Built to attract the world’s top researchers, Singapore’s lush and bright CREATE campus is
designed to foster the entire innovation process.
Discounting its size and population, Singapore is one of world’s most productive and technologically advanced countries. For years, the
small island nation has been emblematic
of the growth of research, innovation, and
enterprise in South Asia.
Already home to several highly rated
research universities, Singapore, in the
last decade, has sought opportunities to
bolster its capabilities by organizing a truly
international research facility, one that
would draw leaders in science and engineering and form the heart of an influential and long-lasting research campus.
The Campus for Research Excellence
and Technological Enterprise, or CREATE, was conceived about a decade ago.
After a six-year process of design and
construction, it is now one of Asia’s leading research sites, able to eventually host
more than 1,000 researchers investigating anything from micromachines to the
future of urban life. Yet, CREATE is more
than just a site for international teams to
collaborate. The campus, in addition to
its sustainability and ecological goals, is
ultimately designed to stimulate the commercialization process as much
as the innovation process; the National Research Foundation (NRF) has
a vested interest in seeing practical, marketable technologies emerge from
CREATE’s shiny—and jungle-covered—walls.
For its ambitious aims, and for a project that embodies the best of
modern laboratory design, R&D Magazine’s judges have selected CREATE,
owned by the National Research Foundation of Singapore and designed
by Perkins+Will, San Francisco, as its 2013 Laboratory of the Year.
Chen, advisor to the National Research
Foundation and the chairman of the
CREATE Master Planning and Development Committee.
To help rationalize what could become
dozens of different research organizations operating on campus, the types
of work are expressed through research
“themes”. The five themes are organized
as systems, says Lui: human, urban, environment, energy, and “system of systems”.
Researchers working in the same theme
are encouraged to collaborate with the
sharing of common research facilities,
conference facilities, and social spaces.
“As laboratories will change with time,
the laboratory spaces must be designed
for easy and rapid reconfiguration. This
is facilitated by having large, column-free
spaces and highly modular service elements,” says Lui.
Despite CREATE being NRF’s first
major construction project, the agency
had a well-established vision of what they
wanted to achieve through the facility.
They relied on Perkins+Will to help that
goal, which is to house a wide variety of
different research types in the same type of space, yet foster a collaborative,
interdisciplinary work environment.
“The laboratory would be located just across the highway from the main
campus. The design was intended so that CREATE could be recognized from
anywhere on the campus. People would be able to locate themselves in relation to this building. It was designed to draw people in,” says Rachel Lee, senior
associate at Perkins+Will and senior project architect for the CREATE project.
The project was divided by laboratory type. The wet laboratories were
to be concentrated east of what would become an expansive, unifying
town plaza. As the project took shape, the profile of the buildings became
clear: narrow, to allow significant light to stream in. The East Lab buildings, which contain the wet laboratories, are narrow and range from five to
seven levels. The lower building height and smaller footprints relieve the
ground plane and help permit the flow of natural light and views out onto
landscaped gardens in between. The gardens in the town plaza are conceptual transformations of the natural jungle hillside to the east. Looking
west from the center of the campus, the 16-story main tower contains dry
laboratories and public spaces, and is a composition of three slipped narrow modules sitting above a two-story podium west of the town plaza. The
West Tower features large open gardens composed within its central shaft.
All told, the buildings encompass more than 68,000 m2.
The Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) is divided into two key sections: the 16-story primary tower housing the dry laboratories, and the three narrow bar
buildings to the east housing the wet laboratories. The wealth of
greenery is meant to evoke the jungle-like forests of the tropics.
A transformable laboratory