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NTU Mass Timber Building Officially Opened

4 July 2023

(Singapore) ‘Like entering a forest’: Inside Asia’s largest timber building — A new six-story college campus building stands as Singapore’s latest ode to nature. Home to Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) business school, the gently curved design features sunlit atriums, open-air study areas set against lush backdrops and elevators that descend into beds of tropical plants. 

Everything from handrails to benches, door frames to room dividers (and even an adjoining bus stop), were built using wood.

So, too, were the structural beams and columns. In fact, the building is made almost entirely from mass timber — a new generation of engineered wood, arranged in layers and bonded with strong adhesives, that is pushing the boundaries of architecture. Sprawling across 43,500 square meters (468,000 square feet), it is now Asia’s largest timber building, by floor area.

Named Gaia, after the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth, the project opened in May and cost 125 million Singapore dollars ($93 million) to build. Its exposed timber frame is free from cladding or paint, a design decision that celebrates natural materials while giving visitors the feeling of walking between trees.

According to the celebrated Japanese architect behind the project, Toyo Ito, this was precisely the point. “I always try to envision a connection with — and a feeling of — nature, such as trees and water, in my designs,” he told CNN shortly after the building’s inauguration ceremony. “The fact you mentioned that if feels like entering a forest shows that my vision came through.”

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