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National Universityof Singapore 

Richard Turlington Architects assisted Pelli Clarke & Partners Pelli in the design, coordination, documentation, and on-site construction observation for Yale University's 680,000 sf education project in Singapore. The politically charged project was a new flagship endeavor for Yale--and it had to be done right. Functionally, the result was an entirely new campus for 1,000 students and staff that is 4 city blocks large and includes:

  • 5 new 20+ story towers for student dorms

  • 3 independent colleges

  • New classrooms, labs, and an arts complex with a 300-seat auditorium

  • Sports and Library complex including a penthouse apartment for the President

  • 3 dining halls and independent commercial kitchens ​

From a holistic design perspective, the campus is layered horizontally with substantial emphasis and detail invested in the 3-story podium. Layering the floors defined the scale of the campus at a human level through an extensive use of open colonnades, which are common in Singapore. The 3 independent colleges were established via 3 exterior courtyards which act as secure outdoor spaces for gatherings, much like the design strategy for Yale’s New Haven campus. Exterior walkways look into the courtyards and promote visual connection between staff and students that transcends the normal double-loaded corridors typical of higher education institutions in the US.

The student living towers incorporated extensive greenery including trees and climbing vines. The 3-story, open-air terraces promote the free-flowing passage of air and cooler buildings, a common design approach for other contemporary buildings in Singapore. At Yale-NUS, this is an especially effective design because the open terraces encourage informal student gatherings, enhancing the campus community’s culture.

Richard Turlington Architects’ most important contribution to this project was mediating the needs of 3 clients: Pelli Clarke & Partners, upper management of Yale University, and upper management of the National University of Singapore. We worked hard to maintain the collaborative spirit needed for this magnificent structure to come to life.

We worked through an evolving program and design phase for 4 years while simultaneously preparing construction documents. This is every architect's nightmare because the fast-flowing evolution of designs doesn't mesh with slower construction documentation efforts. Our team’s work serving clients, users, and consultants scattered around the world resulted in 1,000 sheets of working drawings in only 16 weeks. While this effort was unfolding, RTA spent extensive time in Singapore becoming familiar with local means and methods of construction. We  also visited similarly scaled projects and met with local subcontractors, cost surveyors, and material vendors to ensure our drawings were specific to local construction practices and responsive to the environment, given that Singapore is on the equator.


Richard Turlington remained on-site during the 30-month construction phase. There were often more than 1,000 builders on-site, so we focused on maintaining the project’s design intent, answering construction questions immediately, and promptly replying to all requests for information and submittals. Our extensive on-site construction experience allowed us to control costs while mitigating the consultants’ daily coordination conflicts. As a result, change orders totaled only 6% of the construction costs. Given the fast-tracked schedule, this is an incredible accomplishment. We are very proud of our team’s efforts in this prominent and noteworthy project.

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