By: Mr Tony Tay, Director, Facilities Planning
Years in Duke-NUS: 8.5 years

The Insider (TI): Share with us some of your memories of the Duke-NUS Interim Campus at 2 Jalan Bukit Merah.

Tony Tay (TT): The Interim Campus comprised several single and double-storey colonial buildings nestled in a valley with dense foliage, and Bismarck palm trees lined both sides of the driveway. It was a joy to work in such a quaint and relaxed environment amidst the urbanised city.

Interim Campus at 2 Jalan Bukit Merah (2005 - 2009)

Office Blocks at Interim Campus

Other Facilities at Interim Campus

Back then, there were only about 40 of us.  Everyone was friendly and got on well. We would frequent Silat Road for lunch and, occasionally, had gatherings at the courtyard outside the Large Teaching Hall or in the Common Lounge at Block 1.

Staff gatherings were like big family affairs

TI: You were part of the team that worked on the current Duke-NUS building. Tell us about the process of how this beautiful building came about.

TT: I remembered during my job interview, Prof Patrick Casey showed me the design of the Duke-NUS building. I recognised immediately that this building would transform the architectural landscape of the Outram Campus and I was really excited. When I came on board in 2006, it was just myself and Cheah Li Fook (Duke-NUS’ pioneer staff) in the Facilities Planning department. Our team expanded when Lim Geok Hong and Sandrine Goh joined us the following year. Together, we managed the Interim Campus facilities while working on the new Duke-NUS building.








The Facilities Planning team (2007). From L-R:  Sandrine Goh, Cheah Li Fook, Tony Tay and Lim Geok Hong

College Road before construction, Nov 2006. The Duke-NUS building sits on the site of former King Edward VII Hall & Carpark. Two blocks of the KE7 Hall were demolished.

The first three months were the toughest because we had to resolve many planning and design issues. We had to scrutinise an enormous amount of drawings and specifications for the project tender.

Everyone had high expectations for this building so we wanted a strong project team. Our partners, CPG-Hillier and China Construction were supportive and they put in place a team of architects, engineers and project managers who met our stringent requirements.

Aerial view of the Duke-NUS building site in Sep 2007

Aug 2007: Laying the foundations of the building

May 2008: Duke-NUS new building under construction

Site visit by staff

To redesign the Level 2 TeamLEAD Room, Level 3 LEAD on 3 Learning Room and dry lab rooms to accommodate 72 students (from the initial 50), was a challenge as construction had already started. The changes for the TeamLEAD room were more complicated because the structure was already cast. The TeamLEAD methodology devised by Education Deans Bob and Sandy required more space between the student benches to facilitate student discussions during class, enhance the study environment and maximise room usage for various purposes. 

Despite the many challenges, this building was completed ahead of schedule, and we moved in June 2009. 

The Duke stone from Durham, North Carolina, donated by Duke University, are placed at the entrance of our campus as a fitting tribute to Duke’s first strategic collaboration with Singapore and NUS. 

TI: Over the years, this building has also gone through some changes to help make Duke-NUS more dynamic. Tell us more.

TT: In the original design provisions, there were three sky gardens located on Levels 4, 6 and 8; and two floors of empty spaces along the Principal Investigators’ corridor. These double-volume spaces have since been converted to office spaces such as meeting rooms to cater for our rapid expansion. Just recently, our annex building was completed. 

Our MRI machines, previously located at the Singapore General Hospital’s Block B, has been relocated to our new annex. Other than the MRI Facility, the annex also consists of offices and workstations

TI: As Duke-NUS’ marks its 10th year, what are your hopes and aspirations for the school?

TT: The sky’s the limit. As long as we remain forward looking and do not get complacent, we will accomplish our goals and stay ahead.