Beyond a campus on Kent Ridge, NUS is also like a township. Streets, squares, gateways can be found in many places, where students, staff and visitors gather and generate the active university life. What we observed as we researched the site, is that the most engaging and intimate gatherings tend to sprout along alleyways and corridors between destinations. Like great streets in cities where people instinctively gravitate to, we find that one of the most interesting aspect of social life in NUS is how they are scattered along these circulation routes, making them both thoroughfares and communal spaces. These locations are often well-sheltered, buffered by lecture halls, offices or lush landscaping. While they are generally quiet enough to study in, these places are also well-used by passersby, making them vibrant and safe.
We identified these qualities as the characteristics of interstitial spaces. They are logical en route spots to sit down while waiting for the next lecture to start. They offer a sense of security as they are enclosed by surrounding structures and yet are open and flexible enough for multipurpose use. They are comfortable, being under shelter and are located in open, breezy areas. They are inviting and attractive as they are often sited next to lush greenery. The vision is therefore to build upon this familiar setting and create more communal spaces that can further this urban characteristic of the campus.
As a response to the Asian Culture that the FASS and ARI aspire to advocate, we explore a well-know hallmark of the ancient Chinese scholar –琴棋书画– or the Four Arts as the generator of the design concept. This maxim brings together music, chess, calligraphy and painting, skills which are the paramount abilities in the ancient pursuit of culture. They are conceptually used to articulate various aspects of the design, such as form, circulation, spaces, and landscape. The outcome is an architectural composition encompassing the cultural spirit that fulfills the aspirations of an Asian Hub.