- Design Development: Steven Ngu
- City: Petaling Jaya
- Country: Malaysia
Text description provided by the architects. In an established suburb of Greater Kuala Lumpur, within a closed-knitted community, lies this east-fronting house that had been renovated incongruently over the years. It has now been transformed into a progressive testbed for design innovation, research & development, and trial of ideas and principles continuously developed by the practice.
The approach stems from a minimalistic standpoint that “lightness” - of the building footprint, carbon footprint, weight, construction/ materials & logistics, embedded energy - applied through the well-considered design of the spatial configuration, envelope, and form, coupled with the principles of “permeability” of the elements brings forth holistic sustainable solutions. These are fundamentally found in time-tested passive concepts, vernacular practices, and occur in natural processes and phenomena, as expressed in the equation below:
Lightness + permeability = sustainability
Through the methodology as expressed in the equation above, the design principles and strategies applied are found in these built solutions:
Configuration of 3 sub-units of extended family - bedroom suites are hinged around a common area on each floor analogically akin to a village.
Spatial configuration composing of box (private); congregation (communal); transient (ephemeral, in-between): Living + Dining - communal; Gallery (transient) - in-between in/out; Social Kitchen - communal; Chef’s Kitchen (box) - semi-private; Bedroom Suites (box) - private.
Wrapped around by intermediate + transient spaces (Entrance Courtyard, double-story Gallery, Atrium, Attic) - climatically ephemeral, dynamic, multi-story, multi-layered - for circulation use, as a climatic cushion, air exchange, visual buffer, and vertical planting.
Encapsulated by the lightness of steel frame lattice in the extension that wraps around the existing concrete frame - for rigidity and robustness by spreading the loads in the 3D framework around the perimeter.
Inducing the intermediary between house - garden - street to foster communal interaction and surveillance by blurring the boundaries of spaces, by programming ambiguity and multiplicity of usage.
Innovating the building envelope design with the layering of materials & construction to “Kiss the earth, dance with the sun + air” - to bring fore and multiply the benefits of topsoil & microbes in CO2 - O2 cycle, to be fully integrated with the blue-green cycle (rainwater harvesting, vertical + subsoil irrigation, detention/retention, cooling, aquaponic), to promote on-site micro biodiversity and passive cooling.
Permeability control of the elements of air (breeze, convection, cushion, exchange plenum/atrium), light (direct, diffused, reflected, filtered), cooling (radiation, insulation, shading, evaporative), view (direct, obscured, screened, borrowed, object). Achieved by means of an assemblage of these infill components mounted on steel & aluminum frames: insulated fiber-cement cladding, glass (clear & translucent), polycarbonate twin-wall panels (translucent & solid), adjustable clear glass louvers, timber louvers, steel mesh & suspended planter channels, and a veil of vertical landscaping to achieve different intended, specific performance and qualitative criteria.
Improvising new usage and repurposing of traditional artisanal construction and vernacular materials - clay (drain) channels for planters & lightweight green roof, cane (rattan) whicker for fence/door/screen application, cement screening, and plastering techniques for flooring and walls instead of modern tile finish, re-using old timber for wall framing and roofing, and old rubble stones for landscaping.
Selection of materials for the lowest embedded energy, lightness, unprocessed rawness, thinness, efficacy from the minimal, simplicity of construction, and trades contributes to lower consumption of energy both embedded and sustained during construction.
Aesthetics and attitude of working with the rawness of materials and construction, leaving behind traces of history, expressing the pureness of materiality, paring down to the essence, and accepting imperfections, weathering, patina, and mistakes from handmade construction techniques, much like the Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”.