Af­ter Per­sat­uan Arkitek Malaysia de­clined to recog­nise any project with a gold medal or Build­ing of the Year award last year, CY Chan Ar­chi­tect breaks the stale­mate with Twin­kle Villa in Ta­narimba, Janda Baik

Malaysia Tatler Homes - - SANCTUARIES -

The green en­clave that is Ta­narimba in Janda Baik has be­come some­thing of a Hamp­tons type week­end get­away for well-heeled city dwellers. Just a half an hour’s drive from KL (on a good day) and it’s good­bye sti­fling heat and fre­netic city life; hello cooler tem­per­a­tures and fresh hill breezes. The ar­chi­tec­ture of these pri­vate home­steads range from the un­apolo­get­i­cally mod­ern to Ba­li­nese tim­ber fan­tasies, more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the own­ers’ tastes rather than a re­sponse to the ma­jes­tic pine trees and old trop­i­cal hard­wood forests sur­round­ing them. How­ever, Twin­kle Villa, lo­cated on the high­est point of Ta­narimba, won this year’s best build­ing and a gold from the Per­sat­uan Arkitek Malaysia Awards for “con­vers­ing elo­quently with the idyl­lic for­est and re­spond­ing cli­mat­i­cally to the set­ting.” The Awards jury went on to say: “Hard on the ex­ter­nal ap­pear­ance, it trans­forms and opens up dra­mat­i­cally to­wards the wood­lands while un­rav­el­ling the charm­ing and de­light­ful am­bi­ence of a re­treat within.” The home­owner had ap­proached CY Chan Ar­chi­tect to de­sign a re­tire­ment home which was close to na­ture and a re­treat from the hec­tic city life. From the very first meet­ing, his main re­quest was keep­ing the site as intact as pos­si­ble. “The client’s de­sign brief was to pre­serve the orig­i­nal sur­round­ings so con­struc­tion work had to be kept at a min­i­mum. This aligned with our thoughts from our first site visit back in 2014, when we got stung by bees while ex­plor­ing the to­pog­ra­phy of the site, which in­spired us to de­sign a house that would blend with na­ture without chas­ing it out,” rem­i­nisces Lim Kee Yen, lead ar­chi­tect on Twin­kle Villa. As a re­sult, the ul­ti­mate de­sign is a re­sponse to the client’s brief as well as the con­text. “We chose the flat­test land within the site bound­ary to avoid cut­ting too much of the earth and felling big trees. All trees that are more than 1.6m di­am­e­ters in width were iden­ti­fied

and out of these 115 trees, only two were sac­ri­ficed for the build­ing’s fi­nal set­ting-out. This de­ter­mined the elon­gated rec­tan­gu­lar shape which be­came the build­ing’s foot­print,” ex­plains Lim. Hid­den from the street, the an­gu­lar lines and edges of the house re­veal them­selves as one ap­proaches through the tree-lined path­way. A stri­ated, grav­ity-de­fy­ing C-shaped con­struc­tion perched lightly on top of a nat­u­ral slope – the build­ing has some­thing of a split per­son­al­ity depend­ing on the way you view it; on one side, it’s a solid, raw con­crete wall ris­ing dra­mat­i­cally above, while on the other side, it’s a metic­u­lously as­sem­bled palette of fin­ishes em­pha­sis­ing ma­te­ri­als and mod­u­lar­ity, a mix­ture of fair-faced con­crete, glass, clay brick walls and bam­boo rail­ings. “The fair-faced con­crete was cast on site and used for the main build­ing com­po­nents, like fa­cade walls, con­crete roof­ing, col­umns and beams, while the clay bricks were used as a di­vider for the in­ter­nal spa­ces. Both, how­ever, were used without plas­ter­ing nor paint. This was one way to min­imise en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age and in the long run, it also re­quires min­i­mum main­te­nance,” en­thuses Lim. “More­over, the nat­u­ral ap­pear­ance of the ma­te­ri­als suit the orig­i­nal for­est palette, like the bam­boo we found on site which was used for the rail­ing and now en­hances the build­ing’s ap­pear­ance.” Within the space, the ini­tial idea was to house all the home­owner’s needs (liv­ing and din­ing room, kitchen plus five bed­rooms) in an en­clo­sure within the rec­tan­gu­lar form. As such, a double vol­ume Liv­ing Plat­form was cre­ated as the fo­cal point of the house. Cir­cu­la­tion spa­ces were tucked in one cor­ner, thus al­low­ing all of the func­tional spa­ces to have a view of the en­vi­ron­ment. How­ever, dur­ing con­struc­tion, the owner changed his mind and de­cided that he only needs a small area com­pris­ing a room, a li­brary and a bath­room for his pri­vate us­age. All of the other rooms would func­tion as guest rooms. As such, the ar­chi­tects de­cided to open up the rec­tan­gu­lar en­clo­sure and opened the Liv­ing Plat­form to em­brace the ex­ter­nal sur­round­ings. “The en­trance ex­ists without a phys­i­cal door – we cre­ated an en­trance state­ment rather than an en­trance per se. By open­ing up the en­clo­sure, the lay­er­ing of spa­ces is en­hanced. Through spa­tial lay­er­ing, we cre­ated a vari­a­tion of spa­ces and you can clearly see the lay­er­ing of solid and void spa­ces from one end to the other end,” opines Lim.

