SDE History

The School of Design and Environment (SDE) at NUS began in 1958 when the Department of Architecture offered a five‐year program in the Singapore Polytechnic. Building and Real Estate also had their humble beginnings in the Singapore Polytechnic where they started as the Department of Building and Estate Management, and the Department of Building Science in 1962. These two departments were transferred to the University of Singapore, offering the BSc (Building) and BSc (Estate Management) programs.
In 1969, the University of Singapore established a new Faculty of Architecture to offer degree programs in Architecture, Building and Estate Management. Three years later, the Faculty of Architecture was renamed the Faculty of Architecture and Building.
In 1986 the Department of Building Science merged with the Department of Building and Estate Management to form the School of Building and Estate Management which was subsequently renamed the School of Building and Real Estate in 1997.
In June 2000 the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Real Estate was reorganized into the three present departments: Department of Architecture (DoA), Department of Building (DoB) and Department of Real Estate (DRE), and its name changed to School of Design and Environment (SDE).
Since its establishment exactly 50 years ago, SDE remains the only Faculty or School in a tertiary educational institution in Singapore responsible for offering education in architecture, urban design, building, project and facilities management, and real estate. During this period, graduates from the School contributed to the design, development and management of Singapore’s built environment.
In many ways, the growth of the School reflects Singapore’s development and its global status. From educating professionals to build the nation in the initial years of its independence, it now prepares culturally sensitive, technically competent and environmentally conscious graduates to make Singapore into a distinctive global city as well as to participate in the development of the built environment overseas, an effort pioneered by the earlier cohorts of our graduates.

The range, scale and complexity of programs offered by SDE have also changed with the times. At the Department of Architecture, its undergraduate and graduate programs have evolved from the design of buildings to encompass that of products, cities and landscape. Similarly, for the Departments of Building and Real Estate, the programs have moved beyond building science to project and facilities management and beyond real estate management to real estate finance and investment.
From one engaged essentially in teaching, the School has transformed over the last 15 years into one that has significant research capabilities and achievements in certain focus areas. This is important, particularly for a university in a small country for which the next phase of economic development is driven by knowledge and innovation.

References from NUS Library Archives

  1. In the University of Singapore’s Annual Report (1968-69, call no. LG399.SU.R), the Vice Chancellor’s Report (p.3) described “the introduction of new degrees” under Building and Estate Management.
  2. In the University of Singapore’s Annual Report (1969-70, pp. 1 & 15, call no. LG399.SU.R), and in Beyond Degrees: the Making of the National University of Singapore (1996, p. 136) (Call no. LG399 Nus*Le), the Architecture faculty at Palmer Road was moved to University of Singapore (specifically, the Ladyhill campus) in April 1969.
    1. At the Ladyhill campus, besides Bachelor of Architecture, the degree courses offered include management of building and estates, urban planning and systems engineering (p. 141 of Beyond Degrees).
    2. It was just called Faculty of Architecture, until 1972/73, when it was renamed Faculty of Architecture and Building (p. 143 of Beyond Degrees).
  3. No primary source available regarding the establishment of the Division of Industrial Design. However, the degree programme Bachelor of Arts (Industrial Design) Honours was first described in the 2000/2001 NUS Courses and Curricula publication (call no. LG399 NUS.CC), and it was subsumed under Architecture.


  1. “…In June 2000, the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Real Estate changed its name to the School of Design & Environment. As a result of this change, Building and Real Estate were established as separate departments”.
  1. In the 2001/2002 NUS Courses and Curricula publication, the faculty was referred as the School of Design and Environment. And in this publication, the Department of Building and the Department of Real Estate are listed separately.