by Jerry ElengicalJul 26, 2022
A sprawling, fan-shaped site bordered by the convergence of two roads posed a unique challenge for Czarl Architects, who were engaged to design a residence in Singapore for a couple approaching the end of their professional careers. Since most of their children were settled abroad at the time of the project’s commencement, the clients sought an abode for their retirement, that would evoke the image of a ‘bunker’ - preserving their privacy and exuding what they viewed as a ‘masculine’ silhouette. Another essential point in their brief was to emphasise the use of natural materials, tying the structure to its context - which featured terrain that sloped up from its front to the rear, laden with profuse tropical greenery. Devised in response to all these factors, 3ASH House is a stern, almost cold sanctuary, partially enveloped in a latticed aluminium screen whose angular components add an asymmetrical rhythm that subtly harmonises with its surroundings.
Beginning with a footprint that interpreted the irregular margins of the site through offsets from the perimeter, the home’s massing was conceptualised through further setbacks and split up into three discrete volumes. Receding terraces along the edges of these blocks extend the landscaping on site to the upper levels. This configuration took inspiration from local kampong (village) settlements and was ordered to resemble a series of stacked villages dispersed along the site’s topography in a manner reminiscent of smaller dwelling units. Implemented to make maximum use of the limited site area, the blocks were meant to be experienced as individual living modules, accommodating separate generations. For instance, the second storey hosts a lap pool that extends along most of its road-facing edge while the level above it is home to a green terrace.
On approaching the home’s west-oriented front, the instantly striking façade design radiates an aura of mystery, with its play of solids and voids complemented by the lattice screen. Speaking to STIR, the architects explain, “The façade consists of two key visual components. The first of them is the lattice screen work that was designed to bolster privacy and solar shading and is made up of modular powder coated folded aluminium panels mounted onto a concealed steel frame.” They continue, “The screen panels should offer enough visual connectivity with the exterior, allowing ample natural ventilation while simultaneously acting as a privacy screen and regulating intense solar glare. In addition, the screen had to be easy to construct and its scale and form had to appear pleasing from afar.”
Regarding the obstacles faced in realising this complex feature of the residence’s architecture, the design team reveals, “One of the most significant challenges was the design, execution, and illumination of the aluminium lattice screen work. We went through many iterations from modelling to test mock ups to ensure that the final product was just right to fulfil its purpose.” The resulting element has an almost regal elegance to it, that is both weighty in its visual impact yet permeable to light.
Moving on to the second key component of the façade, Czarl Architects explains, “Another visual element of interest is the ‘sky’ planter terrace with its faceted edges. The edges are each finished in grey tones of spray textured paint, where the main finish is a smooth aggregate while the others are accented with quartz fillings. The intention is to enable the planter’s edge to mimic the rock-like facets of granite.” Exerting their presence in ribbon-like bands around the floor levels, the edges of the terraces skew and protrude from the massing of the dwelling units, exhibiting warped geometries.
From the ground up, the basement level contains an expansive garage for four vehicles, in addition to a family room, a study, a gym, a guest room, and quarters for the family’s staff. A reflecting pool at one corner of the layout surrounds the lower end of the home’s main staircase, whose spiralling path winds through all the floors as a highlight element. “Designing the central staircase was literally a manual labour of love. Over the course of the construction process, we had to be on site to mark out the exact curvature and make the contractor shave and carve out any unwanted and irregular portions. It was like physically moulding a large-scale sculpture,” mentions the practice. They add, “Furthermore, if we were to single out one fitting that could be deemed as a defining feature of the dwelling, it would most certainly have to be the 30 Bocci 14 series pendant lights suspended from the attic all the way down to the basement storey through the central staircase.” Among the most eye-catching features of the home’s exquisite lighting design, these lights bathe the wood-finished railing in a warm, golden aura.
Further upwards, the first storey boasts most of the shared spaces under the plan, which are separated by courtyards and a pond to one side. Here, the transparency imparted by glass walls enveloping spaces such as the lounge, living, and dining areas maintains visual connectivity, providing a counterpoint to the comparative opacity of the external envelope. The interior design boasts fixtures and fittings by luxury design brands including Flos, Bocci, and Molteni, that inject vibrancy to the neutral yet naturalistic material palette of stone and concrete that expands on the exterior aesthetic. From the inside, the aluminium screen generates impressive variations in the play of light throughout spaces, in an extension of its primary role.
Occupying a large part of the second storey, the lap pool is adjacent to a deck that bridges the two living units comprising two bedrooms and a second family room - in adhering to the village-style layout. Opening onto vistas of the surrounding neighbourhood, the pool features an adjustable aluminium lattice screen, that can provide varying degrees of privacy as necessary. Finally, the uppermost attic level is home to a green terrace that provides a buffer between the context and the master suite behind it - which occupies the entirety of this level, and includes a pantry, a study room, and a walk-in closet.
Singapore has been a hotbed for architectural innovation in recent decades, with constraints imposed by its developmental density, climate, and terrain breeding manifestations of exemplary buildings that challenge the status quo. Under this context, with 3ASH House, Czarl Architects has crafted an image of fortified high-end urban living shaped by rigorous detailing and execution for the purpose of contextual responsiveness and longevity, which forms a fitting addition to the city state’s urban milieu.
Name: 3 ASH House
Location: 3 Ashgrove, Singapore
Year of Completion: 2021
Floor Area: 1133 sqm
Project Team: Carl Lim, Anditya Dwi Saputra, Khalis Sidek, Priandra Said
Structural Engineer: PTS Consultants
Mechanical and Electrical Engineer: PCA Consulting Engineers
Quantity Surveyor: Barton Bruce Shaw Pte Ltd
Contractor: Construkt Pte Ltd