Wallflower Architecture + Design
Location: Bukit Timah, Singapore
Design Team: Robin Tan, Sean Zheng, Yong Mien Huei, Tan Yen Lin, Elvan Ong
Text: Yong Mien Huei, Cecil Chee
Photographer: Marc Tey Photography
Project Completion: 2019
Site Area: 385 m2
The Bamboo Veil House is a semi-detached house that sits on a bend in a street, resulting in a triangular plot with a narrow frontage. The original house was purchased by the owner many years ago and only minimal renovation had been done since then. The aging house needed upgrading and the time had come for a re-build to fulfill long-held desires and preferences.
The owner started with a simple brief – a minimalist tropical house with a wide social space on the ground floor for family and friends to gather. His family longed for a private yet modern tropical home that responds to Singapore’s dense urban environment and tropical climate. He had also amassed a large collection of art through the years from various continents and saw this as an opportunity to well display them in the new house.
As his nuclear family unit and requirements for bedrooms were small, it was relatively easy to meet the spatial requirements and arranging them into the odd-shaped triangular plot. The ground floor was kept for dining and entertaining, bedrooms on the second floor, and a study and family room on the attic level.
During a family vacation to Tokyo, the owner visited Nezu Museum by Kengo Kuma, and was enchanted by the bamboo cladding facade. Love at first sight, the texture, and the color of bamboo left a deep impression and he was determined to clad his new house in bamboo.
Responding to the site with both form and function, the bamboo screen was conceptualized as a veil, wrapping around the building in a single continuous ‘cloth’. A unifying element, the bamboo screen flows around the rounded edges of the façade, creating a soft and organic layer sandwiched between the defined white eaves.
The rounded edges of the façade respond to the street bend, such that when one approaches from the bend, one is greeted by a bamboo veil that shields its occupants from prying eyes. The natural color of the bamboo against the white backdrop further accentuates the dominance of the veil.
When night falls, the house becomes a beacon along this street. Prominently situated at the turn, it glows like a delicate bamboo lantern. Light spills out from inside between the bamboo fingers, creating an interesting play of light and silhouette. Closely spaced, the screen offers privacy in both day and night. The screens can be closed in the daytime to filter sunlight or opened for an unobstructed view. At night, the screens are closed for a sense of privacy and intimacy.
For an effective tropical response, the façade was designed as a double skin. The outer skin comprises of the operable vertically-laid bamboo screen and serves both privacy and solar protection functions. The inner skin is made up of aluminum-framed glass windows, allowing for natural ventilation in an all-weather condition or closed for air-conditioning on hot and humid days. The design offers flexibility for natural ventilation without compromising privacy, fulfilling the owner’s expectation of a tropical modern home. The bamboo veil thus acts as both a breathing façade and a privacy screen.
Material-wise, the bamboo is locally sourced, sustainable, and eco-friendly. Bamboo is known for its lightweight and high strength. It is easy to install, replace, or repair. For the eco-conscious, this fast-growing material has a low carbon footprint. The design brief aligns with the owner’s concern for the environment as the bamboo screen is an opportunity to cool the house passively and reduce reliance on energy-intensive air-conditioning. Operable bamboo screens and windows located throughout the 2nd Storey encourages natural ventilation while framing views to the external softscape.
The tropical design response is mirrored on the 1st Storey and Attic by a large overhang providing deep shade from the sun. The house is kept cool at all times. Inside, the interior furnishings are pared down to keep visual clarity and preserve the tranquility within each space and its function. The vast collection of artwork can be quietly enjoyed, presented in soft natural light. That visage of calm is also very much the experience when one encounters the Bamboo Veil house.