Winding Villa by Stu/D/O in Thailand wraps nature within a sinuous bounding wall
by Jerry ElengicalOct 11, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Jan 27, 2023
Childhood homes are treasure troves of nostalgia, places that remind one of simpler times that have passed. Regardless of the nature of the house itself, there is always a fondness that accompanies any reminiscing or rumination on the memories rooted in this kind of space. AUN Design Studio, based in Bangkok, was handed the task of recreating these sentiments for a client, who sought to replace his childhood home with a new intervention in residential design to accommodate himself along with his elderly mother. Decades after first leaving the nest to study, work, and live abroad, he now desired to ‘reflect’ and capture the emotions of his childhood on his return to Thailand's capital, within a new home capable of catering to the needs of two successive generations.
Built on the site of the client’s existing home, the new build, christened Reflection House—stressing the thematic base of the residential architecture—is boxed in by surrounding structures in the vicinity, which was a concern that had to be addressed at the outset of the design process. As the design team explains in a statement, "Visualise a boy playing with his friends in the neighbourhood. They run into this house, walk in and out of those houses. Picture adults leaning against the fence chatting and watching their children run and play. These fond memories 'reflect' the homeowner's childhood living experience and the relationship with his mother.” Therefore, the issue of density was one that had to be tackled shrewdly, as the intimacy of the locale was itself embedded into the client’s recollection of his childhood.
After much deliberation on the topic, a solution arose where the placement of the entrances could be separated, allowing the main volume of the house to occupy the centre of the plot, bifurcating the land to host gardens on two sides. This arrangement allowed natural light and ventilation through the structure from both sides. Leaning further into the idea of bifurcation, the residence has been designed over two levels, with the lower ground floor reserved for the client’s mother, and the upper level structured as a more relaxed, private space for him. Spaces such as the kitchen, living, and dining areas were placed in the lower block for easy accessibility, as well as their more public functions.
Exposed concrete was chosen as the foundational material for the façade design. Making use of its ability to render geometric design elements, the architects resolved to emulate the gabled roof forms of other private residences in the vicinity. To this end, the massing of the home is a simple gable-roofed cuboid at its most fundamental level, albeit, with one half of the gable extruded towards the main road. This generates a pair of staggered trapezoids standing upright on their straight edges, one projecting in front of the other. Of the two blocks, the one closer to the main road is free of any fenestrations, resembling a concrete obelisk, a playful landmark amid rows of near-identical houses.
A second reference to sloping roof forms can be observed in the entrance gate, which features a screen of steel laths, in a frame that recalls the profile of traditional saltbox roofs. The transparency and airiness of the slats are a counterpoint to the concrete architecture, departing from its weightiness and opacity. From the gate's centre, amid a pocket of landscape design, a lone tree blooms out from the enclosure of the compound and rises to the level of the first floor.
Inside the main volume of the house, the living, dining, and kitchen occur along a continuous stretch, bordered by long stretches of glass doors on both sides. Small gardens have been placed on either side of this space, offering views of greenery from every vantage point within its spatial extent. When the blinds and shutters screening the doors are drawn, a soft shower of light bathes the space in warm tones, as opening the doors permits a gentle breeze to flow inwards, producing a serene environment for residents to unwind. The interior design here is slick, minimal, and contemporary, combining wood, metal, glass, and stone counters in neutral and earthy tones.
Khetkhun Yodpring, who leads AUN Design Studio, explains, while speaking to STIR: "We designed the house to reflect the identity of the homeowner, who is a fun person, has a lot of friends, and loves socialising. The overall design was devised to be simple on a controlled budget. We ensured continuity between the architecture and interior by exposing surfaces, walls, and ceilings, with bare mortar and painting certain walls white. To add an interesting dimension, the owners can hang decorations from their own collections: including paintings, lamps, hooks, clocks, or other works of art. These items can be adjusted and moved, increased and decreased at any time. In the future, the owners will be able to paint additional walls or flooring, which will change the house's look and atmosphere entirely."
The centre of the living area has a latticed steel staircase design as its show stopping feature. Whereas the lowest trio of risers is rooted to the ground as a single block, bearing some degree of visual weight, the next flight is encased in a thin sheet of perforated steel that hovers above the floor, flirting with different degrees of opacity and transparency along its course to mitigate any sense of feeling 'caged.' A single riser has been omitted from the design, creating an intriguing premise for a stair that is 'there but not there.' Detailing was paramount to achieve the desired effect in this case, and AUN Design Studio's efforts have yielded a product that is truly a sight to behold. Folding, turning, and floating over the ground level, the zig-zagging stringer is accented by a lighting strip on the outside, with a similar one outlining the course of the risers from inside the enclosure when turned on.
Yodpring reveals, "We located the staircase in the center of the house as a sculpture which was inspired by 'origami,' the Japanese art of folding paper to transform a flat square sheet into a finished sculpture. This idea came into being since Reflection House is limited in space and the owner loves art, so the origami staircase functions and satisfies his aspirations. We only used perforated steel sheets to make it look semi-transparent and to avoid causing discomfort to users. The perforated steel sheets were well-curated and geometrically folded to make them even stronger. So, the stair becomes self-structured without any additional support. The steel sheets were suspended from the second floor, floating above the first three concrete steps, that appear to have grown from the ground."
Upward bound, the first floor is strictly for use by the client as a space to entertain and work. Here, there is a much stronger emphasis on theatricality and capturing a visitor’s attention, with a number of art and design pieces in bright colours adorning the walls of each space. Only bare mortar has been used to finish most walls, ceilings, and floors, with a few plain white surfaces, which allow the ornaments to occupy the spotlight. A dedicated space for watching football during weekends has been placed next to a bar area, with a larger balcony running alongside it as a place for larger gatherings. Behind the bar is a full bathroom and shower for guests, giving them some much needed privacy while staying over.
Directly opposite the office is the bedroom, with another bathroom encased in glass placed opposite to a dressing room area. The bathroom features shimmering tiled finishes along its walls and flooring, with stylised lighting design elements imparting a retro feel to the space. Directly above the dressing room is a secluded space for yoga and meditation, rounding off the program.
Harnessing and infusing this idea of playfulness into a space is no mean feat, and AUN Design Studio has successfully reflected the aesthetic and emotions of the client’s childhood for a more contemporary design scenario with their work on Reflection House. From its eclectically curated furniture designs and art collection, to its spatial contrasts and highlight features, the home is a feast for the senses, every bit a place to inspire wonder and curiosity as it is an environment to revel in the beauty of times gone by.
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