With this smart and forward-looking renovation of a 30-year-old Singaporean public housing flat, STUDIO WILLS + Architects topped INDE.Awards 2019 Living Space category, partnered by Gaggenau.
August 8th, 2019
Any form of high-density housing comes with the inevitable ongoing negotiation of shared spaces. In Singapore’s public housing, that negotiation has been more pronounced with the presence (to larger and lesser degrees over the years) of common outdoor corridors that provide access to units in the so-called ‘slab block’ typology and also serve as communal spaces. But the changing behaviour of residents over time has seen the interface between residential units and the corridors they face take new definitions.
The corridors serving Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats, explains Singaporean architect William Ng, “were originally envisioned as social interaction spaces.” The so-called ‘corridor units’ of lengthy slab blocks were common from the 1960s through to the 1980s. “However, over time,” says Ng, “many units have been observed to have their curtains permanently drawn as a result of changing behavioural patterns and the increased desire for privacy.”
“Corridor units form a substantial portion of the existing housing stock and it is thus necessary to explore ways to repurpose them, so they remain relevant to the needs of people today and in the future,” he says. Certainly, there is room for innovation, as exemplified by Ng and his firm STUDIO WILLS + Architects with Project #13 – winner of the Living Space category in the INDE.Awards 2019.
Project #13 is the renovation of a 1988 HDB corridor unit that seeks to re-examine the interface between the flat and the corridor and to create a sense of space within. But beyond these goals, it also has a future-proofing agenda in mind. It was designed as a way of bringing two programs into one flat – a home and an office – and creating a framework to enable the long-term adaptability of the apartment.
The agenda was aided by the good fortune of a raised roofline above the flat (which sits on the top floor of a low-rise block). This allowed for high ceilings and an enhanced perception of space within small floor areas, as well as the placement of raised sleeping platforms – conveniently positioned above eye level and therefore appropriately private. Ng and his colleague Kho Keguang divided the flat down the middle to create two units, one of which (with an open-plan approach) serves as a workspace, and the other (with a cellular plan) provides living quarters.
The two units share a single point of entry from the corridor, thanks to a new semi-private foyer space that acts as a buffer between the more public and private zones within. Dual-key access is enabled by the foyer, with each unit able to operate independently – serviced by its own door. Each unit measures 30-square-metres, while the lobby occupies just four-square-metres. It’s a compact footprint, and space-saving design strategies (such as hidden storage and grouped functions) were adopted throughout.
In future, the flat could operate as two homes given that each side incorporates a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping platform. At present, the living room of the ‘home’ unit serves as the reception area of the office, the dining room hosts meetings, and the bedroom doubles as a tea sanctuary.
The occupants are able to adjust their relationship with the corridor by varying the degree of openness or enclosure with vernacular aluminium louvres and curtains. Materials such as epoxy flooring (common in such flats) encourage a sense of assimilation with the context, while white finishes reflect daylight and oak plywood creates a warm appearance.
Says Kho, “We hope this exploration of typology will encourage people to think about buying a resale HDB unit instead of going straight for BTO [Built To Order, or new units]. I hope they’ll discover the potential.” Adds Ng, “And the older flats have a lot more potential. Back then [in past decades], lifestyle was not so defined and things were a lot looser. But these days, everything is very defined; for example, a closet will be 1.5 metres or 1.8 metres by 600.”
Ng continues, “Clients tell us they want to have 90-per-cent efficiency and that’s it. You can’t have a hallway; you just have to branch off straight to the rooms [from the living area]. That’s the reality.”
Project #13 demonstrates a viable alternative with older HDB housing stock. Though small in size, the project showcases the potential for the meaningful evolution of an aged HDB typology. Congratulations to STUDIO WILLS.
Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!
In this intimate chat with Sebastian Herkner, German designer of international renown, we learn about his love for camping, the craftsmanship essential to his work, and his Blume collection for Pedrali.
With one of the largest custom flooring offerings in the Oceania region, GH Commercial can transform unique concepts into one-of-a-kind solutions that bring interiors to life.
Pedrali’s Italian-made furnishings uplift the new Osteria BBR, a modern reinterpretation of the iconic venue within Singapore’s legendary Raffles Hotel.
From 1960s New York when private developers were incentivised to create civic space in the public realm, to today: where POPS tread a fine line between the private and the public. Denton Corker Marshall looks at how we can bridge the two.
Gaggenau recently hosted shortlisted designers and friends to honour the inaugural Kitchen of the Year award with an intimate in-person event in its Melbourne showroom.
Read this round-table discussion between Hassell and The Work Project in Singapore, about their vision for delivering co-working spaces to an increasingly competitive flexible workplace sector.
The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed
Expect amazing installations, mind-blowing collaborations and so much inspo that your creative cup will flow over! Saturday Indesign exhibitors are right now preparing to transform their showrooms for the massive day.
Brodie Neill is making waves – that is ocean waves – with a new exhibition in London. He’s creating products from ocean plastics, reclaimed timbers and circular metals, to raise awareness of re-use through great design.
Alexandria has grown to become one of Saturday Indesign’s largest precincts. On Saturday 21 May, we’ll immerse you in the best design the precinct has to offer.