Come 2014, a grand ‘pre-historic’ boulder-like structure will rise alongside the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music and National University of Singapore (NUS) Museum on NUS’ Kent Ridge campus.
This will be Singapore’s first purpose-built natural history museum – the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum – which “succeeds” the Faculty of Science’s Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. This museum, which saw an outpouring of public interest and generous gifts from the Lee Foundation as well as corporations and individuals, will be home to more than 500,000 rare Southeast Asian animal and plant specimens, some dating back to the 1840s. The museum, spanning 8,500 sq m, will also be home to Singapore’s first dinosaur family – three of the largest animals ever to walk the earth.
On the occasion of the museum’s groundbreaking ceremony, Mr Mok Wei Wei, Managing Director of W Architects, talks about what the visitor can expect – from a sea-cliff façade to a mangrove swamp and eco-friendly features.
What drew the company to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum?
W Architects has a long-standing interest in heritage issues involving the built and the natural. To be able to design the home and showcase for this precious tropical collection is a privilege.
Could you share your design philosophy for this project?
The iconic form of the building was not conceived out of a desire to create a striking form, but actually generated from the thorough understanding of the internal programme and needs of the building.
The project called for minimum daylight penetration as it is highly specific as a vessel for the storage and exhibition of specimens. This resulted in a windowless building. The building’s façade in the form of a geological allegory of a rock was a natural progression during the course of design conceptualisation.
An important consideration was the need to create a common platform for the building to sit on and link to the adjacent Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music and NUS Museum. The new natural history museum is to establish itself with the two neighbouring buildings as the cultural hub of the NUS campus.
What is the visitor experience that you are looking to achieve?
We aim to create a multi-sensory experience of sight and sound for visitors.
From afar, the strong iconic form of the museum will attract people while the windowless façade will conjure a sense of curiosity about what lies within.
Before entering the building, visitors will experience the external plaza through a series of landscape features such as an imposing sea-cliff on the façade of the building and an intimate courtyard overlooking a mangrove swamp.
As one finally enters the exhibition hall, attention will be drawn to the fantastical world of the museum’s exhibits.
Tell us about the museum’s unique features.
The boulder-like structure with its raw concrete finish creates a sense of the natural world, setting itself in contrast to the more modern ‘glass and steel’ aesthetic of the neighbouring Yong Siew Toh Music Conservatory of Music and NUS Museum.
The integration of landscape features with the architectural design creates interesting spaces such as the sea-cliff planting on the building façade, the mangrove swamp courtyard and the beach terrain at the rear of the building.
The plants featured are mostly native and will be arranged thematically throughout the building. The selection of plants is based strictly on the actual environment they inhabit, thus creating a landscape that is both visually appealing and educational.
It is an eco-friendly building.
The intrinsic nature of a windowless building reduces the total heat absorbed within the building compared to a conventional glazed building. This reduces the cooling load and energy required for the air-conditioning of the building.
The landscaping seeks to re-introduce green back to the site through four different landscape features – the sea-cliff, mangrove courtyard, beach and phylogenetic garden.
The building is equipped with a rainwater-harvesting tank that can irrigate the landscape features for up to three days.
Green-labelled products such as paint, carpets, artificial turfing and composite timber will be used.
For information on making a gift to the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research/Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, please visit http://rmbr.nus.edu.sg/buildingfund/index.html.
For information on making a gift to NUS, contact us at 1800-DEVELOP (1800-338-3567) or firstname.lastname@example.org.