Renovating Campus Green
The two other ones that I personally invested a lot in and is that one, I felt that our Campus Green was not very well used. In fact, it was told to me by many other people that the original idea of putting SMU in the centre of the city was to create a buzz in the city. And people were saying, but we never see anybody on your Campus Green. There is no buzz, they are all underground. And so I took it as a sort of a challenge to respond to people who had actually believed in SMU, in the centre of the city and hoped that it would create a buzz. I took it as a challenge and said what can I do to bring the students above ground? I actually talked a lot to students about why they didn’t get above, and the answers were quite straightforward—that is, there is air conditioning below and there is nothing above. But, actually, more importantly, they basically said look at the Campus Green, it’s very uneven. There’s a little slope from Bras Basah Road to Stamford Road, so you can’t even do really sports on it. As soon as it rains, it is a big mud pool. This is not really a useful Campus Green.
So, as you know, we invested about $20 million in renovating a number of existing buildings and the Campus Green. At the same time, we created a number of study spaces for students, and we revamped a little bit, the library. So it was a whole project of having a second look at our campus, and say, with the experience of six, seven years on the new campus, what can we do differently here? I remember that when I went walking with Mr Sim, who was in that time in charge of operations, among other things, that we went walking through the campus and said, where are their spaces that are unused and what can we do with them?
And so, for example, in the School of Social Sciences and Economics, that particular building, there was an inner garden, sort of an atrium that was never used by anybody. Why not cover it and make it a study space, right? Or turn it into lecture theatres? And we went through the campus, and there was a whole renovation project that had to do with how can we use the square meters that we have—these very expensive square meters that we have here in the centre of the city—how can we use them better? And in that context, we had the whole revamp of the Campus Green.
I am particularly proud of a decision that we took to make sure that the Campus Green was very well-drained. And, as many people will know when they look very carefully, we actually have artificial turf there. Why not grass? Because artificial turf and with good drainage is dry within 30 minutes after a rain. So it can be used, as opposed to become a mud pool. Grass is not necessarily the best thing for a tropic climate. So that’s the second renovation. And it has actually had impact in many different places in the campus. It was a relooking at what we had and say how can we use it better?