House with foliage and pool top winner at architectural award

The upgraded Nanyang Primary School is also among the winners of the annual Singapore Institute of Architects Architectural Design Awards

An architect's stylish open-plan house, with a lap pool and foliage inside, has received the top prize from the architecture fraternity here.

Open House, as it is named, won Building Of The Year at the annual Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) Architectural Design Awards.

The inter-terrace house in Siglap is home to architect Gwen Tan and her architecturally trained husband, as well as their five-year-old son and their mothers. Ms Tan and her husband are two of four partners at Formwerkz Architects.

Ms Tan, 41, was surprised to find out that her project, which was constructed from scratch and has a 446 sq m built-up area, had scooped the top accolade.

The whole process of creating Open House took 20 months and it was completed about two years ago.

She says: "My house is the smallest of the house typologies. So winning Building Of The Year shows that size does not matter - it's a validation of our energy and effort spent creating a house that caters to people's specific needs and wants."

Open House first won a design award in the residential projects category, before being considered for the top prize.


  • WHERE: Archifest Pavilion @ Raffles Place Park, above Raffles Place MRT station at the Zoysia Lawn between Exits A and B

    WHEN: Till Oct 9, 9am to 7pm daily


Projects were awarded in five other categories: commercial projects; institutional projects; industrial, transport and infrastructure projects; special; and interior architecture projects.

These awards are the profession's highest recognition of works that show excellence in architectural design. It drew 91 entries this year, its 16th edition.

There are 13 design awards - each category can have more than one design award winner - and 14 honourable mentions. Projects that snag a design award go on to compete for the Building Of The Year title.

An award is also given out to the Best Project Constructed Under $2 million. This went to DP Architects which won for Goodlife! Makan, a community kitchen in Marine Terrace, set up for seniors who live alone.

The winning projects were picked by a five-member jury that included Professor Richard Ho, the design thrust chair and council member at SIA; and associate professor Wong Yunn Chii, who heads the architecture department at the National University of Singapore.

The judging criteria explore how original and innovative the designs are, their sustainability and how well they are built for the climate, among other factors.

ProfHo, who is also the principal architect of his eponymous firm, says that more projects submitted this year were of a "high standard".

Highlights include the upgrading of Nanyang Primary School by LT&T Avid Architects; and the Enabling Village, a community space in Redhill dedicated to integrating people with disabilities into society by Woha Architects.

He highlights the Goodlife! Makan project for showing "the role that architecture can play in community building".

Another big winner was Kerry Hill Architects. The firm won two design awards for Hana in Tomlinson Road, which has 26 spacious four-bedroom apartments; and Aman Tokyo, a luxury urban hotel.

It also had three honourable mentions. The City Of Perth Library was cited in the institutional projects and interior architecture projects category, while The Lalu Qingdao hotel in China was mentioned in the commercial projects category.

Of his firm's winning projects, founder Kerry Hill, 73, says: "In these we strive to find an appropriate design solution which will sit well within the contemporary architectural or design culture of the country or city of the project. Hana, for example, is sheathed in screens on a tight site in Singapore where space counts."

He says the awards are "significant" to the office, especially when it won on home ground. "It is important to be assessed by your peers in the profession."

An exhibition of the winning projects is on at the Archifest Pavilion until Oct 9 in Raffles Place.


Colourful stripes on the facade of the new extension at Nanyang Primary School and Kindergarten. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SIA

Won: Design Award in the Institutional Projects category It is hard to hate going to school, when it is as colourful as Nanyang Primary School and Kindergarten.

Rainbow stripes, which conjure images of the colourful nine-layer kueh, were painted on the building's facade.

Australian architecture firm Studio 505 collaborated with Singapore architecture firm LT&T Avid Architects. The brief was to upgrade part of the existing school.

Renovations were completed last year.

Studio 505 writes on its website that the hilltop buildings and those by the Coronation Road entrance were up for demolition as they could not be used as classrooms.

It states: "Those previous buildings, in particular the large kindergarten building, had not been positioned and designed in sync with the natural sloping topography of the site from street level up to the hilltop."

The manner in which it was originally built had created "a 'wall-like', uninviting barrier when seen from the entrance".

The architects created a valley in the heart of the school, through which students can climb a landscaped staircase to get to the top of the hill. It can also be used as an amphitheatre.

But while the outside presents a vibrant appearance, the classroom interiors are minimalist, with white walls and ceilings.


Open House in Siglap. PHOTO: FABIAN ONG

Won: Design Award in the Residential Projects category and Building Of The Year

This three-storey Siglap house, with an attic, lives up to its moniker the Open House.

