d+a – Oriole Crescent

d+a Issue 035.2006

In the same way that text and images will never do a scent justice, it will be difficult to capture and fully represent the space in 9 Oriole Crescent amply through photographs and drawings. Leading the design team, Han Loke Kwang, Partner-in-Charge at HYLA Architects, designs a house for a small family that can be likened to a puzzle box : one has to play with it to understand how it works.

Arranged in an L-shaped layout, the house consists of a basement carpark, a 1st storey holding the common areas and a 2nd storey for the family bedrooms. On the 1st storey, the living room is a 1-storey structure fully glazed on the inward garden facing side. Its lean structure and aluminium doors are expressed with clean simplicity. With its ceiling, floor and backing interior wall finished in timber, the living space focuses its view and attention inward towards the garden and pool. Operable timber screens on the west facing façade allow for flexibility of opening up the room and closing it when glare is too much. The living room sits lightly in the landscape more like a pavilion than an actual room.

At the knuckle of the L-shaped plan is an openly ventilated courtyard linking the living room to other parts of the house. Timber trellises hold up the glass roof here and on the floor, a shallow pool of water washes over the granite floor into the pool beyond. One transitions from living to other areas in natural comfort as the courtyard is rendered light and transparent by an abundance of striated timber strips and natural light infusing through the glass roof.

Aside from the solid timber used on the floor and ceiling, the material palette used here is quite humble. In fact, walls of the powder room are finished in cement screed. However, HYLA cleverly details in well-fitted customized timber shelves, thereby turning up the luxe factor through ways more clever than reliant on expensive materials. The dining room lacks the standard issue marble floor that seems to accompany all bungalows of this size. At the second-storey block, a shaft housing the dry kitchen on the 1st storey and a bathroom on the 2nd is clad in granite, expressed as a monolith with abstractly placed slit cut-outs.

On the 2nd storey, the richness of spaces and their various configurations is almost dizzying with options. With integrated planting areas and balconies, sliding panels of glass slide open and close for different effects. For example, at bathroom 2, four sliding panels hide and reveal the WC and shower area individually so that when not in use, these are hidden and terraces are revealed instead. At another instance, four layers of sliding doors that, when open, connect the master bedroom, family room, living hall and bedroom 1 but when closed, define individual rooms. Han explains that for younger families with children, it is pertinent that the openness of the space is accessible. Here at 9 Oriole Crescent, whether they are two indoor spaces becoming one or an outdoor and indoor connecting, the combination of spaces into one seems to be the designer’s preoccupation. Therefore it also appears that sliding panels to combine and separate spaces easily becomes the main method used to define there mutable spaces.

The method described above is not confined to only two dimensions. The concept of combination is also applied to three dimensional space as well by means of defining the roofscape. There are many instances at the 2nd storey where skylights enliven the spaces beneath, especially over bathrooms. These skylights cast natural light and sometimes natural ventilation over there areas thereby simultaneously ‘stretching’ the spaces by ‘combining’ the vertical air space with the room beneath. In the same spirit, voids are cut at two locations on the 1st storey so that light and air penetrate to the basement carpark below. It is this method of three-dimension configurations of space in relation to each other and the flexibility of combining them that becomes key to the house.

At 9 Oriole Crescent, Han does not attempt to re-invent details or methods. Instead of expending effort on exploring the unknown, the project takes on his methodology with finesse. It is also evident, through some of the customized details and interesting moments, that this architect remains steadfast to architectural traditions of space, form and details. Through many instances at this house, it can be sensed that this steadfastness is accompanied with a kind of rigour; one that only someone who enjoys his work can emanate. It is within the aura of such an energy, that the house glows in thoughtfulness and resolution.

Writer: Wu Yen Yen
Photography: Alex Heng
Furniture Courtesy: X-Tra Designs