Philosophy of RP Library: Architecture & Design

Republic Polytechnic’s 20-hectare Woodlands campus has facilities to allow it to cater to students as well as residents of the community. Designed jointly by award-winning Japanese architect, Fumihiko Maki and DP Architects, the Republic Polytechnic is conceived as a campus with a central nucleus of main educational programmes serviced by 5 satellites of ancillary programmes.

The central nucleus contains 11 identical learning Pods (8-9-storeys high) and 1 staff admin hub. These are unified by 2 elliptical decks of common facilities, namely the Lawn and the Agora. The Agora in ancient Greece was a place of public assembly, a forum, marketplace or public square for exchange of information and goods. We are extracting this idea of multi-lateral exchange of information and interaction for the Agora platform. The Agora is envisioned to be a democratic, student oriented and experimental public realm. The Agora encourages cross-disciplinary interaction, which is critical in this Knowledge Age. Located at the heart of the Agora, the Republic Library is central to the RP experience.

RP plan
Library right in the centre of the campus

The Library is divided up into 6 sections and each section is named in Greek as an extension to the Republic’s naming convention. For example, Tekhnë (Greek= art, craft i.e. Technology) spans the Information and Communications Technology. Biôtikos (Greek = of or pertaining to life i.e. Applied Sciences) with its focus on Applied Sciences. Mechanikos (Greek = resourceful, inventive i.e. Engineering) that concentrates on Engineering. Or even Sunthesis (Greek = putting together, composition, combination i.e. Synergy) – where all disciplines find common ground and are challenged to synergise!

In contrast to other libraries, the spaces in RP Library are less structured, so that spontaneous activities can occur. The lack of a fixed structure for spaces is an extension of the design concepts of flexibility and adaptability that is applied throughout the campus. The floor-to-floor height of 4.5m is selected to further to enhance this flexibility and adaptability concept.

Republic Poly Library view from Pharos showing height of library   Republic Poly Library Pharos

An exemplar of the adaptability of space is Pharos (Greek = a peninsula, formerly an island, in the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria, Egypt, and the site of an ancient lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the World). At one of the highest vantage points in the library, Pharos is like a beacon of the library that illuminates and attracts users. Pharos has been a stage for plays, skits and dances and a platform for sharing sessions and talks.
Mason Cooley (1993) could not have put it better when he said ‘Readers transform a library from a mausoleum into many theaters’. Like Cooley, we are excited to see the design concepts come to life in Republic Polytechnic as the campus and library become filled with students and staff who will transform the spaces and make these their own platforms for exchange of information and interaction. 

Visit the Republic Polytechnic website for more information.

Contributed by Ho Yen Wah & Jadely Seetoh