A tranquil water sanctum enlivens dramatic volumes in the Water Garden House

In the heart of Tanglin’s affluent residential area in Singapore, Wallflower Architecture + Design etches a tropical narrative through the Water Garden House.

by STIRworldPublished on : May 21, 2022

Apart from the urban bling, tourist traditions, and the recently and remarkably green architectural profile of Singapore, the country also harbours the world's third greatest population density. A multitude of housing projects have emerged in the island state in response to that, displaying a succinct agglomeration of high-rise apartments and meticulously planned residential blocks. Despite the scale of these interventions, Singapore remains a prime destination for the luxury residential sector as well, with a number of villas, bungalows, and condominiums dotting its real estate. While most of these villas occupy linear plots, in the central region of the country, also among the most sought after, a unique circular site awaited Wallflower Architecture + Design, with a brief to reimagine a decrepit old house sitting amidst the valley of Tanglin. While the property had been owned since the last 30 years, the site and its locality had grown in time to be surrounded by residences around its circumference, creating a requisite for the residents to ensconce their home in more private and more dense building envelopes. Following up on this necessity, and the desire for a tropical place in the heart of a bustling residential area paved way for the birth of the Water Garden House.

  • Aerial view of the Water Garden house, nestled amidst a dense residential area | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    Aerial view of the Water Garden house, nestled amidst a dense residential area Image: © Rayden Ong
  • The form of the residence is topped by a cascading green roof | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    The form of the residence is topped by a cascading green roof Image: © Rayden Ong

Offsetting the circular shape of the 1585 sq.m. site inwards, the architects fragmented the spaces into segments of a circle, thereby occupying the maximum allowable built envelope. The form rises from the circular plan vertically in segments that ramify into the front wing, the cantilevered back wing, the vertical circulation core, the water garden, and the exterior courtyard. While most circular plans protrude to create a central void that helps sunlight navigate into the inner confines of the house, the Water Garden House, as the name suggests, carves out a geometric mass from the volume which is transfigured to occupy a water garden. Amplifying the transformative potential of natural light in all parts of the residence, this solid-void relationship identifies the form of the residence to reflect a C-shaped configuration.

The cantilevered rear wing with its green roof opens the view to Lady Hill’s hidden valley | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
The cantilevered rear wing with its green roof opens the view to Lady Hill’s hidden valley Image: © Marc Tey

The site for the residence was quite unlike the hillsides that the architects had previously encountered and worked with. Resting in the midst of the valley, the descent to the existing platform level from the front gate was 3.4 metres, covered in the span of a narrow driveway. Furthermore, the site slopes down from the platform level by another 5.3 meters into the valley. Addressing this challenging topography of the site, and the limited openness of the plot, the residence incorporates much of the landscape design within the morphology of the structure itself. In a contrasting narrative to the existing language of residential architecture in the neighbourhood, Water Garden House identifies as an extended green feature within its context as opposed to a concrete entity. While the residence basks in the harsh sunlight of Singapore, the green roof, water body, and ample presence of lush green shrubs transports the interior spaces to a much more pleasant micro-environment.

At the front elevation, a cantilevered semi-circular volume adorned with vertical louvers greet the visitors | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
At the front elevation, a cantilevered semi-circular volume adorned with vertical louvers greet the visitors Image: © Marc Tey

In an attempt to bring the house’s rather austere design and form into a fusion of tropical and contemporary architecture, the design ardently utilises natural elements, complementing the earthy tones that predominate the residence's mood board. In the preface to the residence is a cantilevered semi-circular volume, exaggerated in its scale, and adorned with vertical louvers that regulate direct sunlight and cast geometric shadows on the house’s walls. While the extensive use of wooden elements becomes a statement, the central water body that simultaneously acts as a garden and a swimming pool becomes the fulcrum of the design. In response to the client’s longing to have a waterfall feature, the swimming pool edge empties as a waterfall visually framed in the basement lobby. 

