Cover The infinity pool disappears into the green

Designed for an artist’s requirements and a celebration of its environment, The Canvas Hill Residence is a joyful expression of creativity and context

Perched on a slope in Janda Baik, The Canvas Hill Residence gets its name by combining its painter owner’s medium and its sloping Janda Baik site. The house, which recently took home the silver in the PAM Awards residential category, reflects the spirit of the homeowner, a renowned local artist, that on many levels informs its use and expresses the spirit of the place within a modern yet traditional-infused envelope.


Designed by Choo Gim Wah Architect, the client had previously worked with the firm on another project. While the inclined site was not without its challenges, they found that the site had a couple of staggered flat areas that could be used to leverage upon.

“The location of the site is also up a hill with the view that looks towards Genting Highlands on one side and the horizons on the other. We knew a site like this doesn’t come by often so we decided to take the challenge,” says Ar. Choo Gim Wah, principal of Choo Gim Wah Architect.


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Above Cross ventilation is encouraged with large doors instead of walls

The main influence for the project was the site itself explains Choo. The architects decided to turn the flat area of the site into a courtyard and angle the building elevation for the view across the hills, taking in the morning sun.

“With both of these design thoughts in place, the rest of the house took shape to support and emphasise these components. Also keep in mind that we worked very closely with the client on this project,” reminisce Choo. “Being an artist himself, he had opinions and passion on certain things and an appreciation on good aesthetics. Lots of discussion and iterations were made throughout the process but in the end, we were able to agree on something that both parties found to be good.”

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The house comprises a courtyard by the slope, framed by two pavilions inspired by the traditional Chinese courtyard residence or siheyuan, but with three sides where an infinity pool forms the enclosing fourth side. Accessed by a moon gate entrance, the larger of the pavilions is the three-storey main dwelling-cum-art-space. It’s layered with cantilevered decks and a flying roof, while managing to project off the sloping terrain. The second small pavilion is reserved for guests and though visibly grounded, retains a similar language.


Within the main pavilion, the residence’s three modes—private, semi-private and public—are organised via stacking. The pavilion’s basement and first floors house the semi-private spaces with living and dining areas in an open-plan configuration, with a view of Genting Highlands from the cantilevered deck. The second-floor family room and bedrooms are likewise encircled by a deck, connected to the level below through a steel staircase.


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Above A sculptural staircase connects both floors

An outdoor patio beneath the first floor deck serves as the artist’s workspace. Directly adjoining the workspace is an art gallery featuring both the artist’s works and his private collection. Open to periodic viewing, the space represents Canvas Hill’s public program, accessible by a dedicated entryway and guest parking at a lower platform separate from the home entrance.



With both architect and client having a coherent keen eye for beauty, it was fairly an easy decision to lean towards a more rustic and raw material finish for the project. Local hardwood was favoured for this with chengal for the decking and integrating vertical strips of merbau into the steel columns, effectively extending the ambience of wood into the private areas.

"Raw material finishes are much appreciated across the building’s setting, as their aesthetics require less maintenance and will wear well with time and weather,” enthuses Choo.


As the project sits in a tropical forest setting, humidity is a strong issue that was kept in mind across all design initiatives. By virtue of its open layout, cross and stack ventilation occurs naturally in all functional rooms, and encouraged further by open-louvres above all openings. To tackle the humidity and lower temperatures of Janda Baik, the architect orientated the building to capture the morning sun while taking into account the existing topography. Rounding off the house’s green initiatives is the provision of a rainwater harvesting tank to take advantage of the generous rainfall throughout the year in the area.

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From orienting pavilions to best frame views to bringing to life the steel and wood structure, Choo has provided a blank canvas as it were for the client to express his tastes and lifestyle.

“From furniture to lighting, all interior fittings should be credited to the client. Being an artist himself, there’s no doubt he has a finely tuned affinity for beauty and arrangements,” opines Choo.


This being the owner’s second home in Janda Baik designed by Choo, its evident that the area and Choo’s design hold great appeal for him. As Choo explains: “The client especially cherishes the tranquility of the environment. This provides for him, as an artist, a rather rejuvenating setting to establish his creative process. As the house is sitting on an acre of land, he has the freedom to improve on the finer elements of landscape and certain detailed aspects of the building architecture. Hence, the architecture is in a dynamic form, continuously refining and improving itself after various forms of usage.”


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