Sengkang Riverside Park Centre

Freight Architects

As part of the Singapore Government’s efforts to reinvent and improve early learning spaces, the Early Childhood Development Agency is experimenting with unusual locations for childcare centres. Sengkang Riverside Park is Singapore’s first childcare centre in a park. The National Parks Board stipulated many design criteria for the project and the client (Skool4Kidz) gladly took on the challenge.

The criteria included one-to-one green area replacement and an organic building form. Freight Architects began with the idea of integration and proposed a ‘rolling hill’ concept to merge the building mass with the park. The building adopts a crescent form around an existing park sculpture. The green roof is supported by steel ribs that open up toward the edges and merge into the landscape. The two ends of the hill taper down to reduce the mass while maintaining a very high volume at the central atrium.

The architects wanted this to be an ‘outdoor’ school in a park, and the operator’s curriculum catered to this theme. Classrooms are situated in wings flanking a central atrium park. The central park is fully sheltered but opened at both sides for natural ventilation and daylight. This area provides a garden setting at the entrance zone and accommodates learning activities. The classrooms open out on both sides to wide semi-outdoor corridor spaces for sheltered learning and play. These spaces are for sand/water play and motor-skills training.

Freight Architects approached this project with sustainability and passive design in mind. The building is positioned to minimise the surface area facing the harsh equatorial western sun. Both sides of the hill are opened up for natural ventilation and daylight. As the periphery spaces are semi-outdoors, rainwater does enter certain parts of the building and is collected for irrigation and learning purposes. There are central courts at each wing that form shafts through which hot air can escape the interior. Biodiversity was brought to the green roof with different plant species.

This project is a breakthrough in many respects. It provides a new typology for childcare centres in parks and also a test bed for future childcare innovations in Singapore. The budget and timeline were very tight (12 months from design to completion) and this presented various challenges in terms of design and project management. The design of the steel-framed roof is a response to the site conditions, time and budget. With a large-span shed created first, construction works could later be confined indoors and hence, not delayed by Singapore’s monsoon weather.

Photography: Darren Soh