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Fitting out a campus in a heritage listed building

When EHL got the keys for their Singapore campus, focus quickly turned to finding furniture that allowed for versatility for students and administration.



BY Jarrod Reedie

6 May, 2021


Founded in 1893 as a school to train professional hotel staff, the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) has evolved over the centuries to become a worldwide leader in tertiary tourism and hospitality education. Headquartered in Lausanne Switzerland, EHL is ranked in the top position by QS World University Ranking for Hospitality and Leisure Management, and holds a globally recognised portfolio of specialised business and education units, that offers more than a century of hospitality and service expertise to provide individuals a step up in their career as well as their organisations a competitive edge.

In the recent past, EHL has looked to expand its horizons, in the form of a new campus. The group settled upon Singapore as the ideal location for the university, due to its opportunistic location, high-end luxury hotel chains and Michelin-star restaurants.

Kinloss House — a former boarding school for the children of British soldiers during wartime periods — has been transformed into EHL’s latest campus. Working in conjunction with architectural practice Lacellula Asia, interior specialists Atelier Oi and German furniture icon Brunner, EHL was able to construct a functional campus within the confines of heritage-listed building restrictions and a desire for the character of the building to remain, despite the restoration.

A modern institution in a heritage building

For an education facility of its calibre, the 2,400 square metre EHL Campus (Singapore), set on 1.9 hectares of land, is on the small side, and so the use of space was imperative to the design process. Jenny Ang, the Managing Director of the campus says, the plan was for the space to coexist with what had come before.

“Space constraints within a heritage building where modifications are strictly controlled were major challenges. We wanted to make sure that we could accommodate as many students as possible, while providing them with a high-standard learning environment. The approach was therefore to rejuvenate the building, optimise the space usage for learning activities and, to equip it with technologies enabling blended learning and online collaboration between our campuses.”

The consideration that goes into the composition of an interior space, let alone the interior of an education facility, is intensive. Deep thought must be given to the feel of a particular room, hall or space, and while there must be enough furniture to accommodate students, the space must not feel cluttered or overcrowded to ensure student study time and downtime is uninterrupted. As Ang explains, the choice for furnishings was straightforward.

“Brunner is already a partner for our campus in Lausanne. This was important in terms of collaboration and trust in their product, but also to ensure the continuity of the look and feel on both our campuses. The furniture of Brunner is durable, well thought for modern working/learning environments and modular.”

Designing for flexibility

Brunner’s study tables have integrated electricity sockets, USB connections and intimacy panels that can be easily flipped and moved around. Study pods were also installed, as well as movable chairs and adjustable laptop tables, which enabled Atelier Oi to optimise the common areas for learning activities, whether it be in groups or individually. Through the choices in furniture made available to the university by Brunner, EHL was able to increase their cafeteria capacity to 150, nearly doubling the original capacity of 80.

Gabriel Ng from Lacellula Asia says the project was simple in objective, but difficult in execution. Thankfully the options made available by Brunner, available in a range of colours, materials and finishes alleviated some pressure.

“The fundamentals of the idea towards the project was simple, the site has a historic background, our idea was to modernize the colonial building without damaging the essence of its charms,” he says.

“EHL Campus (Singapore) was a unique job for us because of its location and nature, it was meant for a different purpose when it was built initially, now we had to accommodate more people and yet allow them to be well accustomed to the new environment. As a result, people and traffic flow suddenly became our new concern.”

“With Brunner, we were successfully able to designate spaces to people, with these pockets, the isolation/intimate corners allow the people to function in a unique way.”

Brunner’s Universal A-chair, as well as furniture in the Crona range were all used within the furnishing process, to complement the tables and study pods set down by Atelier Oi. The fruitful relationship between Brunner and EHL was already established, but furthered by the work completed on the EHL Campus (Singapore).

“EHL and Brunner have two key values in common: a commitment to premium quality and a focus on outstanding service. For us, it’s all about the customers and that shines through in our interactions with them and the products we offer them. We set high standards for ourselves and the way we act towards our staff, our stakeholders and the environment,” says Simon Gisler, Director of Marketing for Brunner Group.

“Brunner has decades of experience in creating furniture solutions for the education sector. Combine that with our ongoing commitment to putting our customer’s requirements at the heart of all we do, and you’ve got the recipe for customer project success. On top of that, we have extremely high standards for our products here at Brunner. We work on the basis of maximum flexibility, durability and a timeless design, with a focus on the latest techniques and sustainability at the production stage.”

A perpetual story

The short courses currently being run at the campus have allowed EHL to gain feedback before the first intake of students descend upon the university later this year. Feedback has been positive, with the furniture suitable for study and integrating seamlessly into learning and leisure spaces.

Atelier Oi’s Aurel Aebi, who was tasked with designing the interior, had to jump through the hurdles of a pandemic and a compacted campus facility. The final product is a design that acknowledges and respects the past life of the building, but has it ready-made for the future.

“For us it is crucial to find and identify the spirit of an existing building and space, to avoid placing a new story, but to continue telling the story in a contemporary way. The pandemic created changing needs during the development process, which forced us to react fast and smartly to the changing circumstances, for instance in regards to the need to remote working,” he says.

“We very much appreciate Brunner products’ variety and flexibility in regards to typologies, surfaces, materials and colours, which helps address all different types of specific requirements.”

“Brunner was able to find furniture typologies and solutions that combine functionality and aesthetics, without a trade-off. Such as to solve practical space problems by being able to stack chairs or tilt / assemble tables, granting high flexibility without loss in aesthetics.”

EHL’s new campus in Singapore opened at the former Kinloss House in January 2021 and is currently running a variety of short on-site courses before welcoming its first cohort of students in September 2021. For more information, head to ehl.edu/en/campuses/campus-singapore.


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