Ngee Ann Polytechnic launched a 26,000sqm expansion plan to improve connectivity between campus blocks and to revitalise the learning environment. DP Architects was appointed the design architect to create a holistic educational landscape through the design of Blocks 51, 58 and 22 of the campus.
Pedagogical approaches are constantly evolving, and learning is now encouraged outside the classrooms through an inversion of traditional teaching methods, known as the Flipped Classroom concept. The architects’ strategy was thus to provide ample learning and study spaces branching off the main circulation routes, which would spill out into adjacent landscaping. The deliberate placement of these breathing spaces along the periphery of the buildings, together with generous light-filled atrium spaces and thoughtfully designed landscape areas blur the boundaries between inside and outside. The result is an integrated campus tied together by pockets of gathering spaces and lush landscaping, with blocks that are visually identifiable through different façade colours and textures. As opposed to conventional campus environments that tend to consist of disparate academic blocks housing segregated faculties, the focus of this expansion was to strategically integrate the campus through communal landscaped areas for learning and interaction.
Centrally located within the campus and rising eight storeys above the existing Makan Place food court, Block 51 is Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s latest faculty building containing eight lecture theatres and 26 classrooms. Wrapped in a triangulated steel-and-glass façade screen, the large atrium interiors are washed by the dynamic movement of shadows. The façade skin also doubles up as a climate modulator, reducing heat and glare to the spaces within. The design celebrates the Makan Place as an important node, and expands its connectivity to the rest of the campus via the Eco-Deck. Inspired by the tapering volumes of the lecture theatres, the slanting forms of Block 51 float above the deck, encouraging the flow of air through the naturally ventilated communal areas.
Block 58 occupies an important intermediary position within the site, connecting the lower level Green Mall, Student Village and Eco-Deck. It consists of a six-storey new insertion that houses a 300-seat lecture theatre, lecture and seminar rooms, and a curvilinear Eco-Deck on the second storey.
The elevated Eco-Deck is a prominent addition to the campus, rising above the grand concourse steps and extending within the building through a series of folds. The green landscaping threads through the building, forming important interstitial pockets for informal study areas or research gardens. Conceptualised as the heart of the campus, the Eco-Deck functions as the vibrant platform for student interaction and expression. Housing programmes such as the mosh pit, graduation agora and study spaces on an undulating terrain, the Eco-Deck promises to be a nucleus of activity where faculty members and students can activate learning and enterprise outside classroom walls. The Eco-Deck is well-connected to the rest of the campus, with a series of ramps leading to the Student Village and to the Makan Place food court, as well as vertical circulation connections to the lecture spaces and student recreational club clusters.
Within Block 58, a chamfered triangular skylight draws daylight deep into the atrium, creating a comfortable environment conducive for learning. A central atrium on the third storey forms the main thoroughfare that connects to the classrooms. The visual permeability of the atrium intentionally opens up view corridors towards the lawn and the rest of the campus, dissolving the boundaries between the interior and exterior.
Block 22 is a four-storey building situated next to an existing sports hall. The architects sought to provide common outdoor spaces that could be shared between the existing and the new sports hall. Employing a sinuous terracing language for its floor plates and landscaping proposal, a continuous verandah was created around the building perimeter that provides shade to the floors below. Terracing landscape planters within the sunken courtyards are lushly planted in vibrant red, purple and pink flowering trees and shrubs. The vibrancy of the landscaping is reflected internally as well, with the student service office, student lounge, seminar rooms, discussion pods and a food court furnished by DP Design. Colourful sofas and armchairs pepper the interiors, creating a cheery and inviting ambience for discussions and study groups. Visible from Clementi Road and the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE), the western façade features a bold red entrance wall that serves as a visual anchor for the campus.
The three blocks were thoughtfully planned to relate to each other as a cohesive whole, with view corridors, layering of programmes and verdant landscaping to encourage connectivity within the entire campus. Through the erasure of boundaries between the inside and outside, the revitalised Ngee Ann Polytechnic campus may be viewed as the architectural manifestation of a flipped classroom – where learning opportunities unfold beyond the four walls.