Cover A view of the sunken courtyard and the illuminated steps that lead to the living and dining areas above

DP Architects designs a sustainable, multigenerational home that celebrates its connection to nature

Being immersed in nature has many benefits. Better air quality, green views, and natural light and ventilation contribute to a heightened sense of calm as well as improved productivity. This bungalow, designed by DP Architects, boasts all of these qualities and more.

At the core of this home’s design is a tight relationship with nature—its structure has parts chiselled out and filled with verdant courtyards, roof terraces, backyards and water bodies, says Teoh Hai Pin, the project’s lead architect and director of DP Architects.

This house is an oasis for a retired couple who live here with their son and his young family; their daughter resides overseas but returns during the holidays. On the first storey, the living area, family room, kitchen and guest room border a formal dining space at the plan’s centre. The second storey houses bedrooms for the son and his wife as well as their young children, while the elder couple’s master bedroom and daughter’s bedroom are located at attic-level in separate wings. Green decks and corridors between these spaces offer a sense of privacy.

The topography slopes higher toward the rear. This elevates the main parts of the house, giving it increased seclusion. Beneath, the garage sits at road level. Beyond the main door, an Elaeocarpus hainanensis tree planted in a large courtyard is a focal point. “The key design philosophy is for the house to be perceived as a timeless, tropical piece of architecture that may grow to be more beautiful over time. Spatial programming aside, a play with light guides the house’s design,” explains Teoh. His integration of light into space “enhances the human experience beyond visual enjoyment”.

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The key design philosophy for the house is to be percieved as a timeless, tropical piece of architecture that may grow to be more beautiful over time.
Teoh Hai Pin, director of DP Architects and the lead architect for this project

To complement the tropical architecture, the family also worked closely with local studio Free Space Intent to select the furnishings, while the landscaping was done by DP Green.

Water is another element that Teoh employs to elicit a sense of serenity. “Upon shutting the main door, one is transported into a tranquil haven, supplemented by the relaxing sounds of rippling water in the sunken courtyard,” says the architect. “There is a reconnection to nature despite being deep in the basement, as sunlight, the breezes and rain pour poetically into the courtyard.”

The courtyard invites guests and occupants to linger and enjoy a respite from social and domestic routines. Glistening quartz clads the void, reflecting sunlight inwards. This glow also imbues the swimming pool that the grandchildren enjoy using. “Framed by glittering mosaic tiles, it shimmers elegantly like a crystal prism in the evening. For added comfort during the day, a long awning cantilevers over the pool to shade it,” Teoh highlights.

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Overhead, shade-giving aluminium trellises coated with timber-toned paint “create shadows that poetically highlight the passing of time in the day,” adds the architect. Indoors, the staircase leading from the first level to the attic appears to float. It comprises Siena walnut-veneered timber over a structure of folding, 20mm-thick metal plates. Glass railings add to this levitating effect. The same quartz cladding the basement courtyard dresses the facade, whose opacity mitigates the southwestern sun, says Teoh.

In the owner’s attic study, lush planters shield the interiors from neighbours and the evening sun. “This passive strategy in turn creates a cooler room temperature in the attic, resulting in a reduced air-conditioning load and energy savings,” says Teoh.

On the roof, ample solar panels and a solar-powered water heater make the house as technologically sustainable as it is passively ecological. “Besides the clever and extensive use of natural light, I also wanted to ensure that the family had the option to reduce their energy usage with clean power for a smaller carbon footprint,” says the architect.

“The solar power generated is either sold back to the national grid, or channelled straight to the electric car docking system in the garage.” These gestures prove that as much as a house is aesthetically and sensibly pleasant, it can offer much more to current and future generations with green living as the most natural way of domestic life.

  • PhotographyJasper Yu
  • Art DirectionCharlene Lee
  • Stylist's AssistantSarah Ng
  • Photographer's AssistantEvan Kong
  • GroomingBenedict Choo, using Nars
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