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A solitary tree in the encased courtyard provides lyricism on the second storey.

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A seamless blend of timber, concrete and water creates the feel of a modern resort.

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The timbered courtyard creates a zen-like sanctuary.

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Zen Storey in Two Parts

Obstacles can sometimes lead to divine results, as this award-winning home proves. Tay Suan Chiang reports.
Nov 12, 2016 5:50 AM

When you're in the market for a piece of land to build your dream home, there are a few golden rules to follow. The first and most obvious? Location, location, location. Next is the lay of the land. Square and rectangular plots are of course the easiest to build on, while odd-shaped spaces can be tricky but not impossible. But a triangular-shaped plot with lots of potentially wasted space? Big problem.

Not for a Singaporean couple with three school-age children, who picked such a site inspite of the constraints. The odd angles that such plots pose generally make them "difficult to work with, and the land can't be fully utilised," says Lim Koon Park, founder of architecture firm Park & Associates, which was unfazed by the challenge.

The deal clincher for the family wasn't so much the shape of the land but its location at the end of a cul-de-sac off Dunearn Road. The relative isolation is perfect for the privacy-loving family, but the bigger bonus is that the land is flanked by lush greenery on two sides.

The brief for Mr Lim's team was simple. The family wanted five bedrooms, the usual dry and wet kitchens, and a 25m long pool. And interestingly, they wanted a home with two blocks rather than a large single frontage. Which was accomplished by building two wings connected by a bridge.

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Having a simple brief didn't mean a basic home, either. "You could tell from chatting with them that they had a strong interest in architecture, and were familiar with architectural terms and styles," says Mr Lim.

He knew the family wanted privacy, but he and his team also wanted to try something new, rather than just build a solid wall and add plenty of trees to hide the house from the neighbors.

The result is a modern tropical retreat, with a façade constructed from 10,000 pieces of timber screens - precisely cut and positioned to keep out prying eyes, but still allowing light and breeze into the home.

Visitors enter via a courtyard before the house proper. "You feel like you're in a Zen garden once you step in," says Mr Lim. "The courtyard opens to the sky, so that there is openness and yet the house feels private at the same time." At night, when the lights are on, the house looks like a giant lantern glimmering in the dark.

At the back of the house, a thin fence demarcates the land. "From far, the fence isn't very visible, so it looks like the family has a larger than expected garden. And - you don't see the pointed end of the land," adds Mr Lim.

While the family guards its privacy jealously, the house caught the attention of the Singapore Institute of Architects, which gave it a design award. They've also invited friends over for yoga sessions on the attic deck, proving that some things are just too good to keep to themselves.

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