AR House 2013 Highly Commended: A silent facade of traditional origins hides spaces where theatrical double heights merge with tropical vegetation and textures veiled by the patina of time
Combining living quarters above a shop, the narrow shophouse fronted by a ‘five-foot way’ (a narrow public arcade) is the quintessential building type of Singapore and South-East Asia. Transforming an existing structure into a modern dwelling, this project reframes and recasts the shophouse, while preserving a strong sense of its vernacular origins.
Built in the 1920s, the shophouse used to house the Lucky Book Store. The frontage has been stripped back to reveal the detail and dignity of the original architecture. Inside, non-structural elements were removed to open up the cellular plan and expose the old brick walls. Living and dining now occupy the former shop at ground level, with a bedroom and study on the upper floor.
Overlooking a long garden, a double-height dining space forms the focus of the remodelled dwelling. Within the garden is a new, single-storey guest house conceived as an irregular enfilade of rooms suffused with natural light and the presence of nature. The crisp new language of concrete and glass plays off the gently weathered texture of the original structure.
The outcome recalls the best aspects of the old shophouses, and how they situated and supported domestic life within a specific commercial and urban context. It also explores the potential of a familiar vernacular building type and how it can be reused in a way that respects and responds to its origins. And though Singapore now sees its future through the prism of new forms of high-density living, the shophouse still remains an important and cherished part of its urban fabric.
Jury members were drawn to the idea of adapting and transforming a historic building type so that it assumed a new relevance to the current era. They especially admired the project’s deft and restrained handling of space and materials, and the way in which the new elements meshed with and revitalised the original structure.
Architect: Chang Architects
Photographs (Slideshow) : Albert Lim KS, 1, 2, 4
Eric & Invy Ng, 3, 5