Considered one of Singapore's best primary schools, Nanyang Primary School dates back about 100 years — and while this history adds gravitas to its reputation, it has also meant that some of its buildings were unable to meet modern educational standards.
These included the hilltop buildings and the Coronation Road Entrance. The large kindergarten building, in particular, had not been positioned and designed in sync with the natural sloping topography of the site from street level up to the hilltop. Instead, it was located on the street and perpendicular to the direction of the slope, thus creating a wall-like, uninviting barrier when seen from the entrance.
This unusable space between the former large-scale buildings, which lacked both character and proportion, formed the starting point of the new design. Commissioned to tackle the redesign, Australian design firm studio505 aimed to create a highly inspirational communal space to showcase active and uninhabited free thinking and bring joy and excitement equally to children and teachers.
The new design needed to be centred on a generous, open and usable communal space that draws advantages from the site's inherent topography. Thus, it was designed around a large and internalised public 'valley', open to the sky but facing away from the residential streets surrounding the school. The newly-created valley is the key space in the project and serves as both the entry and the main orientation device, which guides the direction for visitors through the heart of the school at the top of the hill and into the large open courtyard of King's Road Campus.
Following renovation, Nanyang Primary School's layout is now curved and cannot be seen upon arrival at the Coronation Street entrance; guests need to walk through the 'valley' in order to get a sense of how the school is set out, and its proportions. At the Coronation Street entrance, the design team set up the new kindergarten and indoor sports facilities. Supported by yellow columns, these new facilities are integrated with the composition of the open central valley.
This is an excerpt from the "Walking Through a Rainbow” article from the July/August 2016 issue of Perspective magazine.
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