Apart from pre­serv­ing the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment sur­round­ing the house, sev­eral pas­sive de­sign strate­gies were im­ple­mented. For starters, hav­ing an open plan con­cept from the en­trance to the Liv­ing Plat­form takes ad­van­tage of the lower tem­per­a­tures at this altitude, not to men­tion max­imis­ing cross ven­ti­la­tion by virtue of hav­ing an en­trance without a phys­i­cal door or bar­rier. Cross ven­ti­la­tion is fur­ther op­ti­mised by iso­lat­ing the cir­cu­la­tion space from the main func­tional space and con­fin­ing it to the fair-faced con­crete wall. The con­crete wall also acts as a ther­mal mass to ab­sorb, store, and later re­lease the heat. All spa­ces ben­e­fit from be­ing double-shaded (a man­made con­crete roof plus the nat­u­ral shade from trees) which ef­fec­tively cre­ates a very low so­lar trans­mis­sion to the in­ter­nal spa­ces while the bal­conies also func­tion as ‘shad­ing de­vices’ for pri­vacy as well as re­duces the pen­e­tra­tion of sun­light. A nat­u­ral habi­tat was cre­ated via the fish­pond ad­ja­cent to the en­trance by chan­nelling nat­u­ral moun­tain wa­ter. Rather clev­erly, since no chem­i­cal prod­ucts were used dur­ing con­struc­tion, a ter­mite habi­tat was cre­ated and pre­served in a few spots within the site as a nat­u­ral way of keep­ing ter­mites away from the build­ing. Wher­ever pos­si­ble, sal­vaged or lo­cal ma­te­ri­als were used, such as wooden fur­ni­ture or sculp­tures from ex­ist­ing trees, bam­boo and rat­tan re­pur­posed into rail­ings and broad leaf ap­plied as pat­terns on the con­crete path­way. When all is said and done, Lim ad­mits that while Twin­kle Villa’s im­pres­sive form catches the eye and is what most likely im­pressed the judges at the PAM Awards, it’s the sub­tle things which cap­ti­vate the heart: “I love the spa­tial lay­er­ing of the house, it’s a qual­ity of space that one may only ex­pe­ri­ence when vis­it­ing the build­ing. The owner is en­joy­ing the open Liv­ing Plat­form, which can be used as a stage, an art gallery, or for gath­er­ings when­ever he has guests vis­it­ing. And be­cause it’s open, it feels very close to the land­scape and nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.”

THIS PAGE Nes­tled within a ma­ture for­est, Twin­kle Villa treads gen­tly on the ter­rain

OP­PO­SITE, FROM TOP The kitchen has an ex­pan­sive view of the out­doors, it’s al­most like din­ing al-fresco; perched on the top of the house, the roof bal­cony of­fers a su­perb van­tage point

OP­PO­SITE, FROM TOP All bed­rooms were de­signed to have their own pri­vate bal­conies; the liv­ing plat­form can be opened up to em­brace its en­vi­ron­ment and can be used as an art gallery or for par­ties

FROM LEFT Who needs cur­tains when the view is this good and the only neigh­bours are the trees? Bath­rooms were kept sim­ple and func­tional

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