  • The eponymous central water garden surrounded by gathering spaces and landscape features becomes the focal point of the design | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    The eponymous central water garden surrounded by gathering spaces and landscape features becomes the focal point of the design Image: © Marc Tey
  • The open layout of the residence allows for ample light and cross ventilation in interior spaces during the day | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    The open layout of the residence allows for ample light and cross ventilation in interior spaces during the day Image: © Marc Tey
  • The residence at dusk with interior spaces drenched in warm lighting | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    The residence at dusk with interior spaces drenched in warm lighting Image: © Marc Tey
  • As the outward configuration becomes the soul of the design, it parallely screens the west and opens the views to the east | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    As the outward configuration becomes the soul of the design, it parallely screens the west and opens the views to the east Image: © Marc Tey

The composition of the water body with respect to the landscape not only creates a fluid sense of movement, but also stretches to shape a platform where the living room, dining room, and other gathering spaces coalesce and take shape. Establishing a paradigm that proposes a convergence of all activities around the water garden, within the scheme of the open plan of both wings, creates a familiar transparency through impeccable visual connectivity among the parallel arms. While intentionally planned to function inwardly, the green roofs that appear to flow into the east unlock a viewing platform that overlooks the hidden valley of Ladyhill.

  • The hanging plants, trees and shrubs become a part of the design, thereby extending the relation between the built and the unbuilt | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    The hanging plants, trees and shrubs become a part of the design, thereby extending the relation between the built and the unbuilt Image: © Marc Tey
  • The dining room and open kitchen overlook the water garden along with establishing a visual connection to the other parts of the residence | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    The dining room and open kitchen overlook the water garden along with establishing a visual connection to the other parts of the residence Image: © Marc Tey
  • The open plan of the platform spaces create a sense of fluid movement across the whole floor | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    The open plan of the platform spaces create a sense of fluid movement across the whole floor Image: © Marc Tey
  • The interior design also follows a subtle, austere tone, complementing the architectural language of the structure | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    The interior design also follows a subtle, austere tone, complementing the architectural language of the structure Image: © Marc Tey

The lack of an exterior landscape area or a garden along the periphery of the house in a conventional sense, is balanced by introducing various forms of lush green at every level of the residence. The hanging plants soften the façade around the water body and the trees growing out of the niches in the residence compose a natural flow that seamlessly switches between spaces. Along with the well thought-out placement of landscape features, the material palette is primarily restricted to travertine and basalt to enable a sense of lightness in the structure.

  • While the presence of greens in the exterior is evident, the small pockets in the interiors provide niches for plants and garden spaces | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    While the presence of greens in the exterior is evident, the small pockets in the interiors provide niches for plants and garden spaces Image: © Rayden Ong
  • Small cutouts in the basement floor create niches for a secondary water garden incorporating the waterfall feature | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    Small cutouts in the basement floor create niches for a secondary water garden incorporating the waterfall feature Image: © Marc Tey

As the design shapeshifts from its external screened form to the more casual interiors, it becomes an axiom of the client’s need for privacy amid a dense context. Complementing the austerity of the exteriors, the interior design follows a minimal palette comprising subtle colours, wooden ornamentation, and modern furniture. “Nestled amongst mature trees, the home enjoys the privacy that is unusual in this tight urban site, close to the bustle just beyond this highly sought-after neighbourhood,” states the team at Wallflower Architecture + Design in an official release.

  • Water Garden House: Conceptual sketches | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    Water Garden House: Conceptual sketches Image: Courtesy of Wallflower Architecture + Design
  • Water Garden House: Illustration of the plan-elevation relation | Water Garden House | Wallflower Architecture + Design | STIRworld
    Water Garden House: Illustration of the plan-elevation relation Image: Courtesy of Wallflower Architecture + Design

(Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)

Project Details

Name: Water Garden House
Location: Tanglin, Singapore
Design: Wallflower Architecture + Design
Typology: Residence
Site Area: 1585 sq.m.
Design Team: Robin Tan, Sean Zheng, Borromeo Carlo, Shirley Tan, Elvan Ong
Consultants: KH Lim Quantity Surveyors, GCE Consulting Engineers, WN Consultants
Landscape: Greendot Creations Pte Ltd

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