Singapore campus takes shape

The Yale-NUS campus design aims to integrate elements of Yale’s collegiate style and traditional Singaporean features.
The Yale-NUS campus design aims to integrate elements of Yale’s collegiate style and traditional Singaporean features. Photo by Yale-NUS.

The design of the new Yale-NUS College will incorporate some traditional “Yale” elements and other tropical Singaporean styles in its design.

Plans for the physical plant of Yale-NUS College, the liberal arts college that the University will operate jointly with the National University of Singapore, were unveiled at a Monday morning press conference in Singapore. The campus — designed largely by Yale administrators and architects — combines Singaporean architecture with Yale structures such as the residential college for a hybrid look that is distinctly Yale-NUS.

“The programming imports all of the key elements of Yale, but the aesthetics and appearance are contextualized to Singapore,” University President Richard Levin told the News from Singapore, where he traveled to launch the college. “It’s a interesting hybrid of Singaporean and Ivy League notions.”

Blair Kamin ARC ’84, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune, said that the designs for Yale-NUS show an effort to take the traditional elements of Yale architecture and translate them to a warmer climate and denser city.

“At first blush, it looks like they’re trying to mix traditional Yale quadrangles with a high-rise type that’s comfortable in Singapore,” Kamin, who has never traveled to Singapore, said Monday. “Whether that’s an appropriate marriage is hard to tell, but they are striving to marry these two types.”

The Yale-NUS campus will be located to the north of NUS’s existing facilities. Photos released Monday on the new college’s website show three residential colleges centered around the school’s core facilities. Like Yale’s colleges in New Haven, each of the three residential hubs at Yale-NUS will feature dining halls and classrooms, grouped around an individual quad. The other main facilities include a library, administrative offices and performing arts spaces such as a performance hall, black box theater and arts studios.

Architect Stephen Kieran ’73 of the Philadelphia-based firm KieranTimberlake designed the campus, along with Norman Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Partners in New York and members of Singapore-based Forum Architects.

KieranTimberlake has also led the renovation process for six of the twelve residential colleges on Yale’s campus in New Haven.

Since the beginning of negotiations with NUS, administrators have planned to transplant the residential college model abroad. Since most Yale-NUS students will be housed in high-rises, University President Richard Levin said Yale’s traditional entryway system — a vertical alternative to long hallways — will look slightly different. Each high-rise will contain an elevator that stops at a “sky garden” patio on every third floor, Levin said, creating a system of “vertically stacked entryways.”

Faculty at Yale-NUS will have offices in the residential colleges, and masters and deans will reside there with their families, just as they do on Yale’s campus in New Haven.

Each college at Yale-NUS is designed to hold about 330 students, and will be built around an enclosed quadrangle bordered by a 24 to 26 story high-rise structure, Levin said.

Kamin said students from Asia who have grown up around high-rise buildings will likely be comfortable with the style.

“You have to make it right for the users,” he said.

The colleges at Yale-NUS are neither Georgian — like Davenport and Pierson Colleges — nor neo-Gothic — like Jonathan Edwards, Branford or Saybrook. While the buildings’ elements draw from Yale traditions, their style is more in line with a Singaporean aesthetic. In a March 30 interview with the News, NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan said the campus will be heavily landscaped to fit in with Singapore’s tropical climate.

“The campus will be suitable for the tropics — we’re very big on gardening, trees and so on,” Tan said. “We also want this college to be, within NUS, a campus within a garden.”

Levin added that residential college courtyards at Yale-NUS will have more trees than their Yale counterparts in an effort to create more shade amidst Singapore’s warmer climate.

Still, Yale-NUS is a small campus that will cover just 10.5 acres, and Kamin said the college may lack Yale’s characteristic architectural variety and New Haven’s “scruffiness.”

“My impression of Singapore is that it’s very corporate and clean. I want to see some dirt and some pizza joints,” Kamin said. “I’m not saying it looks sterile, but New Haven has real urban grit and Singapore I think has a reputation of being hyper-clean. A little funkiness could be in order here.”

