The design of the A&A at Nanyang Girls’ High School (NYGH) runs in parallel to Singapore’s narrative and identity as a nation at the crossroads of the East and West, and traditional and contemporary or ‘modern’. NYGH is known for its education being rooted in Chinese culture, and its adherence to traditions developed since its founding days. In the larger context that the school is a part of, the social structure in Singapore is similarly grounded on age-old Chinese beliefs and practices. At the same time, both are forward thinking in their visions for the future and hopes for their citizens. The extension of NYGH saves as a concrete evidence of its brand and identity moving ahead to understand the changing nature of education, keeping up with global standards on pedagogy whilst creating a dialogue within the local and regional educational communities.
As each year passes, there will be an increased discussion on how we should converse, architecturally, with older buildings - both heritage-listed and otherwise. In A&As, there is always an interesting tension between the new and the old. When considering the possible strategies to address the brief, it was apparent that the architectural approach should not be one that emulates the old, subservient to the legacy of the iconic institution. Neither should the existing school complex fade away, being simply the backdrop for the new extension. What we opted for instead, was a synergistic relationship between the old and the new – a duet performing in sync and in harmony. We hope that NYGH serves as a successful sample of one approach to a dialogue between new and old structures for a maturing institution and nation.
The key aim of our design, beyond meeting functional requirement, was to provide students with generous and pleasant spaces for social and creative interaction and development. With its completion, there is an increase in outdoor spaces, and an improved relationship with the surrounding environment. The undulating greens cape not only reinstated the green field that was there before but also created a more interesting landscape to support a variety of activities. Architecturally, it ties all the different functional requirements of the brief in one neat and cohesive gesture.
The new, more vibrant design of architecture and landscape has encouraged and empower students to take ownership of their surroundings. We have seen students appropriating spaces as they see fit in the nooks and crannies resulting from the extension. In addition, flexible room configurations were planned, together with different scales and varieties of breakout spaces for a vast range of activities and interactions to take place.
These facilitate the current understanding of pedagogy and the renewal of outdoor education philosophy, a far cry from the introverted learning spaces that has been proven not to be effective. With the new NYGH, classrooms are extended to the outdoors, and learning is no longer confined to four walls, creating an enhanced school-going experience, and making learning and teaching a much more engaging process.