Home Tour: A Fan-Shaped Home In Kuala Lumpur Combining Feng Shui And Sustainable Design
Good work speaks for itself, which was how Melvyn J Kanny of MJ Kanny Architect landed a client when he noticed a project Kanny was putting the finishing touches in the same neighbourhood. “We had just completed a house in Seputeh Heights when my then future client purchased a piece of land nearby with the intention of building a house. I guess he liked what he saw because he got in touch to ask if I would be interested in designing his house,” recalls Kanny.
The deal was sealed when the architect had a closer look at the uniquely shaped piece of land: “The site was a quadrant on a sloped gradient which I thought had great potential for an interesting house. To top that it was opposite an award-winning house which meant that the bar was high, exactly the kind of challenge we relish!”
The home was meant for the client, his wife and two children, and the brief had two important requirements. One was that the house needed to be Feng Shui compliant. Two, the architecture must have an oriental feel with the altar as the main focus of the house.
After taking into account these requests and considering the unusually-shaped site, Kanny was inspired to design a house based on the form of an oriental fan, with the roof opening out like a spread out fan and all the interior spaces organised beneath it. Beneath the timber ceiling, the main altar at the entrance was designed as an intricate Chinese jewellery box with a two-storey high atrium lobby framed by an intricate teak wood trellis and glass.
An abundance of stone elements was one of the feng shui requirements, as such large areas of exterior walls are clad with carefully chosen stones. While Kanny took care of the architecture, Genius Loci, a Singapore design consultancy was appointed to see to the interior design; Benjamin Lim, founder and lead designer, wanted to ensure that the transition between the exterior and interior material finishes was seamless.
“We selected Italian Travertine for its timeless quality. While it’s quite a common material, we took a bold approach and reinterpreted the material textures by laying the floor pattern in a criss-cross format, making the large areas into an art work spread across the floor. Large panels of stone were used to bring the exterior walls into the indoor space and blurs the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces. Marble detailing, which is synonymous with elegant living, was also incorporated,” Lim enthuses.
To mitigate the hardness of the stones, Kanny balanced this by using a substantial amount of timber in the floors and ceiling which also function as valuable sun shading devices. “The radiating curves of the roof combined with the rectilinear forms of the rooms below creates an interesting dialogue between the private spaces and the corridors and walkway with the roof hovering above almost in a weightless manner,” explains Kanny.
However the huge radiating roof also meant a lot of rainwater would gush out during a downpour. The architects solved this by designing a floating concrete gutter with pebbles suspended on the first floor radiating around the house to capture the rainwater spilling over the roof and diverting into a tank in the basement, thus making the solution an interesting feature of the house.
While the house is unapologetically opulent and no expenses were spared in the detailing and materials, Kanny reveals that sustainability was also considered in the design but included in passive ways, ranging from the building orientation to the façade treatment. Apart from being a key design feature, the magnificent roof was important in keeping the interiors cool.
“The roof was the main feature of the house and we designed it to shade the house from the morning and evening sun. This was achieved by creating a huge overhang of 39 feet (at the longest) radiating around the house. Big planes of glass were created to allow daylighting in as much as possible and the atrium was built out of low-E glass and teak wood trellis to keep the heat out,” he explains.
Other green elements were more unobtrusive like installing VRV air-conditioning to keep the energy consumption low but tucking it in the cool basement so unsightly air-con louvres and ledges could be avoided as well as using LED lights throughout and harvesting rain water for watering the garden.
In fitting out the vast interiors, Lim complemented the handsome architecture by working on a theme of modern luxury with layers of neutral hues and Asian touches. “We chose timeless yet comfortable pieces with most of the furniture being sourced from Europe and some key items from Thailand. The challenge was to get the scale of the furniture settings in proper ratio to the room sizes, and finding good European furniture with the right ergonomics for our client’s requirements. As the client likes to have guests over, we added luxurious touches to act as little taking points,” says Lim.
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Kanny also adds that a substantial area of the house was dedicated to entertainment spaces for this purpose: “The living area, pool room, karaoke/ AV Room, dining and kitchen were designed to flow into each other and culminates in an outdoor deck which client often uses to entertain clients as well as their staff.” With such careful attention to designing for the client’s lifestyle, Lim happily reports that the client loves the finished product and are utilising the home to its fullest: “Since they moved in, the clients have hosted guests and numerous parties so the house is fulfilling its purpose, although the family themselves have also been bonding in the more intimate spaces and look forward to coming home every day.”