The Hidden House
Golden Pin 2018 Design Mark Award-winning project
A small bricked, 2-storey conserved bungalow sits atop a 30-metre-wide by 100-metre-long slopping site. Elevated 12 metres high at the North, the 20th century Plantation Estate overlooks large terracing grass fields which terminates southwards into a luscious mixture of mature tropical trees such as Tembusu, Angsana, Ficus and Palms. Built as an accommodation for a British military officer and his family stationed on the island from the early 1920s, the bungalow and the site will now be home to a local multi-generation Chinese family. The owner intends to create an extension 12 times the size of the 200m2 bungalow to accommodate the diverse needs of his expanding family.
Any structure of such a scale will not only dwarf the conserved building but also compete architecturally and visually with it. More importantly, the relationship of the bungalow and its surrounding - the image of the plantation estate, will be lost.
The design aims to conserve not only the bungalow but the sense of place with two strategies - firstly, to compact all new structures to the north consequently leaving a large an open field towards the south. Secondly, to conceal the new structures under layers of terracing “Green Platforms” making the conserved bungalow the only expressive object within the new landscape, thereby preserving the view of grass fields bounded by the lush trees.
The traditional Chinese quadrangle house type is used as an organisational principle for private quarters across these tiered platforms. On each level, taking the conserved building as the central unit, the respective family units are arranged to frame central gathering spaces for the family. This brought about a symmetry and hierarchy for the traditional Chinese family order and structure.
These platforms of green roofs and timber cladded ceilings result in an interior of expansive ceiling-scape with deep and wide perspectives - a seemingly subterranean landscape. A series of light wells puncture these platforms vertically forming the lift and spiral staircase shaft, the green courtyard and the pool atrium. At the lowest platform level, a 30-metre-long pool stretches out from the covered pool atrium into the open garden. Between the platforms, vertical operable copper-cladded panels fill up the eastern and western facade providing shading and privacy to the interior spaces. The copper panels appear as unearthed metals while complementing the iron-rich pink bricks of the bungalow.
While conservation guidelines mainly preserve the building, the project attempts to retain the typological essence of the Plantation Estate; one’s experience of the surrounding landscape from the conserved Bungalow.
The Hidden House is a collaborative project with TA.LE Architects.
Photos by Edward Hendricks