Except for its eye-catching butterfly roof, the front of the Green Bridge House spots an unassuming look.
However, upon entering, what is revealed is a “surprise of space”, as described by the project’s lead architect John Bulcock.
“From the road, the house is understated, almost invisible. It’s not until we enter the house that it begins to fully reveal itself. This surprise of space, i.e. experiencing the unexpected, encourages us to further explore, ” said Bulcock, director of Design Unit Architects.
The two-storey, 6,500sq ft (604sq m) passive design house in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, is characterised by fair-face brick walls, off-form concrete columns, bamboo-lined walls and polished concrete flooring.
(Passive design takes advantage of the climate to maintain a comfortable temperature range in the home. “Fair-face” or “off-form” refers to a technique where no finish is applied to the raw material, giving it an organic or “rough” look.)
“We like to use a small palette of simple materials for all our projects as this emphasises the spaces the materials create, rather than the materials themselves. For us, architecture is about how we perceive space and not about aesthetics, ” explained Bulcock.
“Fair-face bricks and concrete weather much better in the tropics than, for instance, painted surfaces, therefore they need less maintenance and, in the long run, save costs.
“However, more than this is the way the strong tropical sun strikes these materials and the shadows created, which I believe touches us and brings another level of meaning to buildings, ” he added.
The perforated, angled brick wall design throughout the house gives privacy to specific spaces while allowing natural light to enter and ventilation to occur. The concrete butterfly roof design, situated over the interior staircase, reflects defused natural light deep into the house and helps to ventilate it naturally, too.
A key design highlight is a 5m-long bridge which brings us across two courtyards and links the two blocks of the house while offering a view of the covered terrace and swimming pool below.
The master bedroom suite is accessed via this bridge. Two guest rooms are located below, with a separate entrance leading to the rooms.
“The house was designed to create privacy from the road and adjacent houses while opening up to a ‘green wall’ of landscape at the rear boundary. Thus the living, bedroom and entertainment spaces are totally secluded. The two main elements of the house – the
double-volume living and dining space and the bedroom wing – combine to create a ‘U-form’, ” said Bulcock.
Situated one storey below road level, we enter at the higher level where a small foyer unfolds. Looking ahead, the space widens to reveal the open-concept living and dining areas below, with oversized pendant lights – fashioned to represent different alcohol glasses – anchoring the upper realm. On the right is a narrow walkway, flanked by rows of open shelves filled with books and other decorative items.
Located in Bukit Gasing, the Green Bridge House has been occupied by a couple (who have requested anonymity) and their seven cats since 2016.
“I’ve always loved fair-face bricks and concrete columns, and I wanted a home that was both retro and contemporary. I also wanted an indoor-outdoor kind of concept, so that when I walk into the house, I will still experience the outdoors, ” shared the owner when we met at her home.
What further sets the abode apart is the way it has been carefully furnished and decorated. From designer lamps to reproductions, luxe carpets to vintage pieces, the furniture and furnishings come together in a symphony of colour and arrangements.
“I do appreciate vintage stuff but I don’t want my house to turn into a museum, you know, ” she quipped.
The owner also prides herself on repurposing objects and creating unique statement pieces. Near the main door is a traditional rice husker which she has turned into an umbrella stand, while close to the staircase hangs an aged wooden frame fitted with a mirror.
A Cambodian rain drum serves as a side table in the living room while at a corner is a wooden serving tray that has been affixed with a stand that holds a decorative art piece. This stand doubles as a cocktail table when the couple have guests over.
The owner is also fond of her two day beds – the ones commonly used by Sikhs who worked as security guards in the olden days – which have since been restrung while maintaining the original wooden frames. She added that her cushion covers were sewn from traditional clothing of tribal communities in Chiangmai, Thailand.
When guests visit the powder room, they may notice that the sink used to be a kuali, or wok – used for making the local delicacy dodol – as they pass through an antique Peranakan style door.
In the courtyards and garden, plants and trees like daun kaduk (wild betel) and Tristania form part of the landscape. As we walk onto the lawn and pool area, brass lamps add a resort-like feel to the space.
The couple’s favourite spot in the house is undoubtedly the deck by the pool. There, they spend a lot of time reading, listening to music or having their meals. After all, it’s the best spot to enjoy the outdoors and embrace nature, which is in keeping with the spirit of the house’s design.
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