Location:
Eaton Place, Singapore

Area:
316 m2

Completion:
January 2021

“Many times, while relaxing at the terrace, enjoying the wind, I feel that few landed properties have this kind of open and airy, yet private space that I have. It gives me a privileged feeling.”
– Owner, An Ample House

Seldom does one come across an owner who elects to have what is enough, as opposed to ‘maximising’ to the available envelope. The reconstruction of this semi-detached house is designed to address three requirements: privacy, adequacy, and permanence.

Situated at a T-junction corner plot on elevated ground, privacy is undoubtedly a key concern. Adequacy of daylight and ventilation must be accorded to each room in this remodelling of a single-storey dwelling into a three-storey house. Adequacy must also be measured in terms of efficiency of maintenance, especially when the home-maker owner chooses not to have a domestic helper in the house. Perhaps the most uncommon requirement, especially in Singapore’s context, is that of permanence, where the owner decides not to see the house as a temporal commodity with resale value which mandates building to the maximum allowable floor area to optimize future returns, but simply as a permanent house to be lived in and enjoyed.

A project brief conveys the owner’s values, and the resultant design is a physical manifestation of these abstract values.

The house is stepped away from the party wall to front the street with small windows for privacy and reveal hidden terraces at the back with ample openings for light and ventilation, harvesting the prevailing winds from the north, south, and southeast. This detachment from the shared wall with the neighbouring house allows the lining of skylight above the lofty living and dining rooms on first storey to animate the spaces with the diurnal passing of the sun, subtly telling time. On the second storey the three bedrooms for the children open to a private family terrace which is linked to the master bedroom suite on the third storey via the upper deck. This open-to-sky stepped terrace fronts a 20m long by 7m high feature wall, where its vast proportions evoke a sense of immensity not unlike the experience of viewing a Mark Rothko painting up close. These horizontal lines that seemingly stretch into infinity is contrasted against diagonal incisions on the street elevation of the house, composing a geometrical abstraction of mountain, valley, and horizon.

One may recall seeing images on social media of people living in small huts in the wilderness and immediately feeling envious, firstly of their freedom in owning not more than what is necessary, and secondly of their being surrounded by abundant nature. Is this longing for ‘Less is More’ symptomatic of the zeitgeist of our times, exemplified by decluttering and minimalist living, where we question our obsessions with possessions and the quantifiable, and yearn once more for the intangible and perceptual?

In light of this ongoing global revaluation of values, it is heartening that the city-state of Singapore with one of the world’s highest concentration of material wealth is able to put forth one interpretation of ample living: ample both in the sense of knowing what is enough, and in feeling bountiful with the sky, winds, and clouds.

 

有容乃大:退一步,风和日丽;再退一步,晴空万里

都市生活难抛开对物质的追求,住大房子也常是普罗大众的梦想之一。所谓 “有容乃大”,一个人的 “大小” 并不取决于其身份地位财富,更关乎其是否胸襟宽大。那房子的大小除了其总面积的 “容量”,还应包含什么衡量标准呢?

三个念中小学的孩子日渐长大,屋主想将原先仅一层楼的半独立式洋房改建成三层楼。设计要求有三:隐秘,充足,永久。位于缓坡上的T型路口,房子的长立面就在路旁,因此隐秘性不可或缺。每一间房都要阳光充足,空气流通,而由于一家人选择不雇女佣,房子的大小也要 “知足”,好让女屋主独自照料家务的担子不至于过重。自称不理解别人如何视房屋改建为一种投资,屋主从未考虑过将来要转售,因此少了将面积最大化的压力,只一心想要打造自己和孩子的永久家园。对房子的要求反映主人的价值观,而设计则是将抽象的价值观实体化。

为了达到屋主的要求,设计将屋子的內与外做了不同的处理。中华文化常区分內与外,从一般成语如“内柔外刚”,“里应外合”,到电影《一代宗师》里提到的“面子”和“里子”,而设计师只要看看自己的手心和手背,就不难意识到掌纹与毛发区别里外的合理性。

房子退离了与邻居共用的隔离墙,对外以零星散布的小窗,对内以潜藏隐蔽的阳台,让“外疏里宽”应对外在的私密与内在的开阔,也退出了收纳北, 南,东南盛行风的山谷。阳光则从谷底照进一楼的空间,在客厅与饭厅旁倚墙而下,映出了太阳的轨迹,照见了时光的更迭。二楼并列着三个孩子的房间,与三楼的主人房共享同一个分层露台空间。一面宽二十米,高七米的特色墙宛如一幅马克·罗斯科的露天巨型画,近距离向室内空间投射一种广阔无边的意境。这些看似无边无际的横线反衬房子立面的斜线,是地平线,是天际线,是山群的轮廓,是对大自然的抽象,以寄托对大自然的向往。

 

“很多时候,当我在露台上休息,享受凉风时,我感到其他的房子都少有这样既开敞却又隐秘的空间。
它让我觉得别于一般,与众不同。“ –
屋主

 

每当在社交媒体上看到别人在深山野地里搭建小屋居住时,我们常不经意地心生羡慕:羡慕其沉浸自然怀抱的恬淡幽静,羡慕其摆脱物质羁绊的轻松自在。这是否反应一个世代对自然与物质的反思?这股思潮在流行文化里的最大普及应属近藤麻理惠2019年的Netflix真人实境秀《怦然心动的人生整理魔法》,用最平易近人的方式说出《卧虎藏龙》中李慕白的台词:“把手握紧,里面什么也没有。把手松开,你拥有的是一切。”

建筑设计里的“把手握紧”,就是要求将屋子的面积最大化,彷佛这才是最划算的投资方式,握紧他日转售屋子的未来钱。在物质充裕的新加坡,有幸能设计一栋“把手松开”的私宅,即容得下蓝天白云,也装得进清风徐来。这三百多平方米的建筑能否称得上是“大房子”呢?

 

Photography by Studio Periphery