The Stephen Riady Centre is located on the southwest corner of the National University of Singapore (NUS) University Town, facing the internal vehicular ring road. The centre aims to establish a strong identity for the university while addressing the catchment from the central pedestrianised town green area. It provides 21,600sqm of space for students, allowing for a plethora of facilities including a student centre, sports halls, theatres, offices, shops and a restaurant on the first storey; a gymnasium, music practice rooms and classrooms on the second storey and a swimming pool, music library and multi-purpose hall on the third storey.
Previously a golf club with several old trees, the nature of the site drove the evolution of the design proposal. Respectful of the scale of the town green, a simple three-storey volume was adopted. The centre offers an open, inviting campus passage on the ground plane, accessible by all. The central space has been carved out to create an area for congregation, or forum, that connects the various functions designed on the ground plane – a modern take on the ancient Roman place of gathering and discourse. The internal space was further defined by two main circulation spines. At the intersection of the spines, the forum has been shaped to encourage meeting, interaction and discussion. It not only offers an area for temporary exhibitions, events and concerts, but also facilitates direct pedestrian connections with the town green.
A blend of architectural and sustainable strategies was adopted to effectively reduce the impact on the site. The design concept was a response to the site sloping gently down towards the south. The slope has been expressed as two stacked pedestrian walkways, which create a visual connection between different levels. Students can get a view of activities happening across the openings and be encouraged to interact and meet. The design delivers a new type of pedagogical space which inspires spontaneous learning in the classroom as well as in public spaces. Here, the generous landings of the stairs have been shaped to foster meet-ups and consultations. Natural air and light fill the exposed interior spaces while from the outside, visitors are treated to scenes of the centre kept abuzz with movement and student activity.
The Stephen Riady Centre has been recognised for the various passive environmental strategies driving its design, having been awarded the BCA Green Mark Platinum rating for its achievement in sustainable design. Inspired by the longhouses of Sarawak in East Malaysia, the sloped aluminium roof with a substantial overhang provides shade to reduce solar loads. The sports halls on the first floor also adopt a similar architectural and environmental strategy. Facing the west is a large roof with a long overhang that descends to a low level, warping downwards and doubling up as the façade. The overhang of the roof addresses the sun on the west side to reduce the strongest solar gain. The glazed north and south façades provide views and allow light to stream into the building, decreasing overall energy consumption.
Another unique feature in this project is the undulating wall that serves as a dynamic backdrop for ceremonies – an interesting design combining light and shadow, colours and movement. The wall generates different patterns as the sun moves through the day, creating a continually changing appearance. The materials of the interiors were also meticulously chosen to support and help embody the design idea. For example, random-paving patterns were used for the flooring to reflect the dynamism of the space.
The roof has five large glazed skylights, and these generous openings serve as lungs that filter natural light beautifully into the space. They also provide direct connectivity with the outside world by showcasing the changing intensity and colour of the sky.
By utilising spatial strategies, the Stephen Riady Centre employs an architecture which strives to create a more spontaneous and intimate learning environment both responsive and sensitive to its environment. It offers students opportunities for discovery and interaction within a diverse array of dynamic spaces.