These 5 houses exemplify responses to our tropical climate
These practices strive to design for comfort in the face of oppressive heat, humidity, and rainfall of Southeast Asia
June 6, 2018
Southeast Asia and other regions in the tropics receive more direct sunlight and heat from the sun compared to the rest of the world because of the earth’s tilted position on its axis. Given this, the tropical climate has posed great challenges for architects in the region who strive to build for cool and comfort in the face of oppressive heat, humidity and rainfall. However, these five tropical houses exemplify responses for the climate.
1 | Nature as Protagonist
With tree, water, wood, and stone, ONG&ONG creates a memorable home for nurturing a nature-loving family. The house is at a cul-de-sac in the residential estate of Bukit Timah. It is a home designed to teach children to appreciate a tree, relish fresh air, conserve nature’s gifts, enjoy each other’s company, and be considerate of others.
With single-mindedness equal to none, Singapore has educated, motivated, and even legislated so its citizens would embrace eco-friendly and neighborly practices. This house is one of a growing number that shows they have succeeded.
Fabian Tan utilizes some tropical design taboos but produces a house cooler and more comfortable than most in sweltering Kuala Lumpur. Contradicting requirements from the clients, a young couple, forced Tan to be creative. They wanted a well-lit and well-ventilated house closed off from the street for privacy, with four bedrooms and bathrooms on a 176.5-square meter lot.
Tan’s simple yet efficient solutions for natural lighting and ventilation have met the clients’ every requirement and then some. The house is an ode to simplicity, its lack of ornamentation turned into visual poetry. The fact that Tan designed such a well-lit house that breathes and stays cool using simple methods and materials is a feat. Tan’s compositional approach to the minimalist house shines a light on how to brighten up a home without leaving it at the mercy of the sun.
Jerry and Celia Jiao refused to live hemmed in a box, so they called BUDJI+ROYAL to take them out of it. BUDJI+ROYAL had been brought in to undo work started by a previous design team. After inspecting the site and ascertaining what the clients truly wanted, Pineda and Layug agreed the architecture had to be a conversation with the trees and the site, and the interior design, a meditative retreat to relish Mother Nature’s gifts.
The Venturi Effect and the differences in air pressure inside and outside the house ensure that—so long as the openings for air intake and outtake are open—fresh air will always flow through the home. It is tropical design at its elegant best, and every bit as contemporary as the fine Schema and Kenneth Cobonpue pieces that accentuate the home.
Instead of trying to subjugate the setting, Layug and Pineda subscribe to harmonious co-existence with context. Their success comes not from denying the realities of living in the tropics, but by listening intently to what the site is trying to tell its stewards.
Leandro V. Locsin Partners reconstructs Casa de Nipa, an appropriation of vernacular architecture in the early twentieth century. Standing on a 845-square-meter footprint in the heart of an old sugarland, Casa de Nipa—as everyone in the community calls it—was a large thatched house. It was a structure with two wings wrapped around a central courtyard and a program that met modern needs for privacy and conviviality.
Today, the house is under the care of the Locsins, grandchildren of Jose Yulo from his daughter Cecilia. The house had gone through innumerable maintenance cycles over the years and so in 2003, the family decided to reconstruct it using more durable materials. It was only apt that Leandro V. Locsin Partners headed the project. Temptations to alter the house’s configuration into something more contemporary were set aside. Locsin, staying true to his promise of “preserving the original intent and feel,” has safeguarded a prime example of the appropriation of vernacular architecture in the early twentieth century.
BAAD Studio builds a house that thrives in its lush but challenging environment. The site is a dream for nature lovers but a challenge for builders. Located in a secluded village in Antipolo, a city on the slopes of a mountain range east of Manila, the lot and its surrounding lush with tall trees. The owners, a husband and wife with three children, gave BAAD a free hand with the design except for a few specific requests—they wanted a house that minimizes the use of electricity by making use of natural daylight and passive cooling.
To preserve and enhance the accustomed lifestyle of the owners, BAAD strove to retain the site’s natural gifts and celebrate them in the design. The thick, tall trees on the north and west sides would serve as wind and sun barriers. The foliage on the south side is low in height, exposing the house to wind and sun. The street is on the east, making it the logical side for the front façade.
The house wraps around a young tree in a U-shape, opening up the north side of the structure with glass louver windows and gardens. Floor-to-ceiling jalousie windows line the tree-hugging sides of the house. Jalousies were also used as clerestory windows in bedrooms, bathrooms, the stairwell corridor, and other parts of the house to enable maximum airflow and for light to reach the interiors.
Original articles first published on BluPrint Tropical Architecture for the 21st Century Vol. 1 2017. Edits were made for BluPrint online.
1 Written by Judith Torres. Photographed by Derek Swalwell, and Ed Simon of Studio 100.
2 Written by Miguel R. Llona. Photographed by Eiffel Chong.
3 Written by Judith Torres. Photographed by Ed Simon of Studio 100.
4 Written by Angel Yulo. Photographed by Ed Simon of Studio 100.
5 Written by Miguel R. Llona and Judith Torres. Photographed by Ed Simon.