Sunshine streams through a stylishly perforated black-ash wood-and-steel screen that fronts the house. At the back of the split-level house where the rooms face a plot of land dotted with trees, hornbills and green parrots occasionally perch on the balcony railing.

Inside, there is an atrium-like space on the second level, where a 13m-long lap pool takes centre stage. Anyone swimming or relaxing in the pool can sneak a peek into the "all-in-one" kitchen one level below - it has a dry and wet area, pantry, wine storage and an informal dining area - through a circular window cut into the pool's wall.

The architect Gwen Tan, 41, says: "It's so open that you know what everyone else is doing. You never need to shout."

She designed the inter-terrace house, where she lives with her architecturally trained husband. They are partners at Formwerkz Architects.

She says she would not have let another architect design her house. "It's your own home. It's difficult to take a step back and let someone else do it."

The house, which sits on a long 209 sq m plot, is also home to the couple's five-year-old son and their mothers.

There are cool architectural surprises throughout the house, which features an earthy colour scheme.

The staircase, which rises through all the levels in the house, is itself a statement. Instead of traditional wood banisters, Ms Tan used long steel rods to line the stairway and support the open-tread stairs.

As visitors enter the house through the courtyard, they are greeted by a Pink Mempat tree that rises 10m high, getting its sunlight through the glass ceiling above.

The house is a good model of a multi-generational abode.

On the third floor, Ms Tan's mother shares a room with the child. The space also has a family room across the hallway.

Meanwhile, the other grandmother has her own "penthouse" on the highest level, which has its own kitchen and dining area, and an outdoor terrace.



Won: Design Award in the Interior Architecture Projects category

Even as the city of Tokyo buzzes down below, Kerry Hill Architects has created a luxury hotel that cocoons visitors from the hustle - high above ground level.

The Aman Tokyo, part of hotel group Amanresorts, which made its name by creating breathtaking hideaways in minimalist architecture style, opened last year.

The multi-disciplinary Kerry Hill Architects, which has offices in Singapore and Perth, was hired by Amanresorts for this project.

The firm has done "Aman Junkies" - how fans of the hotel brand term themselves - proud.

First off, there is the view. Perched on the top six floors of the 38-storey Otemachi Tower, the hotel overlooks the grounds of the Imperial Palace on one side and the city centre in the other directions.

The hotel is in the Nihonbashi district - the financial centre of the city - and near the Tokyo station.

Mr Kerry Hill, 73, an Australian architect who shuttles between Singapore and Western Australia, says in an e-mail interview: "In Aman Tokyo, the interior design has taken on references to traditions in Japanese design and architecture, but we hope (it has been done) in an understated manner."

The luxury experience starts at the street level, where guests take an express lift directly up to an expansive lobby lounge on the 33rd floor.

Here, a jaw-dropping four- storey-high lantern made from washi paper - created from plant fibres - hangs above the space designed to look like a contemporary Japanese garden with a water feature and seasonal ikebana arrangements.

Around the parameter of the lobby is an engawa, or verandah- like walkway found in traditional Japanese buildings.

Some rooms are lined in Japanese sen timber and have light sliding screens - reminiscent of traditional domestic architecture.



Won: Design Award in the Special Categories and Best Project Constructed Under $2 million

The void deck of Block 52 Marine Terrace is often a hive of activity now, ever since the Goodlife! Makan - a recreational cooking, dining and activity centre for seniors - opened last year.

The bright interiors are a draw, with different hues to differentiate the zones within the centre.

The team from DP Architects that worked on the project was inspired by the flavours of local spices and ingredients, such as chilli and red bean, when it was choosing the colours to use. For example, red demarcates the kitchen and food preparation space, blue for the toilets and green for gathering spots.

The centre was designed to be naturally well ventilated, although the air-conditioning is switched on when necessary. The architects installed glass doors, making the space feel more open and allowing natural light to pour in.

In January, The Straits Times reported that the centre drew 40 to 50 seniors every morning.

They plan the menu and decide who will do the marketing.

The 360 sq m centre was established by Montfort Care, an umbrella group that carries out a network of social programmes.

The total bill for the project was less than $1 million, says DP Architects director Seah Chee Huang.

The 41-year-old says: "Our design approach prioritised the offering of an alternative typology, shifting from the typical gated or glazed-up elderly centre to a borderless and porous environment integrated with the neighbourhood.

"The design of an open and flexible setting centred on a kitchen, with a play of colours and universal design features, also enhances inclusivity for the elderly, adding meaning and vibrancy while remaining highly economical."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'Schooled in style'. Print Edition | Subscribe