Sparkletots Large Preschool at Punggol

LAUD Architects Pte Ltd


Enabling Economic Transformation
Raising Quality of Life
Advancing Singapore Brand, Culture and Community
Making Ground-breaking Achievements in Design


Going to school must be joyful for the children at Sparkletots Large Preschool at Punggol. There is a myriad of play areas with water and sand, a seemingly endless corridor in the spectrum of a rainbow and even a slide to jump on when leaving the school. All packed into a circular building resembling a spaceship!

While the unusual geometry brings delight, it also provides a safe learning environment for up to 1,000 children aged two months to four years enrolled here. Parents simply drive around it to drop off and pick up their kids. Inside, a three-point bridge segments the 36 classrooms into pizza-like slices for ease of segregation in case of a disease outbreak. It also creates a central area where the children can play and learn outdoors while being kept comfortable and cool by a distinct oculus roof.

The simplicity of the architecture belies the many features that make the three-storey centre an experiential learning hub. They include a herb and vegetable farm to get in touch with nature and animal-inspired signages to spark imagination.

Sparkletots Large Preschool at Punggol is a dream come true for children, and for the child in every one of us.





LAUD Architects is an award-winning boutique practice that is constantly exploring the boundaries of design. It has received several awards from the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA), Housing and Development Board (HDB), World Architecture Festival, and most notably, the President*s Design Award from Singapore for their project, DECK.

The firm was co-founded in 2004 by four partners including Ar. Joseph Lau Tse Kit who is its Senior Managing Director. He has been in practice for over forty years and serves in various professional capacities with the Board of Architects (BOA) and the SIA.

Ar. Ho Tzu Yun is the firm’s Founding Partner and Managing Director. He views architecture as a lens through which one understands the wider world. He believes that having a Western architectural education while living in a high-density Asian city with a tropical climate, and mix of local cultures, allows Singapore architects to create architecture that is truly unique to the country. Tzu Yin serves as an Examiner in the Professional Practice Examination Panel, BOA and is an invited External Reviewer to NUS School of Design and Environment.

Ar. Melvin H J Tan is LAUD’s Partner and Deputy Managing Director. He is currently the 1st Vice-President of the SIA’s 61st Council and sits on the BOA Investigation Committee.

In 2017, Tzu Yin and Melvin were recognised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore’s “20 Under 45: The Next Generation” programme.


LAUD Architects Pte Ltd

LSW Consulting Engineers Pte Ltd

HPX Consulting Engineers Pte Ltd

PAP Community Foundation (HQ)

LCH Quantity Surveying Pte Ltd

Kian Hiap Construction Pte Ltd

SALD Pte Ltd

Earth-In-Mind Pte Ltd

‘‘We believe in simplifying a school into clear, recognisable geometries to help children form a mental image of it… Designing for children lets us become children again.’’

Insights from the Recipient

Sparkletots Large Preschool at Punggol departs from conventional childcare centre in Singapore which are enclosed and located under public housing blocks. What led to its unusual stand-alone design?

Matthew Yeo (MY): The government had recognised the shortfall of childcare facilities, specifically in housing estates such as Punggol and Sengkang. In order to rapidly create more places, it planned for the development of mega childcare centres such as Sparkletots Large Preschool at Punggol, which can hold up to 1,000 children.

In comparison, the typical void deck childcare centres have a capacity of approximately 100 or less. These spaces are often limited by the footprint of the residential blocks and their existing columns. Outdoor play spaces are usually shared with the public playgrounds and play areas adjacent to the centres. One aspect that resonated with us was the client’s vision for the centre to be connected to nature, with an emphasis on experiential learning and play outside the classrooms.

Ho Tzu Yin (HTY): Realising there was no comparable reference locally and overseas freed us to explore the potential of a mega childcare centre. We started by asking ourselves, what makes a great childcare centre? This project gave us the opportunity to create an ideal childhood educational space from scratch. The new centre would also benefit from the economies of scale by consolidating facilities and play spaces. The other main design driver was our understanding and interpretation of early childhood pedagogy gleaned from workshops with our client. We wanted to create classrooms and play spaces that would support the teaching methods of the educators.

How does your design address the safety and security of the students while providing a conducive learning environment?

HTY: The clear demarcation of zones was a key consideration. For a centre with 1,000 children, we expected high vehicular traffic during the morning peak hours. In fact, the circular geometry was our answer to ensuring a smooth traffic flow with minimal congestion. A circular driveway eliminates sharp turns and dead-end situations. Additionally, the entire perimeter serves as a drop-off and pick-up point.

