Purpose-built over 4.5 hectares of prime Singapore land, SMU's campus is the first of its kind – designed, integrated and constructed in the heart of a fully developed cityscape.
Surrounded by museums, theatres, educational institutions, art galleries, cafés, restaurants and a range of retail outlets, planning and development of the SMU campus involved a broad spectrum of professional, community, civic and public groups who together were intent are on creating a unique city campus directed towards the challenges of the new millennium, and yet connected to the historical origins of this important district.
The campus comprises six buildings – the Administration Building, the Li Ka Shing Library and four buildings to house the six schools. The buildings between Bras Basah and Stamford Roads are fronted by trees, with the park landscape of the Campus Green right in the centre, and have glazed facades shaded by a veil of plants growing at each storey. In January 2014, it was announced that a new School of Law building will be built (see History section, below).
The campus has porous structures that engage the surroundings with open courtyards and free-flowing walkways and allow for an easy and natural integration with activities of the city. The campus design and structure reflect and support the character of SMU's curriculum and its style of teaching.
The SMU campus offers an open environment in the heart of Singapore, with the ground floor of the buildings and the underground Concourse freely accessible to the public. It also has many street-level linkages and has a direct connection to the Bras Basah MRT station beneath SMU's University Square.
As early as 1998, the search was on for a permanent site for SMU, which temporarily resided at the Bukit Timah campus location during its first five years. As a management university, SMU needed a central location, and it seemed logical to place it in the Central Business District. Planners turned their focus to the Bras Basah area, where it was recognised that the synergy between SMU and Singapore's commercial world could best be achieved. There was historical precedent also, as the district had been home to key educational institutions for a century-and-a-half.
SMU's campus development in the heart of Singapore was in line with the Singapore government's commitment to business and education and also in accordance with the Urban Redevelopment Authority's vision for the development of the Bras Basah district. On 5 December 1998, the government made a public announcement regarding the campus location, and by June 2000 six architectural firms were shortlisted in the SMU Ubran and Architectural Design Competition. Realising the importance of involving the public in the design of a campus in such a central location, SMU held and exhibition of the shortlisted submissions as means of soliciting feedback form different quarters.
The designers and builders of the campus faced some specific challenges, the main one being that for the first time in Singapore a building was going up right on top an underground railway line the existing North-South line as well as the new Circle Line, to be completed in 2010. Architects also had to grapple with other extraneous factors, hurdles and restrictions construction of a road tunnel at Fort Canning , the realignment of Stamford Road and the existence of buried fibre-optic cables laid by telecommunications companies. There was even accommodation for an archaeological survey of the Bras Basah site to be carried out.
There was furthermore a mammoth effort to preserve the existing landscape and long-standing, mature trees as far as possible. An unprecedented tree-transplanting exercise involved the uprooting and re-planting of several mature trees growing in Bras Basah Park, while other trees were conserved in their original location. Notable in the conservation efforts was the transplanting of a 70-year old, full-canopy 21-metre rain tree with a crown 25 metres in diameter and weighing more than 37 tonnes. Special care was also taken by the contractors with a venerable bodhi tree, a highly sensitive plant and a species particularly significant in Hindu and Buddhist cultures.
On 2 June 2005, a handover of the campus by the main contractor to SMU took place, and on 31 July the university symbolically moved into it new home, in time for the start of the 2005/6 academic year. On 20 January 2006, Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong officially opened SMU's new and permanent campus.
A new chapter in the success story of SMU and the University’s School of Law began on 20 January 2014, with the ground-breaking ceremony for the School’s own building, which is to be built at the open space between Armenian Street and Canning Rise. The building is expected to be completed by 2017. A key feature integrated into the new building is the Kwa Geok Choo Law Libray, named in memory of the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo, wife of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The 2,600 square metres Law Library will take on a distinct architectural form that is reminiscent of a pearl. It will seat more than 500 people, and will be fully equipped with modern technology and wired for legal research in the 21st century. Also housed within the Law Building will be the David Marshall Moot Court, the SMU Pro Bono Centre and other research centres.
Last updated on 9 Dec 2014.