The spaces in this family home on Chiltern Drive in central Singapore were crafted like a garment, woven around the needs and desires of its inhabitants. The home aspired to be deeply rooted, connected to the surrounding environment, the history of its development, as well as the family’s lifestyle.
The house was constructed as a single monolithic concrete structure. The woven steel reinforcement and raw timber formwork into which the concrete was cast have imprinted the process of building into its surfaces, with rugged lines in the concrete and hints of steel reinforcement in the walls and ledges. As the early morning sun casts shadows across the textured horizontal bands left behind in the concrete where the timber formwork once was, the memory of the construction process itself marks the passing of time and reminds the family of the effort, desire, and realization of their dream.
The spaces within and around the house were designed for each family member to enjoy their own privacy and commune with nature, as well as spaces where they could meaningfully come together in the creation and continuation of family rituals around meals, greetings, and homecomings. The house is articulated around a square geometry in plan, but the spatial arrangement within this straightforward framework is a complex interplay of large and deep spaces and connections that stretch across the length of the house in various directions. These elongated rooms draw the eye across them, at times relating to the views of the garden, across extended windows that skirt the skyline and horizon or to focus the exaggerated perspectives on select elements within a room. These visual connections within the rooms as well as from space to space help to unite the inhabitants and make them aware of each other’s movements within the house as well as strongly link the house to its surrounding environment.
The living and dining rooms are connected in one continuous space with a swimming pool at one end and a rear garden at the other. Along the length of the room, a low bay window ledge cast into the folds of the wall and a long horizontal window opening provide an intimate and direct connection to the landscape, as well as casual seating that can comfortably accommodate one or many people. Similarly, the expansive kitchen island that extends across the tall and grand kitchen runs parallel to a broad view of the rear garden and makes the kitchen a bright and pleasant room that is just as much a social space as a working area.
With this architectural language of deep spaces and extensive windows, dramatic linear vistas of the gardens that surround the house are framed. The views to the greenery provide a sense of serenity and reflection to the inhabitants and ground them to their environment. The culmination of these views occurs in the master bedroom that runs across the entire front façade of the top storey with a singular horizontal opening across its frontage. This broad window takes in a spectacular and uninterrupted view of the suburban skyline beyond.
Although the house was designed as an integrated experience of the architecture, interior and landscape design, each discipline has its unique expression and concept; the architecture with its rugged concrete aesthetic and expressed construction process, the landscape with four levels of distinct solutions for different spatial objectives using a variety of tropical landscape strategies, and the interiors with a tapestry of personal artifacts that subtly convey the history of the family.
The design objective was to integrate landscaping into many aspects of daily life to foster awareness of the environment and enhance the sense of wellbeing through a deep connection to nature.
The design process included extensive visits to nurseries, botanical gardens and working sessions with the landscape builder.
The placement of plants and water features to enhance awareness of the wind, clouds sky. Each of the landscape areas in the house has a direct relationship to a space extensively used on a daily basis.
The pool was placed at the front boundary where the sight and sound of a glistening water wall creates a separation from the outside when approaching the cool quiet entrance.
Living Areas with high ceilings and an eye level bay window are encircled by flowering shrubs along the perimeter, the abundant garden becomes the dominant element of the room at night where lighting emphasizes the long leaves of yellow iris reminiscent of a rice field.
An Edible Kitchen Garden including fruit trees and herbs was introduced to draw out the cook to care for, be inspired by and cultivate food.
Along the East and West boundaries, concrete walls are punctured by large openings for cross ventilation in the central study space.
A cable supported landscape screen wraps the sides of the building to provide privacy, protection from direct East and West sunlight and a visual connection with the garden in a narrow space. Integration of Structure, Irrigation, Drainage, soil beds and lighting in a 150mm wide space required prototyping, customization and testing.
The attic was designed as a retreat, disconnected from the world below. A rooftop water Lily Pond, built with an eco-filtration system that requires nearly no maintenance, provides a steady source of nutrition for the small fish that attract myriad varieties of birds.