University Planner Laura Cruickshank traveled to Singapore recently to discuss the plans, Salovey said.

Cruickshank did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Dean of the Architecture School Robert A. M. Stern ARC ’65 — who was not involved with the planning — declined to comment on the Yale-NUS designs Monday evening.

The Yale-NUS campus will enclose 500,000 square feet of building space.


  • weinberger3

    Not clear where the gallows is, from this plan. Or the whipping post.

    More to the point, President Levin’s speech yesterday in Singapore said nothing about academic freedom, unfettered pursuit of the truth, etc. No kind of challenge,even subtle, to Singapore authorities to live up to this gift or mission that Yale has bestowed on them. Just this most banal line — “Just as Singapore Airlines now sets the standard for air travel worldwide, Yale-NUS College aspirs to set a standard for undergradate education throughout Asia.”

    Dreadful stuff.

    Eric Weinberger ’89

  • graduate_student

    Yale is actively colluding with and giving legitimacy to a repressive government that silences free speech, criminalizes homosexuality, mandates the death penalty for drug violations (and has the highest execution rate in the world), and so on. All in the name of a “distinctly new liberal arts curriculum.”

    Levin has presided over Yale’s transformation from a traditional liberal arts college to an international for-profit university.

    Compare the mission statements of various U.S. universities aboard.

    NYU Abu Dhabi:

    >NYU’s agreement with the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to create NYU Abu Dhabi is the outcome of a shared understanding of the essential roles and challenges of higher education in the 21st century: a common belief in the value of a liberal arts education, concurrence on the benefits a research university brings to the society that sustains it, a conviction that interaction with new ideas and people who are different is valuable and necessary, and a commitment to educating students who are true citizens of the world.

    Dartmouth College American University of Kuwait:

    >The American University of Kuwait is committed to creating an enlightened and progressive educational culture in which all students, faculty and staff, regardless of nationality, creed, or position, will co-exist and help create a dynamic and equitable environment. All members of AUK are expected to respect the diverse nature of the AUK community and interact in a manner that is respectful of such, and that supports a commitment to life-long learning and the pursuit of academic excellence in higher education. The University encourages the freedom to engage in academic inquiry, and the fair exchange of ideas, and as such supports open access to and dissemination of information. The University founders uphold the philosophy that one cannot create a true enlightened academic environment without practicing the very virtues and ideals it hopes to instill in its students.

    Then we have Yale-NUS:

    >The collaboration between NUS and Yale is a landmark partnership to create a new model of undergraduate education for Asia. In the fast-changing world of the 21st century, leaders need an education that offers both breadth of learning and depth of understanding. Yale-NUS College will draw on the best elements of liberal arts education from the traditions in the United States, but re-shape and re-imagine the curriculum and collegiate experience for Asia.

    It’s like the difference between an academic and a corporate mission statement.

  • Goldie08

    good information graduate student. Thanks.

    Regarding the NUS – since it looks like there’s no turning back – I’m just going to pretend it doesn’t exist.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Infiltrate and subvert (with the Orient’s lust for the Occidental Yale prestige)

  • sabj

    Excellent stuff @graduate_student, thanks for highlighting that comparison.

    On a more practical note… what’s up with these designs? The print version of the YDN had more pictures, including those which showed what looked like quite tasteful gardens surrounded by bland, almost windowless buildings. I could (possibly) swallow the notions of vertical high rise entryways and “sky gardens,” but some of the libraries and dining halls seems really drab…

    Where’s the typical Yale attention to LEED-type certification, if Singapore is footing the bill? More importantly, what kind of ridiculous statement is it to call these “a hybrid look that is distinctly Yale-NUS” …? The only real Yale elements seem to be quadrangles, dining halls, libraries… which are common to quite a few places outside New Haven, too.

  • rr22

    I’ve been to Singapore and let me tell you, homosexuality is alive and well there.