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Competitions | Press | Residential

Dancing Volumes

By Kenneth Cheong

Set within a cluster of bungalows on a landlocked hill in Taman OUG, with almost no frontage, House No.10 designed by Ar Loo Chee Keong of ARC Partnership extrapolates the volumes of the house as a direct response to its context. 

The funnel-shaped site is located in an established tapestry of bungalows built in the 90s in a plethora of styles mirroring the domestic aspirations of its individual owners during the heydays of Malaysia’s first economic boom. An access road leads to to a trapezoid shaped sloping buildable platform. As the last of the lot to be filled in, all sides of the site front the back of house of its adjacent neighbours. 

Where one would see stumbling blocks in the challenging site, Ar Loo Chee Keong took the site constraints as the impetus for the design of the house. “The programming was conceptualised for an inward-looking courtyard house with courtyards as a central focus to integrate all aspects of living” explains Ar Loo Chee Keong.

Hinging on the Hakka heritage of the family of six, consisting of a professional couple with four children with ages ranging from 9 to 19 years old, the courtyard of the house was inspired by the Hakka Tulou, the traditional communal residence of the Hakka people found in the Fujian province of China. The iconic circular configuration surround a central shrine epitomising vernacular Hakka architecture is con temporised within House No. 10 with the living spaces extrapolated to look inwards towards a central courtyard with a saltwater pool at its heart. The essence of the Tulou where the courtyard becomes a central communal space is refined as space for visual communication between the spaces of the house and a visual focus to the lower rooms of the house. 

With no right angles to the shape of the site, the rooms of the house infill the geometry at irregular angles.” the walls and spaces were intentionally lined to respect the boundaries of the site, as well as creating a totally private courtyard which cannot be seen by the neighbours,” explains Ar Loo Chee Keong. 

The volumes of the rooms are further displaced and modulated to accommodate peep windows and voids that link the rooms vertically and diagonally, essential to provide visual and aural communication within the house. In elevation, the walls are tilted and animated as if to respond to the communications between the spaces of the house. 

Rising Elevations

From the entry point, a linear ramp gently leads up to a basement covered car porch elevated 3.6 meters from the entry point. Courtyards illuminated for the floor above provide natural light and ventilation to the car porch. The ramp further extends along the perimeter of the house leading to the upper floor for additional car parking space for guests and the new ground plane to the living spaces.

“The lower levels were then consciously inward-looking, while the spaces around the main courtyard became the ‘city walls’ to the softer inward looking spaces and elevations of the house,” explains Ar Loo Chee Keong. 

On this new ground plane, fringing the courtyard is the first layer of extrapolated public living spaces. Secondary to this primary ring of public spaces is the private wing of the house with the master bedroom overlooking the main entry. 

“Creating and controlling a new façade transformed the experience of the main lower level public zones while higher zones were reserved as sleeping quarters and security vantage points, and a unique perch to see the PJ skyline from afar and also the peaks of KLCC.” 

On the highest elevation of the house are the children’s sleeping quarters. On the highest floors, the views from the rooms skim over the roofs of its neighbours, unravelling the contained volumes to take advantage of vistas of Bukit Gasing, the skyline of Old Klang Road and Taman Yarl. An elevated roof garden and planting area brings additional open flexible space to the highest level of the house to capitalise on the views and provides room for expansion for the growing family. 

A feature wall boldly bisects the house to further delineate the private and public wing of the house. In addition to a space organising device, the cavity feature wall becomes a funnel that siphons hot air out of the internal spaces via solar powered mechanical ventilation to maintain continuous air flow through the house to reduce ambient heat build-up. “The high spine wall acts as a backbone to orientate the north- and south-facing rooms as well as create a contiguous ceiling plenum to allow free flow of air and hot air extraction via a single solar powered daytime fan. The use of AAC bricks double insulated roofs, roof to gardens and solar treated windows further help minimise the heat gain of the house,” explains Ar Loo Chee Keong.

“To compliment a smaller carbon footprint and improve recycling energy use, the house is integrated with solar powered air conditioning, layered lighting, FIT/Nett metering solar panel ready roof, water harvesting facilities as well as roof top garden patches for home grown consumables. Windows and glazing are aplenty in this house, bathing the interior with natural light, yet shaded where necessary with vegetation or by the massing interplay of the building,” further explains Ar Loo Chee Keong.

The bold volumes of House No. 10 dancing in elevation truly captures and animates the joy of the young family trumping the practicalities of modern day environmentally sensitive living. 

This article originally appeared in Architecture Malaysia magazine in their March 2020 volume.

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