Cover Generous overhangs help with heat gain

Design Collective Architects and Essential Design Integrated’s award winning family home is a series of pavilions blurring the boundaries between indoors and out

A home designed to evolve with a family’s needs is a fascinating proposition. Design Collective Architects (DCA) together with its associate design practice Essential Design Integrated (EDI) created a home that did just that while exploring the idea of a modern tropical home. The result is a stunning home comprising modern pavilions connected by large open terraces and water gardens which recently won several local and international awards.

Located within a gated community in Selangor, the site clocks in at a sprawling 3,488sqm. The client had previously worked with DCA on a project that didn’t reach fruition but returned to the firm when he purchased this new piece of land. “The project is generally inspired by the idea of living within the environment and how we could design a home that coexists and integrates itself within a lush garden. This concept of inside out living and blurred edges is how the house was planned and designed. An idea where you can be within your own home and sitting in your garden all at the same time,” explains Chan Mun Inn, lead architect. 

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A series of pavilions was used to bring this inspiration to life while neatly fulfilling the design brief of being adaptable to the family’s changing needs in the coming years. To this end, each pavilion differs programmatically and allows for the large home to be sectionalised. A guest pavilion, an entertainment pavilion, a living pavilion and a service pavilion; each functions independently and may be closed off when not in use.

This flexibility allows for certain pavilions to be closed when the client’s children leave home for studies in the future. To encourage a more natural way of living with fresh air and natural sunshine, the architects adopted the fundamentals of tropical architecture from the start. “We designed this house to be very much a part of its gardens and surroundings with large door panels that fold away to allow for free flowing cross ventilation,” says Chan.


Oversized deep verandas and roof overhangs provide shade from the afternoon sun and the use of timber screens on the western façade provide filtered light into the living spaces. Insulated cavity walls and roofing systems keep out the heat and retains the coolness of the interiors and uPVC window systems reduce heat transmission through its frames.

Water gardens and landscaped courtyards provide shade and lower the ambient temperature around the house. Pathways and terraces form semi outdoor spaces between the interiors and the gardens and are used as additional living spaces when the need arises.

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The garden is a tropical oasis of lush planting and serene ponds
Above The garden is a tropical oasis of lush planting and serene ponds

As a result, the house does not require any artificial lighting throughout the day and as little mechanical cooling as possible. “Designing with the environment and being ‘green’ is always a prime consideration in all our projects. Taking care of and being sensitive to the surroundings and the context in which the house sits within is always an important design criteria that we should never ignore or forget,” states Chan.


The use of pavilions is a very common approach to tropical architecture as the fragmented planning allows for permeability and effective air flow through and around the building, ultimately cooling and refreshing the interior of the house. In this case, the planning naturally creates outdoor spaces and courtyards that bind the programmes of the pavilion with the outside and activates the in-between spaces more effectively.

Semi-enclosed spaces that bridge internal space to the exterior allow functions to expand and contract depending on the need of that particular time. This concept of a third space, in the context of this home, adopts the area left over for the garden and integrates it into the planning for the pavilions. As a result of the architecture and landscape coexisting so closely, available spaces are shared and boundaries becomes more fluid. 

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The goal for the interior design was to achieve a sense of wellbeing for the user, so green considerations were a top priority. From maximising natural daylight for all common spaces to having high ceilings and creating open and horizontal areas, every effort was taken to promote a free flow of space and movement. When it came down to furniture and lighting selection, decisions were based on emphasising space and openness.

“We picked mainly modern minimal pieces from Walter Knoll for most of the seating in the house. Walter Knoll’s design ideas and philosophy which originated from the Bauhaus movement creates furniture as pieces of art, yet are practical and ergonomically comfortable. The client also took the opportunity to visit the Salone del Mobile, Milan, to feel the quality of the pieces first hand prior to placing his order,” explains Wong Pei San, lead interior designer.

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High ceilings encourage continual airflow
Above High ceilings encourage continual airflow

A two-tier Luceplan Hope modern chandelier hangs in the living room while outdoor furniture was sourced from Gandia Blasco. For the kitchen, Italian brand Binova with its pocket sliding mechanism allow messy worktops to be tucked away and hidden, giving the kitchen a clean backdrop when viewed from the dining room.


As an exploration of the idea of a modern tropical home showcasing architecture exposed to the natural elements surrounding it, the project is a resounding success. Light, air, water and garden permeate and pass through the house through its courtyards, air wells, ventilated walls, windows and timber screens. 

The degree of permeability is controlled to an extent that the interior spaces still remain comfortable without suffering from excessive heat gain or moisture levels. After all, the goal of tropical architecture is not to shield its users from the elements but to enhance and bridge the experience and the relationship between them—something the architects and interior designers have gracefully achieved.


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  • PhotographyCreative Clicks and Lin Ho
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