Heatherwick Studio completes Singapore-based Learning Hub

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Learning Hub makes up just part of a £360 million (roughly US$541 million) redevelopment of Nanyang Technological University (Photo: Hufton and Crow)

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Frank Gehry's brilliantly bizarre paper bag is sure to be the wackiest education building we'll see this year. But Britain's Heatherwick Studio might deserve second place with its recently-completed Learning Hub, which serves 33,000 students at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Learning Hub is part of a £360 million (roughly US$541 million) redevelopment of Nanyang Technological University. Likened by Dezeen to a big bunch of parsnips, the brutalist building is certainly an oddity, and comprises 12 interconnected concrete towers which rise to eight stories, and contain a total floorspace of roughly 14,000 sq m (150,000 sq ft). Its unusual form derives from an effort to encourage collaborative learning.

"Instead of the traditional format of an educational building with miles of corridors linking box-like lecture rooms, the university asked for a unique design better suited to contemporary ways of learning," says Heatherwick Studio. "With the digital revolution allowing learning to take place almost anywhere, the most important function of this new university building was to be a place where students and professors from various disciplines could meet and interact with one other."

An abundance of greenery helps soften the main structure's exterior (and make the parsnip comparison even more accurate), and in a bid to bring some life into an otherwise bland concrete staircase and elevator cores, the firm commissioned some 700 educationally-inspired drawings which were cast into the concrete. These overlapping images are intended to spark the imagination of onlookers.

Lead architect Vivien Leong of CPG Consultants was responsible for Learning Hub's sustainability, and considering Singapore's hot and humid climate, it's quite impressive that the building doesn't require any air conditioning. The large atrium promotes air circulation around the towers and naturally cools the students within, while individual rooms are cooled with silent convection fans.

Learning Hub was awarded Green Mark Platinum status by the Building and Construction Authority Singapore, the body's highest possible environmental standard for a building of its type.

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