Home Tour: A Modern House Inspired By Traditional Architecture
Behind every well-designed space is a meaningful story—this belief shapes the design ethos of TA.LE Architects, as the firm’s name might suggest. “We give form to the intangible narratives of our clients,” says Tay Yanling, founder and principal architect of the firm.
The architect holds this philosophy close to her heart for every project, including this family home. The homeowners are a couple in their sixties, who had returned to Singapore after living abroad for many years; they approached TA.LE Architects to design their dream retirement home. Their brief to Tay was for a contemporary house that responds well to the tropical climate in Singapore. The couple also wanted a visual connection with the surrounding greenery, without compromising on privacy.
To address these requirements, Tay looked to traditional wisdom. “Traditional kampung houses and the heritage black-and-white bungalows are examples of how our predecessors tackled the hot and humid climate,” says the architect. “For this project, we applied these sensitivities as part of an environmental response.”
Traditional kampung houses and the heritage black-and-white bungalows are examples of how our predecessors tackled the hot and humid climate. For this project, we applied these sensitivities as part of an environmental response.
While the design of the house may have been guided by principles of vernacular architecture, it is anything but traditional. Its pure geometric form has a contemporary appearance despite its pitched roof form.
The most striking external feature is the ubiquitous pitched roof. As the front of the house is west-facing, it was essential that the front elevation be designed to screen the rooms from the afternoon sun. With a pitched roof as a starting point, Tay continued the eaves vertically downwards as a form of sun-shading over the front and rear facades. Where the folded roof meets the second storey floor slab, it wraps inwards to become the overhang that provides shade to the first storey. This continues towards the centre of the house where it rises over the double volume dining space, completing the loop like a ribbon.
The floating volume is then accentuated by ribbon windows inserted near the ceiling of the first storey. “These ribbon windows sit directly below where the roof wraps horizontally inwards, juxtaposing a seemingly heavy mass over a light window treatment,” Tay elaborates. “This is also a manifestation of the dialogue between the exterior and interior of the home,” she adds.
One of the greatest challenges for this project was balancing the seemingly opposing elements of tropical architecture. “With natural light comes unbearable heat and we have to respond architecturally with deep roof eaves and generous overhangs,” explains Tay. The generous overhangs provide excellent shade and moderate the heat from the sun while making it possible for the extensive use of glass on the facade; this then allows natural light in, as well as views out.
With natural light comes unbearable heat and we have to respond architecturally with deep roof eaves and generous overhangs
The introduction of a skylight that runs the length of the party wall also allows sunlight to penetrate the deepest recesses of the home, lighting up the spaces naturally without having to rely on artificial lighting. The glass is treated with a sandblasted finish that diffuses the light passing through to the interior, creating a softer effect and mitigating the amount of heat.
Natural ventilation is another important consideration for tropical houses. In this case, Tay integrated window and door openings in every elevation of the house and on every floor. “For me, the most important aspect of a house is comfort,” says Tay. “Despite the provision of air-conditioning, each room has been designed to be equally comfortable without it.”
Located in the heart of the home is a double volume loft for dining and social gatherings. Visual connectivity is maintained across the public and private areas, through a feature screen beside the staircase; it connects the home in the vertical plane from the first storey to the attic. The staircase transcends its utilitarian function—lights integrated within the screen illuminate the steps and turn the staircase into an interesting backdrop to the dining area on the ground floor.
A futile search for the ideal chandelier to complement the dining space prompted Tay to design her own. “We envisaged it to be several things at once—a decorative sculpture and a light source that illuminates both the high-volume space above and the dining setting below,” Tay explains. The result is a chandelier comprising golden light tubes arranged in a figure eight formation. Apart from letting in natural light, the double volume space also allows the interior to connect with the surrounding landscape.
From the architecture to the interior and lighting design, this project showcases the architect’s flair for choreographing the entire experience; even from the moment one sets their eyes on the home, before setting foot in the house.
This story was adapted from Singapore Tatler Homes April-May 2019