Chung Meng Ker
Tan Kok Hiang
Public Works Department
Hospital Planning Consultant: McConnell Smith & Johnson, Australia
Main Contractor: Ssangyong Engineering & Construction Co Ltd
Structural Engineer: Public Works Department
M & E Engineer: Public Works Department
Quantity Surveyor: Public Works DepartmentSite Area: 4.8 ha
Site Coverage: 56.3 %
Plot Ratio: 1 : 2.23
Gross Floor Area: 107,033.54 sq m
the practice won a competition for the redevelopment of the old Kandang
Kerbau Hospital in Singapore. The project has a chequered history. The
original plan was to demolish the old hospital and to build a replacement
Maternity Hospital on the same site. Subsequently, a decision was made
to add a Children's Hospital. Then, in a surprising turn of events, the
competition jury's verdict was overturned and the commission was given
to the Public Works Department (PWD). At Tay Kheng Soon's request, Mr
S Dhanabalan, the Minister for National Development, intervened and a
compromise was worked out whereby the design work would be done by Akitek
Tenggara and the hospital design consultants McConnell Smith and Johnson,
with the Public Works Department (PWD) as Principal Co-ordinator carrying
out the post-contract administration.
In the design of the hospital, the practice was in its element. The project
was fraught with morphological problems derived from site limitations,
density of floor space to be accommodated and height constraints.
There was an extensive site selection process once it was decided that
the hospital could not be located in the grounds of the existing hospital
where it was originally planned to be. With the addition of a children's
hospital to the overall brief, a new site had to be found. Numerous preliminary
spatial studies had to be undertaken to exhaust the possible sites. Eventually
the client settled for a 4.8 ha. site, close to its original location,
at the junction of Kampong Java Road and Bukit Timah Road.
Settling the brief onto the site presented another challenge. A height
limitation of 8 storeys for the ward blocks imposed a restriction on floor
heights to 4.2m which made the detailed design and co-ordination of interior
planning onerous. These challenges obviously called for a novel approach.
Akitek Tenggara, the architectural design consultants for the project,
took the lead in the generation of the Master Plan, in consultation with
McConnell Smith and Johnson (MSJ), the hospital consultants. The PWD as
project co-ordinator played a significant part in liaising with the end-users
and the client.
Though they had not designed a hospital previously, Akitek Tenggara's
grounding in morphological studies enabled them to zoom in and out between
micro and macro design issues to find the optimum geometry for the layout,
taking a fresh view but with the constant support of expert consultants.
The architect's morphological expertise was further demonstrated in the
decision to implement the race-track plan form for the wards. Its inherently
large perimeter length allows for better lighting and ventilation compared
to, say, a triangular ward-plan configuration favoured by some hospital
planners. Morphological understanding is believed by Akitek Tenggara to
be the central requirement in archi-tecture for through its mastery, all
the other variables and contingencies can be arrayed.
The decision to cluster the support services with the diagnostic and operating
thea-tres in the centre of the overall plan-form was an important strategic
decision around which all the other planning issues subsequently revolved.
The elevator cores emanating from this central mass is able to efficiently
connect the two halves of the hospital.
The simplicity and legibility of the plan form stems from this decision.
The centrality of the plan arrangements led to the arrangement of the
ward blocks in relationship to the core, allowing each a separate identity.
The proximity of the children's and women's ward blocks permitted a series
of sky bridges to span between the blocks, adding functional connectivity
for hospital personnel.
Urban design considerations are not normally present at this stage of
a hospital design process, which essentially involves hospital specialists
and departmental heads, unless the site in question is vested with guidelines
already established by the city planners. In this case, no such guidelines
existed prior to the initiation of the design process on the site. Akitek
Tenggara exercised its own urban design considerations in relation to
the context. These suggested a pulling back of the building masses away
from the traffic junctions around the site to create legible nodal spaces
at the road traffic junctions and to reduce the impact of building mass
when viewed from perimeter approaches.
Accommodating the specialist consultation rooms and dispensary and other
admi-nistrative rooms suggested a series of large depth floor plates.
These were composed logically into a compact 4-storey podium. The multitude
of rooms was organised around a primary circulatory, top-lit corridor
system. An important architectural decision was made to taper the tiered
podium edges. This was also suggested by urban design considerations.
It is also intended to sweep the viewer's eye upwards from the surrounding
green space, to achieve a gentle merging of the building with the landscape.
The incorporation of taut-edged pre-cast concrete shading blades supported
by an elegant concrete bracketing system articulated the tiered design
in a visual dialogue with the metal shading devices and window system
of the ward blocks above.
The circular ends of the ward blocks were both an urban design consideration
and an expressive architectural device to create an aesthetic of line
and edge with continuity around the block. It was also inherited from
the original competition-winning design. The recessing of the lower floors
at the end of the blocks allowed their articulation by soaring columns
which act as a vertically linking element between the podium and the towers.
In terms of the visitor and patient sequence of entry, the centralised
individual elevator cores which are spaced apart on the axis of the building
mass, naturally result in the location of the main lobby and its logical
bifurcation into the two separate lobbies for the women's and children's
hospitals. Legibility was the prime concern. MSJ's idea of separating
ambulant and non-ambulant patients was put to good effect in the upper
and lower level lobbies. Ambulant patients use the upper and non-ambulant
the lower lobby.
An entrance water feature, visible from both lobbies, provided general
visual transparency of one level to the other and avoided any confusion.
The hospital was eventually completed in 1997 and despite the separation
of project responsiblities, the clarity of the design by Akitek Tenggara
has been realised. The project takes the notion of Line, Edge and Shade
to a new level of sophistication. The façade is designed as a sun-breaker
system using lightweight metal louvres and maintenance gangways. The effect
is of a skeletal line and edge aesthetic in
contrast to the main building structure. In addition to serving a functional
purpose, the horizontal louvres and baffles are visually exhilarating.
therefore has arrived at a nexus where it no longer just 'commodity firmness
and delight' that is important. Architecture has become instrumental again.
At last architecture has a clear cultural purpose!"
Tay Kheng Soon