Another major concern was the outbreak of diseases like the hand, foot and mouth disease. Our design had to be able to minimise cross-infections during an outbreak. This influenced the arrangement of the classrooms which we divided into sectors that can be accessed from different entry points. When needed, individual sectors can be closed-off without affecting the rest of the centre’s operation. In hindsight, this arrangement will continue to work well in the post-COVID era.

MY: We recognised that play spaces are particularly important for children and they would be spending a significant amount of time exploring them. A key planning consideration was to allow effective adult supervision and to promote interaction among the children.

As the centre’s 40 m diameter can be intimidating for young children, we designed the three-point bridge to reduce the scale and to create a central play area with varied cosy spaces. The bridge connects directly to each classroom sector, while below it are shared facilities such as the multi-purpose hall, culinary room, music/gym room and art room.

In what ways do the centre’s geometry and massive canopy roof support it?

HTY: We were in favour of simple geometrical shapes to create a recognisable building for children. The centre can be described as a triangular bridge in a circular building within a square plot.

At LAUD, we take a holistic view of sustainability in our projects. The large canopy over the central space creates a semi-outdoor environment that is comfortable to use under all weather conditions. We designed the space to have a constant breeze, even at the lower levels. The canopy was raised above the roof deck to allow hot air to rise and escape, while its translucent material lets in pleasant, diffused daylight. We also did studies of wind-driven rain and designed a secondary translucent canopy to funnel rain from the central opening. This ensures that the semi-outdoor spaces remain functional even during downpours.

We were also mindful of the residential blocks that overlook the centre. Its roof became an important element to screen off any mechanical and engineering systems installed on it while partially exposing the landscape and activity spaces. Overall, we wanted our massing to be simple, recognisable and a pleasant sight for the centre’s surrounding neighbours.

As one of the first mega childcare centres in Singapore, how did your team figure out what was required?

HTY: The consultants worked very closely with the client to understand their requirements and vision for the childcare centre. We were also well informed of early childhood pedagogies and how childcare educators think.

Unlike a primary school where most of the learning happens in the classroom, childcare education places more emphasis on experiential learning such as vestibular, tactile, proprioceptive, visual and auditory learning. In designing for children, we paid attention to how they relate to the study environment. For example, instead of simply labelling the classrooms with numbers or text, we used colours as they are easier for children to recognise. Along the corridor of the classrooms is a ring of colour based on the spectrum of the rainbow. Each classroom corresponds to a colour that is also expressed on the ceiling and classroom signage.

MY: We also wanted the signage to be interesting to the children, so we created visual markers of different animals. This is another example of us using design details — materials, colours, textures, and associative learning — to facilitate informal learning.

How has the preschool been received since it began operations in 2018?

HTY: Interestingly, the school principal has observed the children becoming more communicative and friendlier towards visitors as compared to those in other centres. She believes this is because the children feel more secure and confident in this environment. The principal also loves how she can easily monitor activities in the school due to its accessible circular arrangement. Similarly, many of her teachers enjoy coming to work every day as it is a pleasant and airy environment, and they can see that the kids are so happy there.


Jury Citation

Sparkletots Large Preschool at Punggol reinvents the notion of a conventional childcare centre in Singapore by providing safety, security and inclusiveness through the inventive use of a circular form.

All its 36 toddler and nursery classrooms, housing potentially 1,000 students, line the outer perimeter of the building. This frees up its centre for activities, which is sheltered by a lightweight stretched membrane. The oculus roof brings in light and promotes airflow and cross ventilation, creating a cheerful space befitting of its function for play and friendship. Also noteworthy is how the architects overcame a tight construction timeframe by using prefabricated elements and modular classroom designs.

The Jury is impressed with the translation of a simple centralised plan into a distinct and delightful spatial experience, as well as how an economy of means was deployed to fulfil the requirements of the brief.


Nominator Citation

Choo Ah Choon
Senior Director, Corporate Services
PAP Community Foundation

Sparkletots Large Preschool at Punggol delivers thoughtful solutions to the needs of children, parents and staff. It is extremely vibrant, uplifting and a true reflection of the future of learning environments in Singapore.

A lot of time and effort were spent by the designers and educators to better understand the teaching methods, health and hygiene procedures, standard operations and overall flow of a childcare centre in order to create a space that is comfortable and conducive for learning.

We are proud that this unique building breaks away almost entirely from what others typically associate a childcare centre with. The environment encourages and allows for freedom among the educators to plan suitable and varied activities for the children. The expansive area encourages innovation and creativity as opposed to traditional childcare models where space is limited.

As opposed to the traditional “form follows function” principle, the final form does not follow nor represent its function. This is both inspiring and revolutionary to us. It is of utmost importance that educators continuously evolve with current trends in order to provide the best preschool experience for the future generation. We are thankful to LAUD Architects and the designers who were able to translate and conceptualise our requirements into something beyond our imagination.