June 27, 2009

home & garden

Kampung comfort

In the first of a four-part series on beautiful homes in Singapore, we look at a bungalow in River Valley

By tay suan chiang

This 9,000 sq ft bungalow in Cable Road shielded by lush greenery is hard to spot, making it a sanctuary. -- PHOTOS: ALBERT SIM KOON SENG, JEREMY SAN

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Some houses in Singapore scream for attention with their massive size or outlandish architecture.

But a two-storey bungalow off River Valley Road whispers discreet luxury as a $1.6-million modern interpretation of the humble kampung home.

It is a hard-to-spot yet huge house of 9,000 sq ft along the small enclave of Cable Road, shielded by lush greenery.

Drive past it and you are likely to see just a small portion of the front of the house with the garage. But there is much more to this home. The most interesting feature is that its design echoes that of kampung, or village, houses.

As with most such houses, it is in a rectangular shape, but with extensions in the form of a verandah and balcony.

From far, it appears like a box lifted from the ground, as if built on stilts.

Its architect, Mr Yip Yuen Hong, 50, a partner at local firm ip:li architects, describes the house as 'a derivative on the kampung house'.

In its hideaway location, shielded by bamboo trees, he says, the home is a sanctuary and a place of relaxation, so 'it is not visible'.

The Cable Road House is one of 26 homes featured in a new book called Singapore Houses, which showcases works by 20 of Singapore's best architects. It is written by British architect and urban designer Robert Powell. Architectural photographer Albert Lim shot the homes.

The beautiful home is a 'Singapore home' not only because of its location but also because of its architecture.

Although he grew up living in a shophouse, Mr Yip has a soft spot for kampung houses as 'they are traditional homes that we are all familiar with'.

As well, it fits in with what is discussed at the beginning of Singapore Houses: Mr Powell writes that the houses in the book show a good grasp of the principles of designing with climate.

'They are concerned with orientation in relation to the sun path and to wind,' he writes.

'Overhanging eaves are part of the vocabulary that most architects draw upon, as are high ceilings, louvred walls and the use of the 'skin' of the building as a permeable filter.'

The Cable Road House fits this description. Mr Yip makes use of glazed louvres around the home which, when opened, allow breezes to enter the home. The use of deep overhanging eaves blocks out direct sunlight by providing some shade and also helps to keep the rain out.

Mr Yip designed the home to be just 8m wide so that air can blow through the house freely. The use of glass folding doors encourages natural ventilation while allowing light to enter the home.

Even the choice of materials reflects this simple, natural approach.

Instead of opting for too much glass or steel, this home was constructed with concrete and lots of timber, such as native variety like balau for the walls and chengai for the flooring.

Rustic retreat

Mr Yip used specially treated steel for the roof. 'These materials look better with time, giving the home a timeless look,' he says.

The owners, who decline to be named, are a couple who live with the husband's mother.

There are two bedrooms on the ground floor. One is occupied by the owner's mother and the other is a guest room.

A shaded terrace on the ground floor looks out to the swimming pool, which also serves as a cooling device when the wind blows. The house took 16 months to build.

There are two more bedrooms on the second floor - a bedroom for the couple and another for the owner's sister when she visits.

A lightwell on the second floor just by the family room allows light to enter the home.

The couple hired Mr Yip after seeing a house in Sunset Way designed by him. It had a kampung look that they fell in love with.

However, unlike kampung houses which do not come with air-conditioning, the Cable Road house is fitted with it.

However, Mr Yip says proudly: 'The owners say the fans are enough to keep them cool.'

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