Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Kent Vale Faculty Housing in Clementi Road, Singapore by MKPL Architects Pte Ltd
July 30th, 2013 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: MKPL Architects Pte Ltd
The National University of Singapore (NUS) initiated a competition for the design of faculty housing in July 2007. The new development was an addition to the existing Kent Vale residential development within NUS’s land parcel situated at a prominent location at the gateway to the campus. MKPL’s proposal was the competition winning scheme having met the client’s brief to create an iconic building design for Kent Vale.
In the warm tropical weather like Singapore NUS particularly identified with the strong civic quality of the scheme, adventurous use of high rise greenery and the planning of facilities for faculty members and their families, where the university hopes to promote interaction amongst in a relaxed environment, with the aim of creating a memorable experience for them.
The original brief called for the provision of 400 units, split 50/50 between serviced apartments and standard staff housing. However, as the design progressed, the requirements were adjusted to reflect the projected staff numbers and user feedback from the faculty members. The result was an overall reduction in unit numbers but an increase in space provisions per unit. Being an institutional development frugal governance of funds was paramount.
A number of detailed studies compared the design favourably in comparison to other developments. The project was benchmarked in terms of size and facilities against high-end residential developments but budgeted at the lower to middle end of the market. The design challenge being to align low cost construction with high quality detailing and finish and with no compromise in spatial quality.
As we led the way in proposing sustainable design philosophies the client was gradually brought on board and encouraged to push for a higher standard for sustainable design. All the while this was tempered with the need to manage budget and time constraints. The brief changes and final design inputs were developed over a two year period and were finalised in July 2009.
The final brief resulted in two towers of residential and one tower of serviced apartments with full facilities. The ground floor is dedicated to a slightly more formal setting. Porticos formed by a five or six storey high volume are provided at the ground floor of every apartment block. They are designed to be semi public space, whereby residents can gather or meet just outside the secured zone. These porticos are linked to the communal facilities block through a lushly landscaped garden, complete with reflective pools.
The entire communal facility block is surrounded by a generous double storey high Verandah. A well equipped fitness room, dining room and aerobic fitness suite are some of the facilities that were added to the staff housing estate on top of an existing supermarket and child care centre. The objective is to provide as much opportunity as possible for faculty and their families to mingle and interact, creating their own memorable experience.
PLANNING CONSTRAINTS & FUTURE PROOFING
There were limited planning constraints by the Authorities although the design of the new development must accommodate an existing residential development within the same land parcel. The new development is built on an existing carpark, preserving the open space which is now a playing field. The architect also provided a comprehensive masterplan review of the entire development, inclusive of traffic analysis and connectivity, taking into consideration the existing housing and NUS campus as well.
The proposed masterplan allows for a progressive intensification of the site while ensuring that the new built does not impede the future development. For example, the first phase in the form of a swimming pool and children’s water play ground was added sensitively amongst the existing housing blocks as part of the master plan to upgrading effort to the entire estate. The connecting sheltered walkways so necessary in this tropical climate was realigned and improved to incorporate enhanced accessibility where necessary to ensure that the new and old are blended and connected seamlessly.
SUMMARY OF TIMETABLE
Project commencement (competition) July 2007
The original competition budget was £61,250,000. Due to escalating regional construction costs through 2008 and 2009 this led to a revised estimate of £99,587,000 and was a strong contributor to the delays and revisions required in the first two years of design. Ultimately for careful cost management and strategic design decisions the contract was awarded at £76,403,000 which, given the enhancements to the original brief was deemed an excellent outcome by NUS. The project was ultimately completed within budget.
Principally off-form construction was adopted for all structures relying on precision and quality control of the contractor. The adoption of pre-cast concrete helped to alleviate consistency issues as well as accelerating the construction cycle. Off-site fabrication of screens and glazing modules essentially meant that facade elements were plugged in to the facade and the building envelope quickly took shape.
A modular green wall system facilitated the off-site growth of the high rise greenery which were subsequently launched into position at the tail-end of construction. Internally the use of lightweight concrete panels facilitated a clean work site and further contributed to quality control. The adopted construction methods reduced manpower and enhanced productivity, a particular concern in Singapore which limits construction workforce.
Located at a pivotal landmark standing at the gateway to the existing university campus the National University of Singapore Faculty Housing bridges the realms of domesticity and civic monumentality. The challenge for the architect lay in the melding of distinct uses; firstly a new administrative centre and bold statement of the clients vision for a new campus ideal and, secondly a quiet oasis for residents to interact and enjoy. This was achieved through purposeful and deliberate spatial hierarchy, transitioning from bold public galleries to discreet private spaces sensitive to the human scale
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