d+a – Lucky View

d+a Issue 039.2007

A Multifaceted House
Tucked away in Bedok far from the hustle and bustle of town, a dated semi-detached house gives Han of HYLA Architects the perfect playing field for the designer’s signature take on form and function. Envisioned as an open well-connected space for a young couple, their two children and three luxury cars, Han, as always, is able to visualize and design a building that addresses from, function and continuous space all at once – a designer who designs architecture as a multifaceted 3D object rather than simply on plan, section and elevation.

In-ground pool as water curtain
There are many ways in which he turns existing constraints into a design feature in this addition and alteration (A&A) project. For example, the older house had a small footprint as it was sited next to a steep slope that rendered direct connection with the side garden virtually impossible.

Turning this opportunity, the designer made use of the difference in grade to construct a swimming pool that, at house level, looks like an in-ground pool but is really an above ground pool with infinity edge overflowing on two sides. Capitalizing again on that, the designer created a stair access to the lower level garden, from which the overflow of the pool above then forms a curtain of water as backdrop to the outdoor seating area. For Han, there are always two sides of a coin.

More than the usual number of facades
This pool structure and the master suite above form the main two-storey structural addition to the old house. Instead of directly adding onto the old structure with the new, a deliberate atrium void is kept between the two, thereby creating the opportunity to both introduce internal building elevations and allow for penetration of natural light into the centre of this semi-detached house.

Natural light cast changing light and shadows through timber trellises and glass roof above the void, adding depth and texture to the pool deck area. Again, instead of engaging the often troublesome game of marrying the old and new, the designer’s opportunistic instinct introduced internal facades that mediate the semi-detached typology of having only three external facades.

This simple move allows the house to have seven facades instead of the usual three (more than the four of a conventional bungalow). The semi-detached house now feels more open and detached like a bungalow. This is Han’s second two-sided coin.

Configurable bathrooms
The other living areas of the house are envisaged as an uninterrupted continuum of open spaces. On the second floor, two bedrooms are arranged with one at the front alongside a study, and the other at the back.

The role of bathrooms takes on a different dimension from their traditionally enclosed private space and becomes centrepiece to the turning of everyday function into spatial interest. For example, both attached bathrooms are conceptualized as spaces that can be configured visually or spatially to extend the size of the rooms.

The front bathroom is separated from the bedroom with clear glass panels, thereby introducing the perception of a shower within a room. The second bathroom has two sets of sliding doors that are interchangeably used to confine only the necessary compartments when one uses it. Otherwise, ordinarily, the doors are slid open and the basin area then connects to the circulation corridor to form a hybrid space.

The master bathroom is arguably the most sculptural (and therefore least flexible) of the three. The ritual of using the bathroom is distinctly separated into three compartments for its function areas of WC, shower and basin. Expressed as three timber-clad cylinders that can be seen from the external elevation, the bathroom is entirely open-ventilated yet visually concealed. The broken-down program of a simple bathroom lends itself as a design expression on the façade. Coin number three.

Non-traditional approach to spaces
This leads us to contemplate the concept of space in the designer’s mind. Seemingly, each space is treated equal and despite their specific functions, each space has equal potential to be a different feature through thoughtful design. Traditional notions of privacy and hierarchy of spaces are replaced by the Modern approach of flexible space. Arrangement and expression of programmed space are re-evaluated to interesting results. As such, at every instance, we witness the duality in Han’s design sensibility, and it is these recurring dual functions in the architect’s invented hybrid spaces that will differentiate the practice’s work; as demonstrated here at this Lucky View house.

Writer: Wu Yen Yen
Photography: Alex Heng