Tan Chai Chong Robin and Cecil Chee created FIRM Wallflower, bringing together their considerable expertise in commercial and residential buildings. Since its inception in 1999, Wallflower Pte Ltd and Wallflower Architecture + Design have completed a diverse range of projects, spanning from commercial to residential, and have won multiple accolades for design quality, as well as being prominently featured in local and international media. Singapore’s Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts rapidly recognized Wallflower as one of the country’s important design players.
The essence of design is the distillation of virtue from necessity. Wallflower’s concept is that each project has its own set of demands and characteristics that show novel and fresh solutions. Wallflower provides holistic design solutions, merging urban, architectural, landscape, interior, lighting, and furniture demands to create seamless integration. Wallflower thinks that outstanding design combines beauty and intelligence, enhancing the environment in which we work and live and, as a result, enriching the human experience and soul.
17,000 sq ft WATER GARDEN HOUSE | Bukit Timah, Singapore
The worn old home, which had been owned for 30 years, was to be replaced with a new one that maximized the permissible constructed envelope while meeting modern requirements and wishes. A desire for a waterfall element in the design, as well as seclusion from the numerous neighbors, were among them.
When seen from the top, the site is completely round, making it unique in Singapore. A place in the center of a steep valley is bounded by this circle.
Unlike other hillside properties we’ve seen, a short road drops 3.4 meters from the front gate to the present platform level (1st floor), after which the land begins to slope down 5.3 meters into the valley. There were no grass spaces on the circular plot, which was also flanked by six dwellings.
The site’s form and sloping slope were clear obstacles to overcome. The home takes on a C-shaped outward facing courtyard form with simplicity and efficiency as priority design qualities. Because the garden at the bottom of the valley was inaccessible, the sloping location inspired the inclusion of cascading pools and terraces inside the C shape that would naturally flow down to the ‘valley.’ To compensate for the shortage of lawn space, lush flora was incorporated into every level of the home. As one reaches the basement lobby, the swimming pool edge drains into a waterfall, which may be admired.
This grew into a cantilevered structure that jutted out from a solid granite outcropping. A platform may now be built on which the living rooms and pool might be built. The goal was to make it seem as though it were hovering, giving the smooth travertine stone a sensation of lightness. The principal areas that result are open and transparent, with vistas of water overlooking Lady Hill’s hidden valley.
The whole façade of the home is wrapped with operable teakwood screens, which allow for the management of privacy and the micro environment inside rooms. A screen of hanging plants adds another layer of seclusion and softens the swimming pool’s appearance. The palette was purposefully limited to travertine and basalt, and light was required to enter the lower floors, creating an air of spaciousness to these otherwise claustrophobic rooms. Through the architectural shape of curvatures and sloping facades, the flow of water, and the lay of the ground, a feeling of movement unites all the areas. They are balanced by the huge expanses of sturdy platforms that serve as living areas.
The property offers solitude that is unique in this tight urban location, near to the activity just outside this highly sought-after district, since it is nestled amid large trees.
17,600 sqft WATER-COOLED HOUSE | Bukit Timah, Singapore
The location is surrounded by a green screen of mature trees from nearby properties, which keeps it hidden from the road. Another noticeable feature of the place is the transverse breezes that blow over it. The owner desired a modern house with a continual emphasis on environmental cooling, as well as the ability to take advantage of the lush tropical surrounds.
Inverted planning and hierarchical standards, which are ubiquitous in local residential planning, were established for the house. The main living area and study were positioned in a pavilion on the second level to fully enjoy the mature and diversified natural surroundings and to expand the possibilities for visual depth and distance. To optimize the lofty views, it was constructed with minimum enclosing and supporting construction. A modest spiral staircase touches down inside the entry lobby to intuitively bring guests to the living pavilion above. The enormous circular hole linking the entry foyer to the pavilion above gives glimpses of the tree-lined vistas. The pavilion is surrounded by a dark reflecting pond, which helps to refine the sensation of quiet isolation and seclusion. The home is further connected to the natural surrounds by the occasional bird plunging into the pond and rippling the surface. The objective of the second-story pond is to provide thermal insulation for the dining, bedrooms, and family areas below from sun heat gain. Similarly, the water body above aids in the regulation of temperature changes inside the home.
A long continuous light and air well on the first level separates the house’s residential and service roles, which is replicated below by a similarly long and continuous koi pond. The route that runs beside the pond and leads to the bedrooms conceals the large service spaces that lie beyond the pathway wall. The air well and first floor koi pond, like the second storey pond, are meant to aid in micro-cooling the first level rooms and spaces. The walkway serves as a conduit for prevailing winds, and the thirty-meter length and two-meter breadth of the koi pond expose a sixty-square-meter surface area inside the home to those breezes for evaporative cooling.
An oculus inside the pond accentuates the main entry, the circle of sunshine cooled and enlivened by the continually shifting sinusoidal patterns of refracted rays through the water above, as a nod to the residence’s major function of water.
* In the ‘Individual House’ category, Wallflower Architecture + Design’s ‘Enclosed Open House’ and ‘Water-Cooled House’ won the 2010 SIA Architectural Design Awards. The Singapore Institutes of Architects’ SIA Architectural Design Awards are the highest honor bestowed by the Singapore Institutes of Architects for works that demonstrate architectural design excellence. Since the beginning of the design award, Wallflower Architecture + Design is the only private company to win two Design Awards in the residential category in the same year.
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