Make A Difference – Lasia Avenue

Make A Difference, Oct 2003 issue 17 (A corporate Newsletter of Hunter Douglas Singapore)

House at Lasia Avenue
Residential scale design in Singapore has always tended to grapple with the issues of “tropicality” and the development of “layering” of the spaces within a building. With the advent however, of increasing land costs and the need for larger rooms and living spaces to maximise client needs, this aspect of layering has often been eliminated altogether. The house on Lasia Avenue is an attempt by HYLA to address the issue of having a maximised floor plate at the 2nd storey while maintaining the essence of a permeable, tropical façade with all the aspects of layering and climate control associated with a truly “tropical” building. The essential here was to try to find a solution which would fit into as “thin” a façade as possible.

The building is a corner semi-detached residence surrounded by Lasia Avenue to the front boundary and Lantana Avenue to the longitudinal boundary on the side. The long side boundary facing Lantana Avenue, offers an urban relief for the site, but unfortunately also faces almost directly West. The client wished to ensure that the plan of the house was re-oriented to open up and face the side rather than towards the front. A chief concern was how to affect sufficient solar control and shading despite the need to open up the plan to the west and side boundary.

To this end, the building has been planned with it’s “back” against the party wall with the adjacent neighbour and the plan has essentially been opened up on the 3 remaining facades.

The parti of the 1st storey plan is really “layered” in 3 vertical zones running down the length of the site. The first is really an outdoor patio area which serves both as covered hard-paved extensions of the dining and living spaces. These 2 patios themselves provide the necessary transition between indoor and outdoor spaces which is so typical of traditional tropical houses in the region. A small landscaped courtyard separates the 2 patios providing visual and textural interest between the two and internally corresponds to the alcove for the staircase which lies in the centre of the building plan.

The 2nd vertical zone is really the main entrance foyer, living and dining space. This has been treated as one large space – the foyer being separated from the open plan by a delicate timber screen. Again within this space, the subtleties of layering have been explored. All naturally ventilated, the cross ventilation throughout the open plan is excellent.

The 3rd vertical zone is the service zone and abuts the party wall with the neighbour directly. IN this zone is housed a small 1st storey bedroom with private courtyard entrance from the front, a powder room, the staircase, and other utility functions. The wet and dry kitchen dominate the rear of this space.

The 2nd storey however, required quite a different solution. The brief required the placement of 4 bedrooms including separate en-suite bathrooms around a small family area and staircore. This essentially entailed a floor plate on the 2nd storey that was right up to the minimum setback requirements for the lot. The site is also in a tree conservation zone and the existence of 3 very large mature roadside trees with substantial foliage directed our design directions to convince the client of having the entire 2nd storey façade glazed from floor to ceiling. This would essentially imply that all the bedroom would have either 1 or 2 external walls fully glazed.

It was therefore necessary to develop a façade system for the entire 2nd storey which could handle a combination of the following requirements in as “shallow” a façade zone as possible:

1. Fully closed for privacy
2. Fully opened for view and connection with the
external elements
3. Containment for air-conditioning.
4. Privacy from view, but the option for full natural

With the above façade requirements in mind, a system using fully glazed powdercoated alum. sliding doors were installed at the external walls of all the 2nd storey bedrooms. These doors open fully to the side enabling the occupant full connection with the external elements if required. Separated about 600mm away from the line of the sliding doors is a 50x75mm RHS frame upon which are mounted a series of horizontally placed 200mm wide air-foil section LUXALON louvres. This entire blade system covers the entire extent of all the glazed doors into the bedrooms. The Louvre system is electrically controlled by actuators which separate the louvred façade into top and bottom sections. This therefore enables the occupant to open only the top half of the louvred if necessary (thereby retaining the semblance of the traditional window) while keeping the bottom section closed.

The motorised adjustable louvres also serve effectively as an excellent solar control device for the harsh afternoon sun. In the evening, when backlit at night by the lighting within the bedrooms, the building glows like a lantern.

In retrospect, HYLA would have liked to have used possibly a thinner and finer profile for the louvre blade section. The 200mm air-foil blade being slightly too large when used in a domestic scale such as a house. We understand that Hunter Douglas do produce a 150mm blade section which can be motorised and we will probably explore that in the future.

From a functional and design standpoint however, we feel that Lasia Avenue has been quite a success. The solution on the one hand is quite dramatic when the building is viewed up close, but then on the other, sits very unobtrusively behind the foliage of the surrounding roadside trees.

Lasia Avenue has been HYLA’s first attempt at using what had essentially been a more “commercially-used” Hunter Douglas product in a domestic setting. We firmly believe that there are more possibilities and permutations possible with this.