How Guz Architects Designs Houses That Are Inspired by Nature In Singapore
Architect Guz Wilkinson grew up in a 600-year-old house in the UK surrounded by greenery and as an avid traveller, has experienced the planet’s multifarious wonders. Thus, his love of nature comes as no surprise. It is encountered intimately in the houses he has designed in Singapore, which feature roof gardens and generous bodies of water—sometimes even waterfalls—that contribute to harmonious living environments.
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Wilkinson clearly has an affinity with the tropics—he settled in Singapore via a sailing misadventure. En route from Hong Kong to the UK, his sailboat broke down and after repairing it in Singapore, it was struck by lightning. As such, Wilkinson decided to stay for a while; the British architect chuckles that he tried but was never able to leave since. In 1996, he established his namesake firm in Singapore, adding one green house after another to the city’s urban environment.
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What is your strategy for incorporating greenery in your projects?
GW I generally start by understanding the site and its environment—the views, breeze, sun paths, et cetera. From there, depending on the client's brief we come up with a layout that is functional yet has spaces and vistas that make the most of the site’s greenery. If space permits, we create private enclosed courtyards and roof gardens. It is a constant battle with clients to persuade them not to build too big a house; the bigger the house, the less greenery we can incorporate.
All our houses use the site to create designs that transition seamlessly from the inside to the outside. This is extended up to the roof so that each room opens up to a garden. It has the effect of creating a cooler atmosphere for rooms adjacent to the roof garden and the spaces below.
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Do you have preferred materials and how are these treated to maximise their potential?
GW Wherever possible, we try to use natural materials. We do like to use a lot of wood but wood in Singapore’s climate has to be treated properly and cannot be allowed to get wet, or else it will rot. To use this material and to help keep the houses cool, we almost always incorporate large roof overhangs in our projects. These also allow us to have large operable glass doors which connect to the outside while keeping the building cool from the tropical sun and protecting the building from the heavy tropical downpours.
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There is a common perception that gardens are high-maintenance. How can we make living with nature more effortless?
GW The upkeep of a garden very much boils down to what species of plants are used or knowing specifically what the client likes; some like flowering plants, while others prefer to grow herbs. For roof gardens, we choose low-maintenance plants, which give the full effect of a garden without the need for regular maintenance.
I am a keen gardener and a tree hugger. I believe our current lifestyle on this planet is deeply unsustainable; I have come to the conclusion that the best thing I can do is plant trees on behalf of our clients. Aside from growing trees at our Chip Bee Gardens office, I have just planted another 4,000 trees in the UK (adding to a past total of 6,700), 500 trees in New Zealand and hundreds of trees in Singapore.
(Related: How Architects Have Made High-Rise Living More Comfortable in Singapore With Their Designs)
This story was adapted from the August-September issue of Tatler Homes; the e-version is available with our compliments on Magzter.
Read other stories that are part of our series on biophilic design here:
How WilkinsonEyre Bridges Art And Science In Projects Like Gardens By the Bay