Singapore Architect – Faber Avenue

Singapore Architect Issue 278 Dec 2013

Into the Light
House at Faber Avenue

Striking a balance between simplicity and beauty, this project by HYLA Architects is an exploration in opening up the semi-detached house to the elements.

Amidst all the banality and conventional silence along Faber Avenue, one would at least expect this project by HYLA Architects to break the mundane sequence of houses with its own unique take on the intricacies of space and light. This was what the firm’s principal architect, Han Loke Kwang, and his team have managed to achieve: a residential house whose façade is a driving force for its function, allowing the filtration of light and ventilation, while creating a perfect environment of security and privacy harmoniously.

The two-and-a-half-storey semi-detached house balances the philosophy of simplicity and beauty; choosing to express the mystery of its spaces through the different architectural layers that is within it. The dramatic entrance that greets the visitor will continue to linger in the mind as these well-composed vertical aluminium screens create a moire effect with light and shadows.

The elegance and sleekness of the house’s entrance comes from the verticality of its screened façade, which provides natural shading from the afternoon sun. As one enters, there is a spatial pause, as if knowing that the visitors require a moment to revel in the atmosphere and to continue observing the back of the screened façade.

The visual connection creates a sense of surrealism where one is looking inside-out. The entrance foyer is a double volume space and one can get a glimpse of the vertical charm of this house through the casting of shadows from the façade on the dark plain walls of the house.

The reflecting pond within this space contemplates the moments of solitude and stillness. It complements the stone slabs that lead to the light-filled staircase. The use of dark and earthly overtones on the cladding and walls of the space provides the opportunity to grasp the idea of a hidden sanctuary behind the façade. The staircase atrium is supported by a monumental wall that forms the whole profile of the house; leading to the attic. The presence of volume here is well orchestrated and as one ascends up, there is a clear horizontal distinction of spaces from the common spaces to the more private bedrooms.

Beyond the reflection pond, there is a sudden change in the materiality and spatial qualities as it becomes lighter and less formal. The dark overtone dissipates and the casting of shadows dissolves to reveal a well-lit living room. The continuation of the earthy palette forms a subtle connection with the entrance foyer.

The dry kitchen is sleek and its whiteness forms like a canvas against the lush greeneries and landscape outside. The whole idea, explains Han, is to have a retreat for relaxation while providing a space that celebrates the lightness of things and freshness of nature, which is close in its proximity. The programme of this space is functional, as the architect has placed all the utilitarian spaces at this level and behind the kitchen; facing a landscaped yard.

The three children’s bedrooms on the second floor are arranged so as to facilitate circulation and flow of light from the skylight at the roof level. The bedroom at the front of the house has an attached balcony that can only be accessed through its space and it is at this point, where the relationship of the screened façade becomes closer visually and physically. The intricate play of light and shadows becomes more pronounced and accentuates the dark and neutral grey floorings.

The family room that separates the first bedroom becomes a node, which promotes participation through relaxation, as one reclines to admire the sequence of layers that aligns within this spinal volume. Throughout this storey, there is ample amount of light seeping in from the corners of the space as sunlight enters through strategically placed skylights from the roof above. As such, all the attached bathrooms are softly touched by the sun’s rays and it softens their walls, providing a natural sense of warmth.

The stairs continue its ascension to the attic storey-the pinnacle of privacy within the house, which is the master bedroom. Recalling the façade, the vertical porosity through the use of screening is carried on to this space. Before entering the master bedroom, looking back, the whole vertical layout of the house and its linear configuration is captured and the patterns of shadows from the screenings complete this final transition of circulation. The walls articulate the concept of ever-changing “textures” as the level of light differs throughout the days and months.

Privacy has always been one of the major elements for this residential building, and the sense of it is felt almost immediately upon entering the master bedroom. Hidden at the attic storey and shielded by the layer of wooden screenings, it provides the requested comfort, luxury, and simplicity of beauty from the client. The outdoor terrace at the back of the room allows the owners to enjoy the fresh breeze and natural surroundings of the neighbourhood. It provides the opportunity to admire the landscaped turf and backyard of the house, which is carefully arranged to complement the visual porosity of the house, while retaining its privacy and security.

The master bath is designed to be spacious. The wooden screenings are present within the front perimeter of the bathroom allowing light to continuously seep in and thus softening the grey floorings and detailing. The centre of the bathroom is where the bathtub is placed, celebrating the fluidity of the room’s circulation and lightness even as the flow of natural light from the skylight above underscores the spatial openness of it.

Han Loke Kwang and his team have successfully crated a masterpiece in this residential project. The charm and attraction of this house at Faber Avenue is the visual opportunities it creates and the irresistible play of light and darkness that it celebrates.

28 Faber Avenue
SA Issue 278 – Dec 2013
Writer: Muhammad Khairul Anwar
Photography: Derek Swalwell