Framed House

Framed House A couple’s visions for their first house was one that offers adequate privacy, yet open enough for their toddlers to enjoy outdoor spaces, ample storage spaces, and economically constructed. The purchased site is a 275sqm lot that sits amongst a row of terrace houses. It faces a street with relatively heavy traffic, while the rear opens to a public park - which was the main reason they bought this site. The design adopted the public park as the backdrop of the house, with series of rectilinear open shells that frame views of it, offering different perspectives of the park from various parts of the house. The design process started with paper folding, to explore the possible spatial dynamics by dissecting a box, and displace the parts into multiple planes of alternating solids and voids. This was later developed, together with scaled drawings, and with a series of mock-ups made of wood boards. On plan and section, the displaced shells generated juxtaposed spaces, displacing the interior/exterior boundaries, and optimizing day-lighting and natural ventilations. The alternating solids and voids minimize direct views from the adjacent house and vice versa, whilst allowing constant connection with the exterior and the park. These shells are stepped away from the street, a gesture to break the scale of the house, to bring daylight in, and to greet the street at a private distant. Along one axis, the shells are kept thin with steel members as the base structure. On another axis, clear glass panels are used for the front and rear enclosures. These shells are the structure, as well as the walls, floors, ceilings, roofs, and windows of the house. This configuration generates a constantly light-filled space. The glass panels can be opened on both ends for cross-ventilations, whilst gaps between fixed glass panels serve as air-vents. Spatial porosity has been the mantra during the design process, to ensure visual connectivity between the internal spaces, and for the rooms that are located upfront to have views of the park as well. The brief had called for 6 rooms of varying degrees of openness and privacy, as the couple plays regular host to visiting relatives and friends. On street level, direct view into the interior is deliberately kept obscured. Partly because the couple wants privacy on the ground level and to minimize exposure to the noise from the traffic; partly this forms part of the ritual of entering and discovering the house, with the entrance door revealed only when one walks further into the front porch. Upon entry, a vista of the park unfolds, through an interconnected space consisting the living, dining, and the kitchen. A central core opens up, visually connecting to the rooms above, and to the corridors of other rooms that offer more privacy. Although inter-telecommunication system is provided in this house, the family has found little need for this, as they realize that they could communicate between the rooms/spaces easily by coming to this central core. This house is categorized as a corner terrace by the local planning authority, which requires one side of the house to abut its neighbour, separated by a party wall. Where this wall is, the spaces are detached from it to allow for the penetration of daylight, to enhance cross-ventilations, and to provide pockets of gardens for the rooms. A wading pool that collects rainwater encompasses the other side of the house, and flows into part of the living spaces. This has been the kids’ favourite play area, which also serves as a means for passive cooling for the house. This house was constructed within a stringent budget of 240,000 EUR. This necessitated the use of basic and conventional materials for the structures and finishes, without compromising on the intended spatial qualities of the house. The design placed emphasis on the inherent articulations of the forms and spaces in response to the tropical climate, over the use of technologies for microclimate control, with the belief that the human psychic responds best to the natural elements. A bluish tone is selected for the external surfaces of the shells, with the interior whitewashed. As daylight shifts throughout the day, changing hues from the blue walls reflect onto the internal walls, constantly transforming the ambience of the house.


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