SINGAPORE International School's board was delighted when the Government granted it the go-ahead to build a new campus in Nam Long Shan Road, Aberdeen. Just how long that delight was sustained when board members discovered the site was on a steep slope is not certain. But the location was the challenge that attracted P & T Architects and Engineers Ltd to undertake the project in 1992. 'I don't think the board was quite sure what to do with the site,' said Bernard Lim, a director of the architectural firm. 'It is very difficult to build a school on a slope. 'For any building it is difficult but, for a school, you are faced with a lot of restrictions on recreation areas. The teaching levels cannot be more than 24 metres from a road to allow for emergency access.' The situation meant the school could not be built vertically, level on level. The architects could have overcome the problem by cutting into the slope but such an option would have made a large hole in the school's budget. 'Nam Long Shan Road is not that busy but still there would have been traffic noise and other problems if we had cut into the slope, over and above the massive cost,' Mr Lim said. 'So what we did was create another level to allow for emergency access.' A 'sky deck' - a main plaza built 30 metres above Nam Long Shan Road - is the most impressive aspect of the school's design. It allowed the structure to be built on two levels, while meeting requirements for emergency access and creating a spacious recreation area. 'The ramp to this level allows vehicles to come up. In normal times, this area is used as a landscaped playground,' Mr Lim said. P & T then designated heavy facilities to be placed on the school's first level, below the plaza. These included an indoor games hall, pool, auditorium and canteen. On this 'road' level is the main staircase - open and breezy to allow easy traffic flow and comfort - and the lifts. By putting the classrooms on the upper levels, the use of available space has be maximised. The surroundings have been made as comfortable as possible. The classrooms on the upper levels face the slope which allows for a quiet teaching environment. The feeling is enhanced by the use of tropical landscaping and cool colours, such as greens and blues. 'The site is a very Hong Kong situation,' Mr Lim said. 'If we were to, say, have built the school in Singapore, we would have had more space to work with. 'What we have tried to do is get the atmosphere of space in a very vertical project. 'The Singaporean clients were at first not sure about the project but we worked well together. 'I think they have the facilities built within a budget. They would not otherwise have been able to have them if we had cut directly into the slope. 'They were very understanding, adapting to the Hong Kong situation, accepting the environment they had to work with and making the best out of it.' Mr Lim said one of the reasons behind the success of the project was the fact that it was, all along, a team effort. From the team of architects from P & T, to the contractors, to the school itself, everyone had worked with the same purpose. 'The way the project turned out was a credit to everyone involved,' Mr Lim said. 'We worked things to the minute detail to allow for future expansion.'