Cover The Bewboc House in Kuala Lumpur (Photo: Ceavs Chua)

The unique design of this suburban home was inspired by architect Fabian Tan's fascination with the caves in Mulu National Park, Sarawak

Home to a young family in Kuala Lumpur, this futuristic residence stands out for its curious arched pavilion and asymmetrical boundary lines—two of several unique features that showcase architect Fabian Tan's unmatched flair for infusing large spaces with design character and functionality. Curves, concrete and a minimalist colour palette come together beautifully in this extraordinary structure that Tan fondly calls 'The Bewboc House'.

"I consider all these as parts to a whole," shares Tan, who founded his own design practice Fabian Tan Architect in 2012. "I like to see architecture as a whole, like a well-constructed dish—it looks deceivingly simple to make, it's well balanced with the different ingredients and, most importantly, it tastes good." 

The homeowners didn't have a specific design in mind except that minimal alteration be made to the original space. And while this proved to be a challenge in the design process, Tan quickly turned it into a source of inspiration for some of the most prominent elements of the house, starting with the tunnel-shaped concrete pavilion at the front of the house.

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"The design feature that stands out, in particular, is the pavilion with its arched, vaulted shape," Tan says. "Another feature of the house was the shape of the side of the boundary, where it was askew. When I noticed that, I put the pavilion in parallel with the boundary line."

The original large size of the house also gave Tan the idea to break down the empty spaces into smaller, manageable areas with plenty of openings for light and ventilation. Though it appears detached from the house, the pavilion structure houses a cosy living area that flows seamlessly into the inner parts, directing the flow of natural light and ventilation like a horizontal airwell.        

"I wanted to make the shape of the pavilion seem like a continuous space, something along the lines of when you're inside a cave—you see the rock formations on the wall, and it goes up the ceiling, comes down the ceiling, and then down to the floor. Similarly, it became one continuous space because you couldn't tell where the wall ends and where the ceiling starts," adds Tan, who attributes the majestic Mulu caves of Sarawak as one the inspirations behind the Bewboc House's unique look. 

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"One of the biggest architectural challenges was working with the existing space because it was not altered that much," Tan adds. "The formation of the actual pavilion in terms of construction technicality was quite tricky. Every little detail was considered, even in terms of where the holes formed from the tie rods that hold the formwork to cast the concrete."

Outside, a beautifully manicured green lawn contrasts the house's stark grey exterior; inside, the concrete is contrasted with white walls, large black doors and subtle touches of timber soften the overall colour scheme and counter the weightiness of the pavilion's arched shape. 

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The home's interior is rife with unconventional nooks, corners and 'layered' spaces carefully worked into the large layout. The study on the first floor overlooks the living area; nearby, a lounging corner connects to this space by a step-up platform. A bedroom behind overlooks the study, and the master bedroom connects via a bridge to an open balcony in the outermost section of the pavilion annex. The inverted arch window, on the other hand, overlooks the neighbourhood and forms an invisible 'S' shape in connection to the balcony, enhancing the curves and continuity of the pavilion.      

"I suppose the choice of concrete was also related to the element of continuity, since the concrete represents a homogeneous material, made out of casting," adds Tan. Continuity features strongly throughout the home, displayed in how the living areas seamlessly embrace the outdoors. Again, subtle hints of wood in the furnishings and fixtures throughout the house serve to inject the warmth of the natural environment into the interior spaces, along with the minimalist use of indoor plants.

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Simultaneously merging large communal quarters with quieter and more personal spaces for reflection, the Bewboc House is a bespoke residence that boldly reflects the unique character of its occupants, yet with a respectful nod to the natural oddities of its landscape.

"There were many challenges and difficulties throughout the design process, but ultimately, the results were extraordinary," says Tan. 

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