Text description provided by the architects. 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.
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 glass 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.
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.
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.