The Bishopsgate house was conceived and developed in harmony with its unique site, a rare heritage site in the heart of Singapore surrounded by mature trees amidst untouched swathes of secondary forest. The architecture, materials and articulation were derived from the site. The concept of the house evolved in celebration of the land, its curves and undulations, its birds, breezes, views, trees, soil and bedrock.
The design honors the landscape of rolling hills and giant trees and was based on stringent principles of sustainability defined for the client, the place, long term goals and economic objectives. Elements of the house were positioned near the perimeter of the site and oriented toward the garden and the distant views. The main criterion in laying out the building in section was to respect the existing ground levels and contours, minimize excavation and maximize potential views from the higher elevations of the site. A gently stepping series of platforms work their way from the bottom to the top of the site covering an eleven meter change in grade. In doing so, cutting and filling of the land was minimized. The original estate had a hardwood fence around the perimeter which was preserved and used as a sunscreen which wraps around the façade as vertical louvers which cut out the direct early morning sun.
From the main building, a dining pavilion protrudes into the garden with a large roof deck above overlooking the garden, pool and Majestic Green view in the distance. An Annex with a guest suite and study loft positioned at the lower end of the sloping site overlooks the long garden, and gives the feeling of a small presence in a big landscape as it is reflected on the dark swimming pool in the late afternoon. A third building, used as a Yoga pavilion, was later added atop the highest point overlooking the entire ensemble.
The building is designed, detailed and oriented in a strategic manner to reduce dependence on Air Conditioning by integrating elements of Architecture and Landscape into passive environmental control features. Deep overhanging and cantilevered roofs limit direct solar exposure on glazed surfaces while tall forest canopy trees further reduce the solar exposure onto lower roof surfaces and the ground plane. Landscaping is employed in concert with architectural elements to provide an integrated and comprehensive shade structure to reduce dependence on air conditioning and maximize natural ventilation further enhanced with ceiling fans in all rooms.
The roof is a dominant visual element scaled in proportion to the forested landscape into which the garden will mature. A lightweight inverted bow truss was employed to reduce the roof profile, cost and weight, which in turn reduced the size of the main column structure and superstructure of the building enabling it to sit lightly on the gentle contours of the site without a need for piling. The Roof of the main house is set at an angle to maximize exposure of solar panels while shielding poolside terraces from sun throughout the afternoon.
Experientially the curved underside of the roof emphasizes some of the dramatic spatial qualities of the place. The dominant horizontality of greenery all around the site is framed by the elegant curve of the ceiling while its immense surface provides a canvas off of which the natural light around the site is diffused and bounced since direct sunlight is strategically limited in the interior of the house. The quality of light in and around the house has the glow of the landscape, soft dappled shadows, and a gentle illumination in direct response to the owner’s avoidance of direct sunlight.
The large surface areas of the site and the roofs are employed as a strategic rainwater collector which is directed into a stone drainage swale and stored in a reservoir at the lower level of the landscape. Maximizing the use of abundant rainwater drastically reduces the need for irrigation and water for washing outdoor areas and cars.