University architecture: from cloisters to tutorial pods

Nanyang technological university, singapore / heatherwick studio
Photograph © Hufton & Crow

On a morning in March, Thomas Heatherwick gave a presentation to a packed classroom on the campus of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Two dozen academics and journalists had gathered in Learning Hub, the designer’s latest project, for its grand unveiling. As Heatherwick clicked through PowerPoint slides, televisions mounted on the room’s curved walls flashed with his celebrated projects: the London 2012 Olympic cauldron, the revamped London buses, the proposed Garden Bridge. The circular desks had inbuilt internet ports and plug sockets. There was not a white board in sight.

Learning Hub, designed by Heatherwick Studio and CPG Consultants, a Singaporean developer, seeks to reassert the “role of an educational building in the 21st century”, according to a press release. Since the first students gathered in the cloisters and quads of Oxford in the 11th century, our idea of what centres of higher learning should look like has not changed much (cloisters and quads are often still the ideal). Educational buildings have been designed to a particular function. Students have long needed lecture halls to hear lecturers speak.

But digital technology is bringing sweeping changes to education. University is more expensive and distance learning is flourishing. There are more than 500 Moocs — or massive open online courses — offered by 100 esteemed universities. They range from Poetry in America: Whitman, at Harvard University; to Peking University’s Fundamental Algorithms. Both can be accessed via edX for free. As educators scrabble to digitise teaching methods, architects are considering how buildings can better serve students’ interests. “Now we’ve all got our gadgets and you can stay in bed and get a PhD, what’s university for?” Heatherwick asks. []

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
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About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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