A curtain of bamboo creates a beautiful natural screen that contrasts perfectly against the raw off-form concrete structure of this Modernist home in tropical Singapore. Recently completed, the house stands elevated on a hillside neighbourhood of single-storey houses on the fringe of MacRitchie Forest Reserve.
The screen comprises two layers of mature hollow bamboo sections specially ordered from a Javanese bamboo forest. Each section of 150mm in diameter were cut to length, cleaned and left in its natural finish. Suspended with a wire clip to a hanging bar, the bamboo sways in the slightest breeze and gently collides much like a giant wind chime, making the house both visually and aurally responsive to the weather. They can be hand adjusted to create a selected view or a privacy screen. The sound of the bamboo curtain varies through the day, a low timbre registers of the passage of the prevailing morning and evening breezes.
In practical terms the bamboo curtain is a perfect climactic screen that effectively dispels the heat of Singapore’s tropical sun from penetrating the house. During heavy rainstorms, common during the monsoon season, the screen also reduces horizontal driving rain. The increasing din of the colliding bamboo curtain reminds its occupants to the on- set of a rainstorm and hence to close doors and windows.
The Bamboo Curtain House is owned and designed by Sim Boon Yang of the award-winning eco.id Architects based in Singapore. Following a minimalist principle of rational simplicity, he designed the house as a box, organised into four equal bays that accommodated the lifestyle of his family of five.
An attempt to build the house with the least number of processes meant a recurring palette of natural unfinished bamboo, the ‘off form’ concrete walls and ceilings, black granite and smoked oak floors: a deliberate juxtaposition of roughhewn masculinity with warm and refined finishes.
Environmental consideration also figures in the design of the house. In addition to the bamboo screens and skylights, the roof pavilion is installed with a solar hot water system and incorporates a rain water collection system that channels rainfall into an underground cistern. Because of the tropical monsoon rains that fall over Singapore, a substantial volume of water can be collected for the usage of the house. The roof over the master bedroom suite is sowed with a wild grass lawn that insulates it from solar gains.
A 15m lap pool anchors the front edge of the house. It amplifies the vista out from the main living and dining spaces reflecting the sky and trees and creating a sense of retreat in an otherwise dense neighborhood. Forest trees were planted to suggest that the forest reserve cascaded down onto the site. The 4 m tall entrance doors features a black bamboo handle in its natural colour and finish. The foyer is guarded by a tiger painting on an old Tibetan door.
The dining area is linked to the kitchen by a stone clad portal that frames the bar and a pair of carved wooden ‘nagas’ of Thai origin. The dining table is 3m slab of rain tree wood sitting on custom designed steel legs that echo the splay of the architectural plans.
The main stairs leading up to the bedrooms act as a display stage. The house is experienced as a series of unfolding settings for the owners diverse collection of Asian arts and artefacts. They include tribal canoe paddles from Irian Jaya, antique wood and stone carvings and a variety of animal skulls.
Arriving on the second floor, narrow skylight floods a double-height gallery with natural light yet limiting much direct solar ingress. A FicusLyrata tree in a pot thrives here. It has the spatial qualities of an indoor courtyard leading to the bedrooms. A row of book shelves house a small library, along with photographs and Asian artefacts.In the master bathroom, black bamboo (a species of naturally dark hued bamboo) is suspended below a glass skylight and acts as a backdrop to the bathroom. Open sides allow breezes that flow through the bamboo curtain creating a beautiful scintillating effect. The vanity top is a slab of ‘lychee’ wood sitting on trestle legs. An antique mirror leans against a wall clad with silver travertine completing an important room in the house.