Cover Image: David Yeow Photography

Nestled in the green enclave of Ledang Heights, Johor, S/LAB 10’s first local project is a masterclass in materiality and spatial planning that brings the best out of a challenging site

For many who live in Singapore, the seemingly limitless expanse of Johor is a great draw where real estate is concerned. Whether having a weekend home or commuting daily (pre-Covid) from a base  close to either border links, it offers the best of both worlds.

For a British expatriate couple with children studying in Nusajaya, this arrangement made perfect sense so they decided to move to Ledang Heights, located just 10km from the Tuas checkpoint.

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They found an undulating piece of land surrounded by lush mature greenery and wanted to build a home that would embrace this. Their search for a designer brought them to S/LAB 10, a Johor-based firm which was first established in Australia and founded by Jason Sim and Hao Wang.

“After our initial communication, I realised that the client genuinely wanted to build something interesting and unconventional," says Sim. "This was exciting as it would allow us to explore different architecture and interior outcomes. The site with its multiple slopes was also interesting and I knew building on it would be challenging but rewarding."

FLOOR SPACE

Indeed, the site informed the design from the start, coupled with a desire that it should would tread as lightly as possible on the land. To this end, the architects arrived at a tiered complex comprising multiple projections of suspended planes, cubic and rectangular volumes. This interplay of planes and volumes are closely integrated and cluster around a single body of water—a central infinity pool.

This strategy not only resolves the issue of the sprawling, rolling landscape which dipped close to over five metres between its highest and lowest points, it also addresses the clients request for ample space for entertaining while maintaining privacy and safety.

“Planning the house and architecture forms in multiple levels meant less cutting of land and filling. Large open plan verandas merge indoors and outdoors seamlessly and are ideal for entertaining while maintaining a physical and visual connection with the surrounding planned landscape,” explains Sim.

 

“To address the client’s requirement for privacy without sacrificing the connection to its surroundings, we arranged the architectural forms in such a way as to shield the central pool and surrounding area from prying eyes.”

The spatial planning of the house is staggered into three tiers with the lower ground level being the entry point into the residential compound.

Flanked by sturdy, irregular widths of concrete panels and an entrance gate of narrow timber slats, the boundary of the property is solidly demarcated with the bold and strong use of natural materials and textures, deliberately creating a foreboding sense to intimidate potential intruders. 

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This language continues throughout the design scheme. While the designers acknowledge that the use of timber, concrete and marble could be visually heavy, this is balanced with simple detailing, formal composition and structural reasoning.

“This is the first architectural project that we have taken on since our return to Malaysia, and we were aware that we were working with a different band of craftspeople in an unfamiliar territory. As such, we chose to keep the details and form of the project simple and manageable as a way of mitigating any potential errors from happening and to ensure the highest level of craftsmanship in the final outcome,” says Sim.

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FINE FEATURES

 

Tatler Asia
This picture was used as Tatler Homes Malaysia's April issue cover
Above This picture was used as the cover for Tatler Homes Malaysia's April 2021 issue

Following from the arrival point on the lower ground level of the house, guests are swept up along a flight of floating concrete steps to the residence’s main floor. Here, guests are greeted by a view of not only the main living areas, but also of the aforementioned infinity swimming pool. Apart from the functional segments of the ground level, the open plan living spaces and the family hall orientate themselves around and onto the pool.

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In doing so, these spaces are opened and directed towards a calm oasis that further looks out into an uninterrupted horizon of lush and neverending greenery. This not only blurs the boundaries between interior and exterior, it ensures the residence’s internal spaces are bathed with generous and constant natural light.

Apart from spatial planning, the architects excel in using material flourishes to emphasise the house’s spatial qualities. Like the brise-soleil screen panels installed on selected balconies comprising CNC-cut aluminium panels. These triangle perforations were hollowed out and filled in with coloured stainless steel and titanium inserts ordered according to tone and gradient. The effect is a bejewelled array of hues in the multifaceted façade – a dazzling contrast against its plastered white and rough grey concrete counterparts and a complement to the aqua-blue glimmer of the pool below.

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The two separate spiral stairs located in the wings of the residence are also distinct architectural features in their own right. Each sinuously wrapped sculptural spiral is set off by a dramatic backdrop of marbled white flooring and a double full-height window which infuses them in a glow of natural light.

See also: 6 Show-Stopping Staircases In Private Homes

PERSONALITY TRAITS

Populating this meticulously detailed envelope are furniture pieces which contrast yet combine with great style. A modern Chesterfield couch from Timothy Oulton, tufted armchairs from Baxter and a mirrored sofa from Andrew Martin add character to the living area, not to mention bespoke pieces like the petrified wood coffee table imported from Singapore.

In contrast to the residence’s austere aesthetic, the enclosed family hall located across the pool offers a pleasing contrast. Here the timber flooring is offset by peacock blue wallpaper, its exquisite and ornate pattern creating the perfect setting for the family’s artwork and furniture. 

Tatler Asia
The family room is lush in colours and textures
Above The family room is lush in colours and textures

Even as the Malaysia/ Singapore borders stay shut, Sim reports that his clients are revelling in their serene self-contained oasis especially during lockdown. Considering the deft way in which the clients’ requirements were fulfilled and how their desire for a home celebrating its environment was poetically expressed, it’s not hard to see why.

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