Cover The facade hints at the off-form concrete within

Built almost entirely of off-form concrete, Choo Gim Wah Architect's suburban sanctuary is designed in deference to feng shui principles

In the right hands and deployed correctly, concrete can be a thing of beauty. Think of the elegant austerity of Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute, or the poetic lyricism of Tadao Ando’s Naoshima Art Museum. To convey the beauty of concrete in a home, however, takes some doing as the hard finish can run contrary to the widely accepted idea of the home as a warm, welcoming sanctuary.

 

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Above Off-form concrete facade

However, architect Choo Gim Wah, whose modernist oeuvre embraces the material wholeheartedly, it seemed like quite a natural fit when a client came to the firm around 2016 with an idea for an open-plan, off-form concrete aesthetics. Rising to the challenge, the architect would soon wholeheartedly embrace the design, while taking into consideration Feng Shui principles.

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Located in a quiet Shah Alam suburb with mature plantings, Choo kept in mind the client’s requirements but looked to the site to inform the overall design. “The entire development might be filled with lush landscape and matured trees, but the site itself is surrounded by existing neighbouring buildings on all four sides.

"Hence, we thought of creating a green pocket within the project, filled with landscaping and a swimming pool. Then, the project is designed around it, drawing it as a focal point for all main spaces in the building. Main spaces like the master bedroom and AV room were designed to be on a higher level, and because of that, the occupants can actually view pass the neighbouring building towards the horizon of foliage,” explains Choo.

 

“Spatial arrangements and circulation within the building is the primary focus of this project. We created a series of interlocking spaces through levels that connect to one another, with a sense of continuity through the open-plan layout resulting in creating several interesting pocket spaces. This also provided the project with cross and stack ventilation,” adds Choo.

This provision for a green initiative was also incorporated in the form of an underground rain water harvesting tank. This ensured that among the major spaces, only the living room with staircase faces East. Nonetheless the main “feature space” is the staircase area, which connects the ground floor and the first floor. This, paired up with an off-form concrete wall and timber floor, allows rays of sunlight through the two-storey height window pane that livens up the living area

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The open plan is minimal and elegant in black, white and hints of light coloured wood
Above The open plan is minimal and elegant in black, white and hints of light coloured wood

The materiality of off-form concrete transcends its structural function and merely imbues the house with a unique personality. This is evident throughout the generous built-up area for both internal and external areas, which amount to about 6,200 sq-ft.

 

“The client has been receptive towards the rawness of off-form concrete being the identity of the building, and the main focus on the facade and primary spaces of the house. In fact, the organic materiality of off-form concrete ended up balancing out the quality of other finishes like timber and glass,” muses Choo. 

Despite the beauty of the finished product, getting the desired results was not without its share of challenges: “There are two pieces of off-form concrete walls stretching to two and three storeys high respectively. It was quite a challenge to work with the contractor to get it right with good workmanship at such a scale. In consideration to the nature of these walls, all the provisions of M&E would have to be carefully considered and concealed before pouring off the concrete. After concreting, it cannot be altered any more to maintain the natural off-form concrete look.

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Above The master bathroom is a sanctuary

Nonetheless, with planning, perseverance and patience, the end results exceeded Choo’s expectations and reflect the effort that went into making it just right.

 

 

“We are quite happy with the finished products, from the off-form concrete walls to the off-form concrete roof slab at the highest level. These concrete walls and slabs create interesting spaces throughout the building, internally and externally. Likewise, we are excited to see the results of how the rugged concrete surface pair up with timber and glass, creating strong spaces which are yet still homely with the resort-like swimming pool and deck outside,” Choo explains.

While Choo helped to create the interior layout and spaces, the clients themselves purchased all furniture, decorative objects, and lighting fixtures to add their own individual stamp to the home.

The client and his family are clearly pleased with the whole package as the architect comments that the home has become an integral part of their lifestyles. “The teenage boy swims regularly, while the family hosts parties from time to time. The guests enjoy spending time around the pool and the deck area. The whole family is enjoying the house tremendously.”

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