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Located on Star Street in Kaohsiung, a port city in southern Taiwan, the Star House is named to honour the history of its context. The residential architecture sits on a cross between two grids, belonging to two different planning systems that originated at different points in history. Taiwan-based atelier GRATIA creates a layered and bold statement house that visually stands out in its otherwise subversive urban environment. At its core, however, it is a true Taiwanese house, blending elements of a courtyard house with those of a row house—the two most celebrated housing typologies of the region.
Designed to be a sanctuary within the dense urban fabric, the house is suffused with balconies and terraces that overlook a green courtyard. The house itself is adapted into a narrow space, maximising the space used to create the courtyard, and optimising the natural ventilation inside the house.
The four-story residential design uses an abundance of glass to create interiors bathed in natural light. It creates a contrast of light against the otherwise heavy concrete. This clever use of glass also creates visual connectivity across the various levels of the house. Against the smooth surface of the glass, the raw concrete adds a Brutalist touch, lending textural depth to the surfaces and creating visual compatibility of the walls against the foliage around the house.
The concrete is carried through to the interiors which are furnished with a minimal aesthetic, highlighting the concrete architecture. The bathrooms feature tiles and marble to create a durable yet cohesive aesthetic.
There is a deliberate play of geometrics in the form of shapes and lines throughout the design. Arrangements of triangles as well as lines that look like constellations in the sky, can be seen in the interiors as well as in the house plan.
The most striking feature of the house, however, is its front façade—the sharp and angular facade lends a sculptural quality to the house, and with a repetition of triangles seen through the design it creates a constellation-like effect. This is further reinforced by the use of two strategically placed openings that preserve the privacy of the home while giving the façade a sense of whimsy and mystique.
Beyond the façade and form, the spaces within are carefully considered. There is a fluidity of movement through the home and the designers have skilfully created pockets of privacy and community within the sanctuary.
The first floor houses a large dining space, living space, and kitchen area, with three bedrooms resting on the upper floors. The higher floors also feature an office and tearoom overlooking the pond. All the levels of the house are linked with a staircase on the eastern side.
Beyond the habitants, the design is also considerate towards the environment. The sustainable design uses skylight vents at the top floor to create a chimney effect, allowing the entry of a cool breeze from the pond, creating passive cooling throughout the house, and thus reducing the need for active and mechanical cooling.
The pond itself is recirculated through a rainwater harvesting system, comprising an underground reservoir. The rainwater collected is also used to irrigate the garden. Solar panels on the roof harness solar energy used to fuel the house's electrical system.
Star House exemplifies balance in architectural design, successfully superimposing the lightness of glass against the heaviness of concrete, all while honouring the past while looking to the future.
Name: Star House
Location: Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Area: 613 sqm (Built)
Year of completion: 2022
Design Firm: atelier GRATIA
Consultants: Top Technic Engineering Consultant Co., LTD (Structure), LHLD Lighting Design, A.S Studio (Structure)
Contractor: Fuguach Architecture
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