The Secret Garden House is situated in the good class bungalow area of Bukit Timah. The owner’s brief was to have a luxurious, Tropical Contemporary Home Design. Being the owners of a construction company and building it themselves, it would also showcase their professional capabilities.
The Tropical Contemporary Home Design sits on an L-shaped site with a narrow and unassuming frontage; On all sides, it is surrounded by neighboring homes. Further, in and on a slight rise, the bulk of the land is not visible from the entrance. Most local home buyers would regard the uneven terrain, narrow frontage, and lack of prominence as a disadvantage. The architect saw an opportunity in using the terrain to camouflage the bulk of a large house, and the lushness of a secret garden to screen it from prying eyes.
As the spatial and functional requirements were substantial, the architect positioned over a third of the house into the rising land profile, effectively hiding this mass by leveraging on the unique site. The perceived ground floor was set one level above. It allowed for greater privacy from the entrance road and a ‘plateau’-like terrace to compose the rest of the living spaces and gardens.
Visitors are welcomed into the house via a granite cave entrance leading to an ‘underground’ lobby. The prominence of a steel and glass spiral staircase leads visitors up to the living room. The owners had liked the idea of detaching the living and dining spaces and surrounding these with pools and gardens. This ‘plateau’ ground level was planned to be a space that blended indoor and outdoor, soft-scape, and hard-scape. It was to be one space, with several programs, rather than many spaces with determined boundaries and fixed functions.
Conceptually, the above-ground architectural composition is of two rectangular travertine blocks sitting on slender pilotis. The blocks are connected on the second floor by an enclosed bridge floated above the ground plane.
A ribbon window cuts around the travertine stone facade. Adjustable vertical timber louvers lined strategically along this band of windows shield the glazing and regulate how much sunlight reaches the interior, as well as ensuring privacy when required.
In the basement, air flows through the large cave-like garage opening, through the timber slatted lobby, and exits via a sizeable sunken garden courtyard at the rear that is open to the sky. Above ground, the lifted bedroom blocks are kept passively cool by layers of masonry, air cavities, travertine stone cladding, roof gardens, and pergolas.
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