internal’, communal valley. The walkways are covered and large suspended, double layer shelves provide additional shading as well as protection against wind driven rain.
All classrooms face away from the central Valley to the quieter residential areas. The inside of the classrooms are typically calm in appearance with white walls and ceilings letting the individual minds focus during class time. The classroom door is the only internal coloured element, leading children out into the rich and dream-like external world of seemingly endless coloured horizontal stripes and pathways of life.
Technically this is achieved through the low-cost budget application of emulsion paint on profiled precast concrete spandrels, together with the abovementioned coloured aluminium shading shelves.
But for the students, according to Nanyang Primary School’s principal Lee Hui Feng ‘the future is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of lives amidst globalisation – full of ups and downs, twists and turns’.
Our aim was to create a highly inspirational communal space, designed to showcase active, uninhibited free thinking and bringing joy and excitement equally to children and to the child within the teacher. A space from which everywhere is possible…