The Singapore Management University (SMU) is a city campus, situated in the heart of Singapore’s civic, cultural and business district. The new SMU School of Law (SOL) building was constructed on the site of the former National Library at Stamford Road near Fort Canning Park—in close proximity to the National Museum—and commissioned for operations in January 2017. A central component of the new building is the Kwa Geok Choo Law Library. The other components include a 1400-seater flexi-theatre called SMU Hall, teaching facilities (seminar rooms, classrooms, lecture theatre, etc.), moot court, pro-bono clinics and research centres.
MKPL Architects won the design competition for the new SMU SOL building—which was held in September 2011—with its emphasis on integration, inspiration and innovation. The project is envisaged to be a progressive and innovative building with flexible teaching spaces in collaborative settings to support and foster interdisciplinary work, intellectual exchange and social interaction. It also provides an opportunity to reflect innovation in learning and create a vibrant learning environment that builds a strong community. Located within a historically prominent district of Singapore, the SOL has become a distinctive landmark with a strong civic presence, embracing the greenery from Fort Canning Park while retaining the key essence of the SMU City Campus. The crystalline library dome, designed porosity and hybrid ventilation strategies capture the pursuit for social and environmental sustainability.
The SOL wing is expressed as a rectilinear form, edged against Fort Canning Link with a strong presence on Armenian Street. The architectural character is sympathetic to the immediate context of the shophouses, while interpreting its familiar tradition in a fresh way. The façade has a modern colonnaded expression, giving the building a civic presence. The faculty level of SOL hovers above as a projecting cantilevered bar, suggesting a bold and inventive spirit.
The library dome serves as a strong visual and spatial anchor for the SOL and acts as a key interface with Stamford Green. The crystalline enclosure of the dome provides a fitting interpretation of a contemporary library, transparent and open, signalling SMU’s active engagement with both the patrons and the public. The law library is the ‘inspirational heart’ of the campus expressed as a sculptural form, an ‘inspirational beacon’ floating above the activity plaza, symbolising a ‘moral compass’.
The design of the façade, the glass dome in particular, is a key element in the design. To this end, finding the right partners to develop the design into a constructible element was paramount. The façade was split into two elements: the library dome and the main school façade. The façade was fabricated in Thailand and China respectively. Façades were mocked up in Singapore (both on-and off-site) and, in the case of the dome, the structure was fully assembled off-site to verify its assembly before delivery to the site. This ensured that such a key element could be erected without delay and to the required quality.
The steel truss was another key element of the design. Having taken the decision to deliberately expose the structure, it was essential that the finished quality of the trusses be of the highest quality. To achieve this, the trusses were fabricated in large sections and fully finished off-site in Malaysia, and were transferred to the site at night to be hoisted into position.
The trusses themselves were fully finished with intumescent paint before leaving the factory, with only localised connections needing to be reworked on-site, saving time and maintaining quality through minimal on-site works.
Height control was a significant constraint on the building design. Given the height control imposed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) due to proximity to Fort Canning Park, the building was effectively reduced to two storeys at the Stamford Green entrance. This pressed the building into the terrain. Given the dense footprint required for the building, it was an architectural challenge to accommodate the space programme with limited floor to floor and a relatively narrow site. This was resolved via careful coordination of the structures, mechanical and electrical (M&E), as well as space planning requirements.
The design of the substructure needed to account for the sensitive structures of the Fort Canning Tunnel and the shop houses along Armenian street. In particular, there were measures taken during construction to closely monitor the impact on the Peranakan Museum, which housed a number of artefacts that were sensitive to vibration. The proximity to Stamford Green both presented a challenge and an opportunity. Site boundary constraints restricted the development at grade, but there is subterranean extension of the building footprint below. In fact, the building also sits directly under a realigned drainage reserve that was required to be diverted around the new development. This necessitated careful planning of the basement construction and overall construction sequence so as not to hamper the works.
Project Name: SMU School of Law
Location: 55 Armenian Street, Singapore
Completion Date: December 2016
Site Area: 7,253 square metres
Gross Floor Area: 23,350 square metres
Building Height: 5/6 storeys and 2 levels of basement; 24.5 metres
Owner: Singapore Management University (SMU); Sundar Selvam (Director); Shantul Malviya (PM)
Dean: Associate Professor Goh Yihan
Architecture Firm: MKPL Architects Pte Ltd
Principal Architects: Siew Man Kok (QP); Catharina Bonang
Interior Design Firm: MKPL Architects Pte Ltd
Principal Designer: Siew Man Kok (QP)
Civil & Structural Engineer: Meinhardt Singapore Pte Ltd
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: AECOM Singapore Pte Ltd
Quantity Surveyor: Rider Levett Bucknall (LLP)
Lighting Consultant: Lighting Planners Associates (S) Pte Ltd
Landscape Architect: STX Landscape Architects
Environmentally Sustainable Design/ Façade/Fire Consultant: Arup
Main Contractor: Kajima Overseas Asia Pte Ltd
Interior Fit-Out Contractors: Sunray Woodcraft Construction Pte Ltd; Son Heng Interiors Pte Ltd