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.

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