The portfolio of Singapore-based Formwerkz Architects is filled with unusual projects—from a home with a ramped running path to a residence with a dramatic roof that mimics origami folds. However a common threads run through each work: an affinity for natural, unadorned materials and greenery—often in the form of grass-capped rooftops and flourishing landscaping.
Case in point: the Aperture House is defined by a low-dipping, mono-pitched roof punctuated by a large opening for a tall indoor tree. Compared to neighboring houses with multifaceted roof angles and fussy facades, it is dramatic in its simplicity.
There is a contemplative quality to the clean lines that provide respite under shadowed eaves. The roof plane, made with a steady rhythm of steel and timber, is precise and neat.
This quietude and elegance is in tune with the clients’ desires. The homeowners wished for privacy from the prying eyes of neighbors, and for cool, comfortable spaces sheltered from the glare and heat of the unforgiving tropical sun.
The plot’s long frontage made addressing these needs challenging—while most semidetached houses are conjoined to one neighbor from front to back, the houses in this row share a boundary wall with rear neighbors.
“This gives the front of the house a long and wide of 27.5 metres and the appearance of a bungalow from the street,” says Alan Tay, the project’s lead architect and one of the firm’s partners. Tay employed several strategies to turn this potential obstacle into an opportunity.
The slanted roof’s steep pitch enables the occupants to dwell in semioutdoor spaces on the second story while being shielded from sun, rain, and inquisitive eyes. Mirroring this roofline is a 16-foot, flat canopy that cantilevers over the first-story carport, entrance patio, and swimming pool.
Tall trees make up a green wall along the home’s front elevation, and timber screens frame the vista from the living room to the pool. Thanks to these elements, the first story is as sheltered as the second story from both passersby and the upper levels of nearby houses.
Angular apertures—hence the house’s moniker—cut into the canopy illuminate the pool’s surface with squares of light. “The pool in the garden feels very much part of the interior, bathed in the soft light that streams through the perforated slab in the day. The perforation lights the rock garden above as the sun sets,” Tay says.
These light gymnastics are deliberate, as “the house is conceived to capture, calibrate, and contain the right amount of daylighting,” adds the architect. This motif repeats throughout the house.
On the side elevation of the corner plot, windows of varied sizes are arranged in an asymmetrical fashion, punctuating the robust concrete walls. Larger apertures send natural light and ventilation deep into the plan, illuminating interior courtyards.
The largest of these terrarium-like gardens is on the second story, abutting a terrace with seating outside a bedroom. Here, Tay inserted a tall tree whose foliage pokes through a large opening in the slanted roof.
Another courtyard abuts the rear boundary wall. It brings a sense of the outdoors to the dining room, which is entirely opaque at its street-facing side. Upstairs, it lends a fresh burst of light and greenery to the corridors.
“Having the trees in elevated planters gives the occupants the feeling of being in a sunken space. It is almost like an ant’s perspective,” says Tay.
While Tay gave much thought to illuminating the inward-looking home, the staircase is deliberately darkened with black walls, ceilings, and balustrades.
“The curved stairs were conceived and articulated to be a sculptural object to create visual interest. The cool, shadowy realm of the staircase distinguishes this transitional space from the rest of the house, w
hich receives [ample] daylight,” says Tay.
This transition from dark to light enlivens the experience of traversing the house, which is laid out in a straightforward manner. The first story holds the living and dining areas, there are two bedrooms on the second story, and the leisure areas lie up in the attic.
The gardens scattered throughout these spaces establish a constant dialogue with nature. The Aperture House’s name suggests openness and connectivity, but it is also very much about enclosure and seclusion. Tay’s design is a reminder that both are essential in creating a livable home.