The Distorted Box House stands on a slope. With only 12 meters (the total area is 300 square meters) facing the main road, the long lot was an opportunity to exhibit linear dynamism in the interiors and exteriors. It appears that a distorted box is sandwiched between two planes, the garage canopy and the roof. These three elements define the house.


Zubu explores the distortion of masses in this QC home

Zubu DA takes simple massing out for a spin in the "Distorted Box House" that constantly surprises its owner

  • April 25, 2018

  • Written by Angel Yulo

  • Photographed by Jaime Rapi, Jr.

In the evening, the house is a lantern illuminating the surrounding area. You may not see the verdant landscaping but the garden uplights throw lush leaf-shaped shadows to mingle with sharp edges. A thread of light running from one corner of the garage ceiling to the front door directs guests to enter and compels passers-by to gaze at the Distorted Box House by Zubu Design Associates.

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The column beside the entrance steps supports the cantilevering garage roof as well as the master bedroom on top, visible through the large windows. “I wanted to emphasize the column as a disengagement from the façade. That’s why I left it exposed,” says the architect.

The two-storey residence in Filinvest, Quezon City, is a part of a series exploring the distortion of pure masses. “The intent was for the architecture to affect the experience and movement of people,” Zubu principal Buck Sia tells us. Picture a rectangular prism bisected horizontally giving you two floors of the same shape. Then the form lying on top is bent, “distorted” the architect says, as if on a hinge. The void created by the difference of angles was an opportunity for meaningful space—a connection of top and lower floor. It allowed a living room seven meters high and a second-floor hallway open to below.

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With a living area seven meters high, contractor Jonathan Fernandez compares the house to a gallery. Residents can deck its white walls with their personal art collection. The open orientation of lower ground spaces could make for small art walks with guests.
Moroso Victoria and Albert sofa by Ron Arad, and Bloomy low table by Patricia Urquiola from Casabella

“Every visit is a surprise in this house. For example, you stand on this spot in the kitchen and you appreciate a certain angle. The next time, you encounter another nook where the experience of it is different,” says the client, who moved back from a ten-year stay abroad two years ago. Actively searching for someone to finally build in the 300-square-meter lot he purchased, he stumbled upon a magazine feature of Sia then googled more about the architect to set an appointment. “He asked for few weeks then gave me a render of the house and I immediately loved it!” he says. “This was the first study. We didn’t change anything. So this is basically Buck’s soul here.”

The dynamic space was the outcome of a basic brief: four bedrooms (one bedroom on the ground floor) with a bathroom for every room. The client also set a budget which the architect readily worked with. Another notable parameter is the house would be put up for sale. “A good challenge,” says Sia. “I thought I could do something adventurous like my other houses but with the right amount restraint.”

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In the evening, cove lights highlight the dynamism of the ceiling. From the front door, the lines draw you to two places: the stairs leading upstairs, and the kitchen-dining area that opens up to the patio, expected to be the most lively portion of the home.
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In tune with the rest of the house, the steps on the stairs are not purely rectangular. The portion closer to the balusters are narrower than the one attached to the wall, creating a floating effect. A combination of concrete and kiln dry wood, these steps were prefabricated in the contractor’s studio prior to installation.

From the front door, one traverses the living area obliquely. The public spaces on the first floor were openly planned. Instead of walls, the shift of space marks where one area ends and another begins. Cove lighting, which looks like a ceiling detail during the day, highlights the distortion of the second floor volume and draws the eyes towards the dining room when you enter the residence. On the second floor, where bedrooms are delineated and enclosed, the diagonal overlooking hallway separates the master bedroom from the rest. The variation of movement, which feels like crossing a bridge, in order to access that room signals that it is a special space in the home.

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Landscaper Edwin Muli is set to plant black bamboo by the perimeter wall to increase privacy in the patio and provide shade to the house. Dining area: Moroso No Waste sheet steel table by Ron Arad, and Impossible Wood chairs by N. Doshi & J. Levien from Casabella, Crate&Barrel Legend copper pitcher and Moscow Mule copper mugs; Patio: Kettal Zigzag pouf by Emiliana Design Studio and Pouf tray by Jasper Morrison from Casabella, Crate&Barrel potted grass and succulents
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The colors of the cabinetry and type of tile used in the master bath don’t stray too far from each other, creating a serene atmosphere. Crate&Barrel Direction vase and paper twig branches

Jonathan Fernandez of JP Meister Construction Corporation, the contractor for the project, recalls the process of working on the house: “One of the challenges here was the ceiling. As you see, it is very geometrical unlike conventional houses. The finishing has to be very meticulous because the lighting will expose flaws.” Paul James Gunda, partner in the company, echoes the sentiment: “A lot of angles will always add a degree of difficulty in the execution. But it’s very fulfilling when you finish and execute it in its truest form.”

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The master bedroom floats above the entrance of the home and caps the design idea. From street level, one would see its windows situated in the cavity of a box-like volume that swivels and juts out from the structure. Moroso Longwave lounge chair by Diesel, Santa & Cole Trípode G5 floor lamp
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The master bedroom seen from the walkway overlooking the living area.

The house not only facilitates the movement of people. Air circulates as well. During the drier periods of the year, the sliding door dividing the dining area from the patio can be left open, allowing air to cross to the other side where the stairs are flanked by a series operable windows. Portions of the large windows in the living area are also operable to increase exhaust of the entire space.

Much like the form of the house, emotions felt in the experience of it are also in flux. “From daytime to nighttime, it’s different,” says the client. “During the day, it is energetic. At night, it is arresting!” We saw this when we shot the final frames for the day from across the lot. As the sky darkened and Distorted Box House stood in contrast, cars, pedestrians, and even a pedicab slowed down as if the lights and angles were telling them that they were welcome to jump right in. 

This article first appeared in BluPrint Volume 2 2017. Edits were made for Bluprint online.

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