“I am a Malaysian Hikikomori, and this is my story” is an online article that came about during the lockdown periods in the year 2020 that tells a story of an extreme introvert with her social discrimination and how she sees people follow society’s made-up standards where ones have to act a certain way to be accepted. It was only when the Covid-19 pandemic hit with its lockdowns, that she felt for the first time in life as if she was alive and normal, at least to the eyes of society, as she was living fully as before while others were struggling to cope for simply being at home. Introverse was born out of this social context, where the rights in our social perception could have been wrong and the wrongs were right. If we could ditch the influence of social perception in our minds, we may possibly find new paths to progress onward instead of wandering on the status quo.
Introverse is a newly renovated home for myself an architect, my wife a contemporary art gallerist cum avid collector of Malaysian contemporary arts, and our four years old son. In 2019 I was diagnosed with vocal cord cancer, and since I have learned to embrace my introverted character of me. My wife and I initiated this very own project of ours in 2020, from inception, conceptualization, design, and to long-haul construction, the project spanned through the entire 2 years of the pandemic period. Remodeling a single-story semi-detached house in a suburban township that was developed and built in the 1970s outside of Kuala Lumpur, Introverse defies the social norms and puts a new living to its test, a living in where a home is organized in the introversion manner, contrary to the normal outward-looking houses.
The architecture of Introverse takes precedence in redefining the garden into a house. It started with a full-height linear garden wall, suspended on a steel structure, hovering above the ground, and running 10 feet from the perimeter fencing, creating a new walled garden within a garden. Separated from the outer garden, the inner garden, mirroring the ancient Chinese architecture or the Japanese Zen Garden, sees a new purpose. It is an outdoor space where one can live without the constraints of security and privacy, a garden that one can utilize and enjoy at the same time. It is within this walled garden area where the wet rooms of the house, the kitchen, and the bathrooms are found, integrated freely with no physical walls defining the individual areas.
On the opposite side of the garden, a linear cross-ventilation tunnel is created to detach the house from the adjacent neighbor. With a courtyard sitting in the middle as a chimney, the individual rooms within this zone are solely separated by permeable adjustable louvers and perforated metals, making this zone another semi-outdoor space where the utility, foyer, powder room, and a mezzanine playroom are found.
All the mentioned semi-outdoor spaces are arranged inwardly looking to the core of the house where the living and dining room stands, a space where we define the purpose of homes. This core space is flanked by two bedrooms on each side and these three main rooms make up the house fundamentally. Reacting to both architecture and sociocultural context, externally, the house is covered in new metal roofing yet with the original building profile remaining, and internally, the old complexed layout of the house was entirely stripped and transformed into its simplest and minimal spaces.
The philosophy of minimalism is reflected in the spatial organization of the house and is further expressed in its material selections, architecture finishings, built-ins, and interior furnishings to the curation of contemporary art around the house, and these define the spatial quality of the house. Here, minimalism is not a style, but an architectural solution to our contemporary needs, standard, and lifestyle. It is a formula to minimalize the unnecessaries of our life, from the hoarding habit, and the influence of social perception to living up to others’ expectations. In Introversive, we can be honest with ourselves, find our voice, and define our own life, and that is the essence of minimalism, our very own version of minimalism.