FuturArc – 19 Lorong 24A Geylang

FuturArc Volume 37 Jul-Aug 2014
Commentary – 19 Lorong 24A Geylang

This early 1900s two-storey shophouse, characterised by an extensively ornamented façade, has been sensitively restored. The client’s brief was simple: there must be at least three rooms, design should be artistic, and work on a tight budget. Besides these, the usual constraints of Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) conservation requirements needed to be met. As it is a gazetted conservation building, the front façade and main building form need to be completely preserved. The only amendment allowed is the addition of a jack roof. As such, the street elevation is retained and one is unable to know or see what has been done internally.

The existing materials were conserved or reused as much as possible. This was done not only from a cost and sustainability viewpoint, but also to preserve the existing character of the building. The existing timber floor and timber windows were retained and made good, and there were only minimal wall additions. Where there was a need to bring in new materials such as for the building’s new extension, old timber from other conservation sites was procured and reused. All new elements are distinctly articulated and expressed separately from the existing party walls, structure and façade.

A metal spiral staircase was built in the middle of the house, which created a vertical spine and subdivided the required spaces. It is gently tilted towards the front and spirals upwards over the three floors to end in the attic space. Above the attic is a jack roof to allow the sunlight to filter through.

A new two-storey structure was added to enclose the rear court and at the same time create two more rooms. At the rear, a reflecting pond sits below a light and air well which is partially roofed with glass and aluminium trellis, thereby providing light and ventilation to the entire house. The house is completely open on the first storey and ends in a bamboo court. On the second storey, the twin bathrooms are cladded in the same aluminium slats that are used in the staircase.

What is often forgotten about this kind of conservation house typology is the simple honesty and unpretentious pragmatism that lies behind the elaborate decorative façades. The project attempts to complement this aspect with a modern interpretation that has a raw, industrial and sculptural directness. A restricted palette of steel, glass and aluminium is used with complementary tiles in different shades of grey. The result is dramatic and free-spirited, which echoes the vibrancy of the street life outside.

This conservation project won the URA Architectural Heritage Awards in 2011.