As early as 1998, the search was on for a permanent site for SMU, which temporarily resided at the Bukit Timah campus location during its first five years. As a management university, SMU needed a central location, and it seemed logical to place it in the Central Business District. Planners turned their focus to the Bras Basah area, where it was recognised that the synergy between SMU and Singapore's commercial world could best be achieved. There was historical precedent also, as the district had been home to key educational institutions for a century-and-a-half.
SMU's campus development in the heart of Singapore was in line with the Singapore government's commitment to business and education and also in accordance with the Urban Redevelopment Authority's vision for the development of the Bras Basah district. On 5 December 1998, the government made a public announcement regarding the campus location, and by June 2000 six architectural firms were shortlisted in the SMU Ubran and Architectural Design Competition. Realising the importance of involving the public in the design of a campus in such a central location, SMU held and exhibition of the shortlisted submissions as means of soliciting feedback form different quarters.
The designers and builders of the campus faced some specific challenges, the main one being that for the first time in Singapore a building was going up right on top an underground railway line the existing North-South line as well as the new Circle Line, to be completed in 2010. Architects also had to grapple with other extraneous factors, hurdles and restrictions construction of a road tunnel at Fort Canning , the realignment of Stamford Road and the existence of buried fibre-optic cables laid by telecommunications companies. There was even accommodation for an archaeological survey of the Bras Basah site to be carried out.
There was furthermore a mammoth effort to preserve the existing landscape and long-standing, mature trees as far as possible. An unprecedented tree-transplanting exercise involved the uprooting and re-planting of several mature trees growing in Bras Basah Park, while other trees were conserved in their original location. Notable in the conservation efforts was the transplanting of a 70-year old, full-canopy 21-metre rain tree with a crown 25 metres in diameter and weighing more than 37 tonnes. Special care was also taken by the contractors with a venerable bodhi tree, a highly sensitive plant and a species particularly significant in Hindu and Buddhist cultures.
On 2 June 2005, a handover of the campus by the main contractor to SMU took place, and on 31 July the university symbolically moved into it new home, in time for the start of the 2005/6 academic year. On 20 January 2006, Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong officially opened SMU's new and permanent campus.
Last updated on 12 Oct 2012.