SINGAPORE - Mention vernacular architecture and images of bamboo huts, stone cottages and log cabins come to mind.
However, a response to local climate, sensitivity to microsite context and appropriate use of natural materials need not always adopt a rustic form.
Take this detached home in Bishan, for instance. Designed by home-grown firm Foma Architects, its modern expression draws inspiration from the traditional kampung house.
Architect Terence Tan Chin Chieh says: "The circulation is always part of external space, just like in a kampung house."
The enclosed rooms of the 6,674 sq ft house open out onto semioutdoor spaces, similar to the verandahs of a kampung house.
It was Mr Tan's unconventional design pitch that clinched him the project.
Home owner Patrick Hui, who is in his 60s, says: "The proposals by other architects mostly consisted of just one building, but Terence's scheme had a two-building concept, which I liked."
Mr Tan's proposal was driven by site constraints. The trapezoidal plot, surrounded by other houses and a school, has limited frontage.
With not much of a view outside, he turned the focus inwards, dissecting the typical single massing into two and then sliding and shearing them apart in perpendicular directions along the east-west and north-south axes respectively.
"The rooms are pushed to the sides, while the circulation and external spaces, including the swimming pool, occupy the centre," he says.
The result is an H-shaped plan comprising two long, inward-looking blocks that house the living, dining and sleeping areas connected by an open circulation core overlooking the pool.
The volumes are oriented to channel the prevailing wind along the north-south axis, which runs through the heart of the home.
Appropriate sun-shading elements on the east and west facades minimise the heating load to the interior.
Except for when the sun is directly overhead, the two long blocks also keep the central spaces well shaded.
Trellises and planters along the circulation core provide an extended overhang that offers additional protection against the sun and rain.
"However, during heavy downpours, the blinds need to be drawn to prevent the rain from splashing into the corridors," Mr Tan says.
Indeed, the well-conceived response to Singapore's climate has proven effective.
Mr Hui and his extended family of three generations have hardly had to switch on the air-conditioner during the day since they moved into the home in June 2017.
The business owner likes to spend time off work in the cool, shaded sanctuary of the garden surrounding the swimming pool. He also enjoys landscaping and tending to his fish.
Working with home-grown CPSA Design Studio, the interior's modern Oriental style reflects the home owner's preferences.
For Mr Tan, this $3 million project (including construction, architecture and interior works) was about creating tropical architecture that takes precedence over the local vernacular while maintaining the genius loci of the place.
As for Mr Hui, this was a promise come true for his wife.
When they got married, they were living in a Housing Board flat in the vicinity.
"I told my wife I would buy her a private property one day," he recalls lovingly.
This article first appeared in the November 2020 issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines. Get the December and latest issue of Home & Decor now at all newsstands or download the digital edition of Home & Decor from the App Store, Magzter or Google Play. Also, see more inspiring homes at Home & Decor's website.