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This Singapore home pays tribute to both architectural history and family ties

RT+Q Architects integrates its diverse influences from the classical to the Baroque in a multi-generational home that’s made for family bonding.

This Singapore home pays tribute to both architectural history and family ties

Furnished with bar stools and a Molteni&C dining set, the dry kitchen provides plenty of space for the family to socialise and entertain. (Photo: Singapore Tatler)

For a close-knit family, it seemed only natural that their ties to one another would inspire the design of their home. “A home is a place where you can simply be yourself, a place where you have many cherished memories with family and loved ones,” said the owners, who work in private equity. 

After living in a semi-detached house for 16 years, the couple wanted a larger home to accommodate to the needs of their three growing children and elderly parents. They limited their search within the estates nearby as the family adored the neighbourhood for its accessibility, amenities and tranquil parks. This property also appealed to them because it is located along a private cul-de-sac and has a sizeable land area.

An outdoor dining set from Tribu maximises the use of the central courtyard, which is beside the kitchen and the lap pool. (Photo: Singapore Tatler)

The couple entrusted their home-building project to RT+Q Architects. “The firm stood out with its creative, innovative and bold designs,” said the owner. “Our brief was simple – we wanted a contemporary house with bright and breezy spaces.” 

For Rene Tan, director of RT+Q, which he co-founded in 2003 with TK Quek, the project is about “creating a house with coherent forms and defined spaces”, amidst a neighbourhood comprising recent re-developments that are very varied in style.

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Tan proposed three rectangular massing blocks with volumes that are distinct yet connected. These are arranged in a C-shape around a central courtyard, with a lap pool that stretches the length of one boundary wall.

Various requirements are addressed within these masses, many of which also possess symbolic meaning. The longest block houses public areas such as the entrance foyer, with the living area and media room on either side of the main entrance. The middle block is where the dining and kitchen are located, a gesture that recognises the importance of sharing meals together as a family. The gym and lounge are situated in the rear block, with direct access to the pool and deck.

"It is almost as if all my studies and travels have culminated in the design of this house."

Private zones such as the bedrooms are on the second storey. The children’s bedrooms and a library can be found in front, while the grandparents’ wing sits in the middle, with a garden alcove where the couple can relax or do a little gardening. The master suite is positioned towards the rear, with a view of the children’s block from across the central courtyard; a symbolic nod to the way parents will always look out for their offspring.

This home exemplifies one of the practice’s core values: The creation of great spaces. To achieve that, Tan looked to classical architecture and the works of great masters such as Filippo Brunelleschi, who is widely regarded as the founding father of Renaissance architecture. “It is almost as if all my studies and travels have culminated in the design of this house,” said Tan.

The central courtyard is the heart of the home, emulating the traditional courtyard villas of Italy. The circular powder room located to the left of the main entrance offers an initial clue as to the surprises that await throughout the home. The series of doorways leading from the entrance to the powder room create an interesting layering effect.

A round opening in the entrance foyer ceiling offers a peek into the library located directly above. Its design is a nod to the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, the French national library that’s located in Paris. “I was impressed by the spatial quality of its vestibule and I have always wanted to find an opportunity to re-create it,” shares Tan.

The library’s strong circular form establishes a datum around which all other elements are designed. The tower of books rises up to the ceiling that is defined by an oculus; the light coming through the opening is almost like a divine glow that imbues the room with a surreal quality.

Between the external envelope and the wall of tomes lies a hidden surprise: A secret door leads to the younger son’s bedroom. Externally, the library is expressed as a cylindrical volume that rises above the flat roof, an acknowledgment of its spatial significance within the home.

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Another great space is the walk-in wardrobe in the master suite. Tan looked to Neoclassical architect, Sir John Soane’s Museum in London for inspiration, in particular, the pendentive dome in the breakfast room. The dome over the rectilinear space and the light from the oculus gives the dressing area a calming, cathedral-like quality.

“The great spaces of the past ought not to be forgotten,” said Tan. To the architect, the key to integrating classical references with contemporary forms is all about “balance”.

Even in the detailing, Tan derived lessons from an architect close to his heart –Le Corbusier. Metal C-sections discharge rainwater down from the roof, inspired by the way Le Corbusier expressed the rainwater channels in the Church at Firminy and Notre Dame du Haut. “It is a poetic way of dealing with rainwater,” said Tan. Other external details contextualise the home by responding to the tropical climate. These include the perforated metal panels that can be adjusted in response to the sun.

In the same way that Tan balances classical references with contemporary forms, the material palette and facades are deliberately kept simple to balance these intricately-conceived details. “We focus on spaces rather than surfaces,” reiterated Tan.

"A home is a place where you can simply be yourself, a place where you have many cherished memories with family and loved ones."

Internally, distinctive and well-resolved details enrich the design scheme. The sliding doors leading to the powder room on the ground floor have a unique profile that follows the curve of the space on the inside and is straight on the outside.

The library doors are actually moveable shelves that hinge open and close. Notches seamlessly integrated into sliding and cabinet doors provide aesthetically-pleasing, yet functional solutions that negate the need for door handles.

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For Tan, this home was about “returning architecture to its primitive origin”. “It is not for the sake of doing it, but in order to create spaces that move us,” he said.

For the owners, it is their hope that the new home will be “a place where love and good memories abound, one that our children will continue to be drawn to even as they grow up and study, travel or work outside of Singapore”.