Concrete, in the context of the city, has often been described as cold. This reconstruction by ip:li Architects demonstrates otherwise. Luo Jingmei writes.
How many ways can you add more space to an existing house? In Singapore, there appears to be only two – awkwardly attach rooms in myriad styles, or gingerly stick on a glass box should the house come with some history.
But architect Yip Yuen Hong of ip:li Architects has gone and done things quite differently – by boldly and almost insouciantly encasing the existing house with a concrete shell.
One of Yip’s recently completed projects, the bungalow at 19 Sunset Place is as familiar as it is arresting. Indeed, alongside neighbours comprising immaculate white cubes and decorative juxtapositions of French windows and tiled roofs, it is stark in form and raw in materiality, as if pulled from a sketch and grown from the ground.
“The existing house didn’t have enough space to cater to the needs of the clients – a couple with two teenage sons, two maids and two dogs,” explains Yip. “But they thought the original house was quite charming and wanted to either keep it or [replicate] a new one.”
The house, like some others lining the same street, was a 70s-type construction of old-school russet bricks and dark-stained timber strip wall panelling. A visit to the site left Yip enamoured and he decided to retain as much of it as possible.
“Such materials are very hard to find nowadays,” he says. “I feel a great affinity for this sort of basic, raw materials like brick, plaster, concrete – simple things.” No surprise then that he has decided to leave the concrete shell unfinished, albeit textured with timber formwork patterns. “For me, concrete is very soulful and very malleable. You can do quite a lot of things with it.”
Yip is aware that not everybody can take to this roughness, “for the simple fact that they haven’t seen much of it in Singapore. Hence, they just want sleek houses.” But sleek is not what Yip does and neither is perfection. His job, he explains, is to provide a framework for the owners to participate in the growth and evolution of their home. “[But] don’t make it sound as if we are trying to be philosophical, that we want to educate the world,” he adds, smiling. “We’re just trying to make a nice house with nice materials so that it’s fun for the owners and fun for us.”
Photos: Jeremy San
Check out the full story in Cubes issue 55 out now at Singapore newsstands.