Community Design Studio

by etc.lab, School of Design & Environment, Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Community Design Studio is an initiative of etc.lab to provide opportunities for architecture students to work with local and overseas community groups, charities, social enterprises and authorities on real life projects. These projects include design/build, architecture and interior feasibility studies and placemaking activities. For each project, the students and the community partner work together to define the project, develop a brief and undertake research and creative engagement activities to co-create solutions with the community. This studio aims to raise the awareness of the social and civic responsibilities of our future architects.

Visit the physical exhibition at library@orchard during Singapore Archifest 2020.

Project Ubin

Project Ubin, is a Community Design Studio undertaken by 36 year 2 Architecture Student, seeking to co-create design solutions with the residents of Ubin to improve their physical environment and encourage social bonding among the Ubin community. Students took time to build relationships with the residents and learnt more about the issues faced by the residents along the way. Armed with creative engagement tools, students set out to engage the residents in the co-creation process. One of the proposed solution which was the refurbishment of the Ubin taxi stand was selected to be implemented by NParks.


01 - Engaging with residents and visitors to Ubin alike using creative engagement methods such as pop-up notice boards. 02 - Students taking a rest at the Ubin Taxi Stand after engaging the Ubin residents on what improvements they want to see in Ubin. 03 - Students engaging Ubin shop owners and their customers in a photo collage to depict their ideal environment. 04 - Students refurbishing the taxi stand as per the insights gathered from the co-creation activities. 05 - Students posing with the Taxi uncles after the refurbishment of the Taxi Stand. 06 - Students posing a shot with Minister Desmond Lee during Ubin Day 2019 with their proposals for Pulau Ubin.

Sanaga School, Kampung Naga, Tasikmalaya, West Java

Launched in October 2017 as an overseas community service-learning project under the Design Studio module, 26 architecture students went on a field trip to learn more about the community of Kampong Naga. After conducting physical and cultural analysis of the village as well as understanding the needs and aspirations of the community, students returned to develop the design of a village school. In March 2018, some students returned to the village to initiate the building process of the school. This design/build project provide our students with the full experience of the design/build process from start to implementation.


01 - Students engaging the village residents using picture cards to understand their needs and aspirations. 02 - Students presenting the design of the Community School to the community members. 03 - Students getting involved in the construction of the Community School with the local villagers. 04 - Students learning woodworking skills from the villagers. 05 - Students posing for a photo with the village children at the grand staircase of the Community School.

Bakers’ Beyond Baking Studio

As part of staff pro-bono consultancy worked together with a group of less privileged mothers from Beyond Social Services to co-design a baking studio which they could use to earn secondary income through festive bake sales and corporate social responsibility projects. Before having this baking studio they will have to move from kitchen to kitchen, subject to the availability of the spaces. Finally, with the completion of the baking studio, they now have a space of their own. Several rounds of community design workshops were conducted with the mothers to understand their needs and aspirations of the baking studio. We also observed the way they work and how they make use of spaces, equipment and tools. We engaged them in activities that allowed them to propose the layout as well as the look and feel of the baking studio. These findings are translated into the design of a baking studio that meet their functional and social needs. In all, there are 10 mothers that will benefit from training and baking in this shared space under the Baker’s Beyond programme​.


01 - Women from Beyond Social Services’ Bakers Beyond initiative baking from rental kitchen before having their own baking studio. 02 - First design workshop to understand the workflow of the baking studio from the women bakers who will be using the space. 03 - Second workshop with the women bakers to understand their preferred choice of materials and finishes. 04 - Students helping out in the assembly of the furniture of the baking studio. 05 - The women bakers are proud and happy to be working at their very own baking studio.

Khan Chor Learning Centre (Cambodia)

Even though the Covid-19 crisis was still evolving, this did not deter the teaching team from moving the studio sessions online and continuing devising real world projects across borders with overseas community partners.

The students were introduced to the 8-weeks design project on designing a community school/learning centre. The students had to employ design thinking methodology in their design process and employed the 4Ds approach towards design.

Since the students were not able to travel and conduct site visits, they had to depend on their community partners to provide them information about the community and the site.

They had to conduct interviews with the community through online platforms and phone calls. This did not deter them from getting adequate and relevant data and information and conducting physical and cultural analysis of the community and the school sites.

They presented their consolidated findings and insights of the community as well as their derived design parameters to the community partners as a group before embarking on their individual design projects.


01 - The current state of Khan Chor Learning Centre, which is a makeshift structure where students learn English after school every day. The centre is run by NGO Roots Cambodia. 02 - Conducting Zoom meetings with the overseas community partner to learn more about the project brief and the community needs. 03 -Consultations were conducted online using Zoom platform where lecturers will mark up directly their feedback on the students’ drawings. 04 - At the end of the 8-weeks intensive design process the students were ready to present their final design proposals to the community partner using models and presentation boards. 05 - At the end of the 8-weeks intensive design process the students were ready to present their final design proposals to the community partner using models and presentation boards.

Find out more about etc.lab, School of Design & Environment, Ngee Ann Polytechnic here