Home Inspo: This Singaporean Minimalist House Is A Clever Mix Of Concrete And Glass
The homeowner and his family have been living in this property for many years, but a growing brood of grandchildren prompted him to embark on a redevelopment project. His brief to architect Chan Loo Siang, design principal of Inte Architects, was simple: to build a multi-generation home that would cater to the needs of the family.
“Architecture is doing, not seeing; making, not impressing,” shares Chan, as he explains his design philosophy. With that in mind, he sought to design a house that is a thoughtful blend of modern design and practical style.
The architectural massing comprises two clearly legible orthogonal volumes connected by a link bridge overlooking the pool. “They are like two concrete boxes that are pulled apart on the sides, yet connected at the same time,” Chan describes. “The client wanted a sizeable pool and deck in between the two blocks, so we pushed them towards the front and rear of the plot respectively.”
The external facades are finished in concrete, a material that Chan chose for its sense of permanence and solidity. He was inspired by the works of Belgian architect Juliaan Lampens, which feature the extensive use of off-form concrete that expresses a sense of robust scale, but in a fluid, malleable way. “I love that the off-form concrete appears brutal, yet softens under natural lighting,” says the architect.
Two types of concrete finishes were used: off-form timber textured concrete for the block up front and fair-faced concrete for the rear block. This distinction reflects the symbolic relationship between the two blocks.
“The rear block is like an offspring, which is independent yet remains attached to the parent,” explains Chan. There is also an architectural dialogue between the dark grey timber-textured concrete which conveys a more rustic look, versus the light grey concrete that has a more Japanese touch to it.
The house sits on a slope and the road level at the main entrance is approximately 4.5 metres higher than the deck towards the rear. It features a discreet main entrance leading from the car porch, which complements the understated exterior of the house.
A concrete box housing the family room extends above the car porch. The juxtaposition of the heavy material with a cantilevered structure presents an interesting contrast that lends complexity to an understated expression.
The entrance foyer is on the mezzanine, which hovers between the pool deck and the main living and dining areas at the ground floor and the bedrooms and family room on the second storey. The lift lobby at the foyer is next to a flight of stairs that lead to the master bedroom.
A horseshoe-shaped bridge above the entrance foyer (pictured above) suggests a fluidity of movement that permeates the entire home, linking the internal spaces in a continuous loop.
“When designing the circulation, I drew inspiration from the way Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi managed to orchestrate movement in her glass house project, Casa de Vidro,” Chan shares. To create this sense of movement, a series of corridors, decks, link bridges and platforms increase the connectivity between its interior spaces.
Openings on the facades reinforce the visual connection, while enhancing natural cross-ventilation with their north-south orientation. Vertically, the connection is established through staircases, lifts and skylights.
The complexity of the crisscrossing spaces, volumes and circulation required much attention. Chan conceptualised and resolved those using models, working simultaneously on the plan, section and three-dimensional aspects.
“The occupants can move seamlessly throughout the home and there are no dead corners. Every space and room is well- connected to the rest of the house, even in the basement,” shares the architect.
To optimise the land area, a basement, which extends across both blocks was excavated to house the entertainment room, gym, dance studio and service areas, as well as a guest room.
“The homeowner had originally wanted a basement car park, but due to site constraints, we were unable to accommodate the length and turning radius of the ramp that was required,” Chan explains.
True to the circulation concept that Chan devised, the basement remains well-connected to the rest of the house by incorporating natural light, natural ventilation and greenery into the subterranean level.
The project was not without its challenges. Even with a sizeable land area, addressing the needs of a large extended family can be tricky. Reconciling the circulation with the various levels and spaces was also no mean feat. Neither was working with a material such as concrete, which entailed meticulous planning prior to casting.
Devising ingenious design solutions that comply with regulations in terms of planning and envelope control, especially on a plot with a sloping topography, without compromising on the architectural intent also took much design fortitude.
But in overcoming these challenges, the scheme becomes more robust, much like the material with which the home is built with and the ties that bind the family.