Issue DA93 Aug/Sept 2016
Loops, curves and folds
The Naga House by Kite Architecture Studio melds functionality into a sensual, explorative form.
The Naga House is an anomaly in the sea of cookie-cutter modernist-influenced houses with their generic stacked, boxy forms. Designed by Kite Architecture Studio, the building is defined by sweeping curves all around that loop over windows as shelters and contour upwards as parapets, and taper in and out as playful eaves and space-defining lines.
Curves are a common feature in the Singapore-based firm’s repertoire, seen for instance in the Maya House and the Jade House. The sinewy lines are applied to achieve very specific functional and aesthetical aims, as the firm’s founder Khai Saharom shares. “Here in the Naga House, the lines evolve from intent to keep spaces fluid and less compartmentalised. Every curve and turn has meaning. For instance, walls turn away from unpleasant vistas or when there is a spatial need for privacy, and they fold out or open up where views are good and where there is a need to frame a vista, or even to allow effective cross ventilation.” Located in a corner site, these curves are also a gesture to “break away” from the common party wall, allowing the Naga House to read more strongly as a stand-alone object.
The house is designed for tenants, and that was one key challenge, Khai explains. There was the need to cater to a large variety of potential inhabitants, and also to ensure ease of maintenance. This was what led to leaving the reinforced concrete as it is on the façade. “Initially we specified plaster and paint. However, the contractor did a pretty decent task on the casting so I decided to leave it as it is. It’s already a very challenging task to cast curved surfaces.”
The need for easy care of the home also dictated the material palette, which is led by darker tones other than the deep cyan glass mosaic tiles. In the interior, grey leather finish granite (that applies both the flamed and brushed techniques) provides a tactile feel underfoot, while black granite is used for the staircase threads and some other aspects of the flooring on the upper stories. This chosen tonality also complements the dusty grey of the exterior concrete. “That is part of our intent to evoke fluidity both spatially and physically,” says Saharom. Meanwhile, warm wood is used for the bedroom and corridor flooring.
One concerned about the small things, Saharom points out features such as a subtle grey C-fascia detail along the building’s ledges in natural galvanised finish, which protects the ledges while accentuating the house’s curves. Also, the bathrooms are designed for true respite – some come with darker materials for a cosy feel and others, like the master bathroom with the bathtub situated on an exterior garden accessed by steeping stones, are at one with nature.
Indeed, the unbridled use of greenery throughout the house is another defining aspect of Saharom’s work. In the Naga House, they are applied to exterior patches of garden that can be enjoyed even from the upper level corridors, across bedroom vistas, and from the common spaces. Saharom himself is an expert in plants, and selected each and every type to be used in each specific patch of green. “Exploring ways to incorporate greenery is not just a landscaping need. It is also an architectural need. For example, good vistas out may also be framed by landscaping, not just windows and walls. This is done by specifying the right plants for the right areas,” he reiterates.
The programmatic layout of the house follows the ethos of the house’s curves. Spaces are fluid, to allow flexibility during entertainment; cross views between rooms also bridge connectivity. In many ways, the house is designed as ideal for entertainment and also for families. The living, dining and dry kitchen are connected by a central pool deck, while the garden by the dining and kitchen allows for children to play safely outdoors, blocked off from the swimming pool by the dining room but also allowing plenty of sightlines for minders.
Saharom speaks about how in designing houses, it is important to think about creating fun spaces for children to grow up in. Indeed, the Naga House contains that aspect of exploration and physical space for play. There are interesting details and memorable accents, such as the circular skylight above the staircase and corresponding circular cut outs in the staircase wall. The curves of the building themselves, experienced at different corners on the inside of the house, provide a source of delight and sensuality that straight corners cannot give.
“At Kite Architecture Studio, every effort to find a design solution is like an adventure that offers many paths for a journey to that one destination,” says Saharom of his company’s approach. “We like to think big, and inspire users with our unique way of looking at things and bringing a new level of craftsmanship and detailing to our works.” That Saharom horned his architecture skills at the esteemed Aamer Architects is no surprise, seeing the way he incorporates nature and a high level of detailing into his works. Currently, the firm’s portfolio contains mainly houses but it is working on some larger residential and commercial projects. It will be interesting to see how the firm’s approach applies to a different scale and typology.