Set against a translucent glass wall backdrop, a white cloth-clad reproduction of Mies van der Rohe’s famous Barcelona chair, an elegant wooden table reminiscent of a Chinese ceramic drum stool, and a dramatic painting of a tattooed man by Agus Suwage make an impact in the entrance foyer of the house.
When planning this dwelling for a young couple with contrasting personalities and interests, the architect decided to reflect their dual natures in the façades of the house. The front façade basically expresses the introverted nature of the female owner. While the façade appears initially to be transparent and vulnerable to visual intrusion because of its wall of tall, thin, steel rods, the ground behind the fence is raised on a slant towards the front wall of the house, giving the impression that the house is tucked into the ground, protected from the outside world. In contrast, the rear of the house opens out to a swimming pool, the focal point of social activities, thus expressing the extroverted nature of the male owner. In essence, the house is faceless: the front elevation is hidden behind a slanted mound, while the back elevation is pitted against the high wall of the adjacent house. The orientation of the house echoes the rectangular site. Its structure fills the left half of the site, while the right half comprises a sparse garden.
The swimming pool at the back runs along the whole length of the house. The screen-faced upper story juts out above the glass wall of the lower story, creating a feeling of intimacy.
A thick transparent glass wall protects the open interior on the ground level. Although the front and the back of the house are conceptually divided from each other by a narrow circulation sliver in the middle of the house, spatially the areas of the house blend together. Once inside the house, visitors have immediate visual access to the dining area and pool beyond.
In plan, the house is composed of two rectangles sandwiching a smaller rectangular core, which contains a skylight-covered staircase leading to the second floor. Through the stairwell, the skylight brings light into both floors of the house. Placed back to back on the longitudinal site, the single-story rectangle in the front of the house comprises the garage, the entrance foyer, a television/games room, and a study. Its roof slants upwards towards the back of the house to accommodate the double-height living levels. The first floor is dominated by a long, open-plan living and dining area, which opens out to the swimming pool by means of sliding glass doors and to views of the garden through wood-framed windows. The spareness of the garden is highlighted by a single old frangipani tree.
The side elevation (above) shows the house protected by a mound of grass in the front, and the yard at the back. The front elevation (below) indicates the introverted façade shielded by the pitched roof.
On an island in the center of the kitchen, a gray granite counter top, black cabinets, and a stainless steel hob and hood harmonize both materially and structurally with the rest of the house.
A graceful curving Arco lamp stands guard over the reproduction Barcelona day bed in the the minimalist living room. Behind it, within the circulation sliver dividing the front and back of the house, a concrete staircase covered with central wood treads leads to the second floor.
Wooden blinds harmonize perfectly with the dark-stained horizontal slats on the storage cupboards at the end of the living area. The broad marble shelf is an ideal place for displaying flowers, paintings, photographs, books, and other memorabilia.
A skylight placed along one side of the circulation sliver brings light into the narrow space. The combination of exposed painted plaster and the central passage of wood on the stairs and railings mirrors the materials used in the skylight area above.
Beneath the stairs, a bed of pebbles becomes a clever spatial device for separating the staircase from the rest of the space without physically blocking it off. The mix of concrete, wood, pebbles, and tiles demonstrates the subtle use of colors and textures in the house.
The living area, which is flooded with light on two sides, ends with a set of large timber-framed windows placed above a marble-clad ledge, on top of which decorative items can be placed. Under the ledge is a low cabinet for the storage of small items or books and magazines.
The linearity of the pool area at the back is emphasized by the use of horizontal wood slats on the upper level, the long rustic brick wall, and the coarse unpainted plastered cement paving blocks.
The bedrooms on the second floor also face the pool but are given privacy from the adjoining property by a linear screen of wood. Two projections jut out from the main volume on the upper level above the glass-clad lower floor, sheltering the lower floor from the elements but also creating a feeling of intimacy at the back of the house. The first is an extension of the master bedroom, the other projects from one of the children’s bathrooms.
Incorporating famed designer Mies van der Rohe’s concept of indoors–outdoors, the minimalist living/dining area merges seamlessly with the pool running alongside the length of the house, sandwiched between the structure and the old rustic brick wall bordering the site. A water spout emerging from a concrete column at one end of the pool circulates water in the pool, which overflows on all sides, then comes back into the pool. Lights installed in the plastered cement slabs of the narrow path between the pool and the brick wall, highlight both the path and the wall. In an alcove at the far end of the pool is a changing room and a separate toilet. The opposite end of the pool opens to the expansive lawn with its sole frangipani.
While the layouts of the front and back rectangles appear to further reflect the dual natures of the owners—the front occupied by fixed, enclosed spaces, the back by versatile, open spaces—the architect has introduced architectural devices that allow tremendous flexibility in the arrangement of both rectangles. Sliding walls transform the configuration of the television/games room and study visà-vis the living room. Instead of a simple door, a folding wall is installed to separate the entrance foyer from the open living and dining space beyond, allowing the house to have two different and even contrasting personalities.
A curved concrete wall leads towards the entrance, at the same time acting as a retaining wall for the protective grass mound in front of the house.
The top of the roof rests high above the axis of the middle of the back volume, its girders jutting out the sides. Sloping towards the front of the house, the roof cantilevers over the birm resting on a frame of concrete erected as a screen wall behind the retaining wall of the mound.
ARCHITECT ANDRA MATIN ANDRA MATIN ARCHITECT
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