Bras Basah Rapid Transit Station / WOHA

© Patrick Bingham
© Patrick Bingham

Architects: WOHA
Location: Bras Basah Road, Singapore
Project Team: Dharmaraj Subramaniam, Esther Soh, Jose Nixon Sicat, Pearl Chee, Pham Sing Yeong, Richard Hassell, Wong Mun Summ
Mechanical & Electrical Engineers: Lincolne Scott Ng Pte. Ltd.
Structural Engineers: Under Main Contractor
Landscape Architects: Cicada Private Limited
Acoustics Consultant: Acviron Acoustics Consultants Pte Ltd
Site area: 8,882 sqm
Project area: 16,289 sqm
Total cost: US $75 M
Project year: 2000-2001
Construction year: 2001-2008
Photographs: Patrick Bingham

© Patrick Bingham © Patrick Bingham © Patrick Bingham © Patrick Bingham

Bras Basah MRT Station was commissioned through the Marina Line Architectural Design Competition jointly organized by the Singapore Land Transport Authority and the Singapore Institute of Architects. The open, anonymous international competition, requiring no track record is acknowledged by the industry as one of the best run competitions held in Singapore to date. The Land Transport Authority continued their commitment to design throughout the project process.

site plan
site plan

Bras Basah MRT station is in the heart of the historic Civic District in Singapore. With a single strategy, the design resolves two conflicting requirements – the very deep station required a visual connection to the exterior to enhance the travel experience for the commuters; while the historic district and park location required a station that disappeared into the landscape. The solution was a station roof that doubles up as a skylight and landscape element – a water covered skylight. Viewed from the park, it is a reflection pool, from the station platform, it is an immense skylight.

The design creates delight for both the commuter and visitor to the civic district. The watergarden reflects the historic buildings, increasing their stature and symbolic importance. The station civil works are on axis with the classical designs of the Art Museum and creates a civic forecourt to the museum, cathedral and library of the Singapore Management University – a consequence of architects leading civil works.

© Patrick Bingham
© Patrick Bingham

The skylight brings light and views deep into the ground, turning a potentially oppressive, labyrinth experience into a clear, direct and exciting journey from the earth to the surface. The visual connection is also important to avoid panic in the case of an emergency underground, with commuters easily seeing how to exit the station. At all times the destination, whether platform or surface, is visible. Piranesi’s “Carceri” prints were an inspiration; the journey into the earth on the long escalators between the massive struts is a dramatic promenade architecturale.

The station complies with Singapore’s strict thermal transmission regulations with a combination of ceramic frits and multiple layers of glass. The water film circulates over the glass, carrying away the heat that rises to the top of the canyon, and releasing it in evaporative cooling as it tumbles over waterfall walls.

The natural light permits the station to be used during the day without artificial lighting.

section 02
section 02

The station void is designed as a huge light reflector, the sloping wall picks up the diffuse skylight and bounces light through huge slots into the adjacent platform space, which is below Bras Basah Road.

All the ventilation shafts are concealed within recessed landscape elements, avoiding any blocking of view lines across the site to the surrounding civic buildings. Landscaped buffer zones prevent exhaust air from the tunnels disturbing passers by.

The design is a unique solution, using civil infrastructure to enhance civic qualities of both the historic buildings and the public spaces in the area. The design creates value for commuters, locals and tourists, giving a true heart to the civic district.

Cite: "Bras Basah Rapid Transit Station / WOHA" 16 Nov 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
  • Ala

    Simple, but ingenious. As always, architectural idea is far more significant than form or form comes naturally when an ingenious idea is executed. These days,a lot of new comers with extraordinary digital skills sometimes fail to generate an architectural idea for their projects. I think, this project is a wakeup call of some sort for them.

  • th

    huh…. ive been in singapore for 4 months and i have never heard or seen this station before. maybe its not open yet? maybe it exists in an alternate universe

    • JJ

      Not open yet, but i sure am looking forward to it!

  • teo

    Dramatic look indeed…
    The massive struts should have been painted white, let’s see what it will look like, when dust will adhere to the black shiny surface. Maybe that’s what they’re going for

  • deziera

    brilliant really respects the surroundings which are historical buildings, especially the opposite they responded by creating an appreciation space for those the pools very much! it really creates an interesting spaces both on the ground level and underground..
    love it!!!

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