Singapore, School Architecture –
ONE HUNDRED TEACHERS put on their hard hats to work alongside architects to create the GLOBAL INDIAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL PUNGGOL SMART CAMPUS in Singapore
Architect Richard Bliah, on the canteen:
Colours and material used reflect the richness and vibrancy of Singapore’s multicultural food. We created an integrated canteen with many zones that blend into each other to pay homage to Singapore’s food heritage which is a mix of multiple cuisines.”
TEACHERS NEED A PLACE TO INSPIRE and guide and encourage. STUDENTS NEED A PLACE TO LEARN and express and grow. Who better to understand all these learning conditions in an environment than teachers, so it was a touch of brilliance that they got to together with the architects to build the new Global Indian International School Punggol SMART Campus (GIIS) – a 21st century school with visionary needs.
School Architecture expert Prakash Nair of Fielding Nair International (US) is the lead architect for GIIS and was supported by 5 other leading architects from London, Tokyo, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Their “nest” design is built around the idea of birds being nurtured in nests before venturing out into the world on their own. The overall concept design and schematic layout of the campus combines both form and function with its blend of the surrounding nature, together with green initiatives.
Teachers and architects
The architects and designers may have come up with the nest concept, but it was the invaluable input of the teachers, who added their own personal touches to the design. They brainstormed and discussed for over three years to ensure that the right facilities were put in place for the overall benefit of the students to align with the school’s learning methodology – collaborative areas, open spaces for innovation and discussion.
- Fielding Nair International (The United States) – Isaac Williams, is the lead architect behind the project and was in charge of the overall concept design and schematic layout of the campus
- Richard Bliah Associates (Japan) – In charge of the interior design of five key areas – Grand Entrance, Admission area, Student lounge, Canteen and Secondary Library
- Siren Design (Australia) – In charge of designing all corridors and toilets in the school
- Ivan Foo, independent architect (Malaysia) – Responsible for designing all fixed furniture (teacher’s wall cabinet, student lockers, etc.)
- Architects Team 3 (Singapore) – Local architecture firm who was responsible for getting local approvals and consultancy
The campus reflects the natural beauty of Punggol’s rich wildlife and expansive wetlands as respect for nature and the environment is a key element in the school’s teaching philosophy. The facade is made from a mix of terracotta, fixed glass and reinforced concrete walls which gives the building a sleek and elegant look. The main canopy is made from a natural material called ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) which has high corrosion resistance and can withstand wider temperatures.
A chat with the teacher:
Ms Ida D’costa, GIIS Smart Campus English Department Faculty
A conducive environment is important for learning. For instance, incorporating nature elements like greenery enable students to bulwarks them from stressful life and helps learning to happen in a positive way. More specifically, the setting of the classroom is the key – to having the right space for different activities, be done as group or individually.
As a teacher, I value having sufficient space to keep my teaching resources to ensure I have everything at hand that’s needed to deliver a fun and engaging lesson.”
What is your favourite part of the school and why?
I love the Nest area as it balances the natural sunlight and shade. I also love the landscaped play area, garden, mist fountain and water fountain as they come together to provide the feeling of being surrounded by nature. The pulchritudinous campus and the many well-lit spaces make it an inviting environment for all, from students to teachers to parents and visitors.
Does colour in interiors play an important role in stimulating learning? Or does it distract?
Yes, the colours in the interior definitely stimulate learning. They literally add colour to our discussions and brighten up the students’ moods!
How do you relax after a hard day at work? What Singapore food do you enjoy?
Being a bibliophile and reading after a day’s work relaxes me. As a true Singaporean, the food I enjoy the most are satay and bak kut teh.
What advice can you give a design student about creating a modern school from the perspective of a teacher?
In my opinion, having a good infrastructure is extremely important in a modern school. More so than it used to be when school were basic buildings. In particular I would advise incorporating greenery in classrooms, creating spaces for collaboration and part of the curricula could comprise an E – Learning week
A chat with the architect:
French architect Richard Bliah of Richard Bliah Associates (based in Japan)
Getting inside the grand hall is a real experience full of symbolic and poetic messages thanks to the very high ceiling. We have also created the feeling of a high-tech “honey-comb” to signify the act of joining together, and teamwork.
The shape of the lighting gives the impression that you are on a journey to the future. For high school students, when they leave the school to join University we hope to give them the sense of going ahead in their life. The hall itself has no intention to reduce the feeling of the student or keep them in a childish atmosphere, but on the contrary, prepare them for future challenging life, and give them the sense of being proud of their achievement.”
How does the secondary library of GIIS SMART Campus stand out from other conventional libraries? What was the idea behind creating a black and white minimalist section with accordion-like book shelves, and the bright whimsical furniture of the carpeted area?
The old and traditional concept of library is no longer relevant today. For today’s society, a library is more about sharing experiences than simply books. It’s about the exchange of knowledge as students bring their own books to be put on the shelves. The grandiose of the library is to remind students of this and the bookshelves have been made big enough to accommodate a large number of books that can be freely taken away. We would love for parents to have access to the library as well to extend the library experience, if the school permits.
How do you relax after a hard day at work? What Singapore food do you enjoy?
Singapore has so much to offer!
I love the richness of the multicultural food in Singapore. You can spend almost each day in enjoying a different atmosphere and culinary experience. It’s hard to pick a single favourite. I also love visiting the Night Safari which allows for incredible discovery of nocturnal wildlife. I enjoy admiring the architecture of Singapore as well. It is a blend of different architectural styles where tradition meets modern design, all blended in a perfect urban planning. I just love Singapore – except for the high temperature!
What advice can you give a design student about creating a modern school?
Designing a school for the future requires us to set aside conventional thinking. It requires the use of technology to be integrated into all aspects. The design must also be strong and flexible enough to adapt to the rapid changes in technology. Design students today must be prepared for the changes and the challenges they will undoubtedly face.
There is a trend I would like to change. We tend to look at students in design schools as immature and unprepared, but by doing so, we enclose them in a small world. I believe in fact they are intelligent and capable of great designs even at a young age. The school should work towards expanding the students’ visions by challenging them to tackle real world issues, and allow them to use their designs as a key to unlock their own future.
Story by Carol Kraal. Photographs courtesy of Global Indian International School Punggol SMART Campus; Richard Bliah Associates