Few would think much about the Asuncion house, given its modest front façade. What is immediately remarkable from this view is the generous setback of the house from the street, in contrast to most neighbors' homes built close to the front perimeter. "We were lucky to get a good-sized lot and since we didn't want a huge house, it gave us the opportunity to move back. If not, we and our neighbors would be face-to-face," says Ding.


Ding and Isabel Asuncion design a modern oasis

A light well, wind tunnel, and deceptive appearances, are just a few of the things that make an architect couple's house truly their own.

  • December 18, 2018

  • Written by Miguel R. Llona

  • Photographed by William Ong and Ed Simon of Studio 100

From the start, architects Ding Asuncion and Isabel Berenguer-Asuncion knew exactly what they wanted if they were going to build their own house. “We always wanted a small house in a big property, because we wanted a lot of outdoor space,” says Isabel. After a long search, they found the perfect spot in Loyola Grand Villas—a 900-square meter lot that offers views of the mountains of San Mateo in the distance; perfect for a house that incorporates elements of tropical architecture.

Finished in 2009, it appears from the street as a simple white bungalow with a one-sided roof slanted at 30 degrees. There is generous space between the house and the fence, making for a wide lawn out front; an understated appearance at best. But if one knew the topography of the lot, one would know that there is more to the house than meets the eye. The street lies at the border of the village near the Marikina River, where the terrain slopes downwards and ends at the riverbank.

modern oasis
The narrow foyer that leads directly to the split-level staircase. Providing color to the white space is a diptych made by Ding, called Structure. The lines and minimal colors of the painting are perfect for the hallway.

Ding and Isabel are the principal architects of Asuncion-Berenguer, Inc., an architecture and interior design firm that integrates “physical context, unique function and aesthetic goals” in their projects. They carried this philosophy over to their own home, which they wanted to have a tropical yet contemporary appeal. During the design process, they made sure the house would respect the topography of the land. So what appears to be merely a bungalow is connected to a split-type two-storey structure behind it, where the lot descends.

From a bird’s eye view, the composition of the house is of two horizontal structures joined together in the middle by a staircase. The one fronting the street contains the guest room and family room/studio, while the two-storey one combines the common and private areas.

The family studio benefits from a generous amount of lumen, due to the large windows that look over the pocket garden between the two structures of the home. The well-lit space is ideal for the family to spend time doing their creative endeavors, and is spacious enough to accommodate sleepovers. Their son loves playing his electric guitar in this room (although it isn’t sound-proof).

modern oasis
The dining and living areas are brought together in one space, versus having a house that is “chopped up,” according to Isabel. The free-flowing layout of the ground level connects the two interior spaces, and connects it with the garden outside as well. A mirror on the wall of the dining area magnifies the space to the eye as well.

Breaking it up into two separate structures proved more costly, but doing so allowed their vision of a modern tropical home to materialize. “We’ve always wanted to live in house that has a resort feel, where we can be relaxed after a long day at the firm,” says Ding. Of the 900-square meter lot, the house footprint takes up about 350 square meters only. By scaling down the size of the house, pocket gardens and open timber decks that amount to a total of 120 square meters were created. The direct result is more open spaces for air to pass through, and more light to infiltrate as many areas inside as possible.

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The proximity to the river, notorious for rising and for its swift current during rainy season, poses potential problems. However, the 25 meters between the riverbank and the house’s retaining perimeter wall, as well as the elevation of the lot eight meters above normal river water level, were deemed sufficient distances away from the possible dangers of an angry, overflowing river.

modern oasis
An open doorway connects the kitchen to the living spaces, and morning light from the lawn outside filters in through a glass door.

modern oasis
An extension of the common spaces is an al fresco dining area adjacent to the living area. Because of its location, the Asuncion call the space their “wind tunnel,” and rightly so: east-west winds constantly ripple one’s clothes and hair while in this space.

In the interior, a combination of large windows and glass sliding doors that connect the inside with the outdoors create transparency between the different areas, which also allow the natural shifts in the sunlight and shadow to keep time in the course of the day. Going through the main door, one experiences a sense of drama—the foyer is dim and compact, but the hallway points the eye ahead to the double volume stair structure leading to the main house.

modern oasis
Since the sun sets at the front of the house, the living area, located at the back, is shaded in the afternoons, making it an ideal space to lounge around for relaxation. Surrounded by glass sliding doors, the living area enjoys views of the whole lawn and outdoor decks, as well as the San Mateo mountains in the distance.

At the height of afternoon, light and shadow cast their magic on the staircase, which branches out to the ground and second levels of the second structure. The ground level contains the living, dining and kitchen areas that open out to the outdoor decks, while the second level hides the bedrooms.

modern oasis
The deck for the outdoor living area extends from the al fresco dining area. Couches designed by Ding and Isabel and a Serralunga table from Furnitalia are laid out on the deck for guests to relax in. The house shades the deck and lawn during the afternoon, making it an ideal spot to lounge in. “When we’re fortunate to come home early from work, we normally hang out here because you have the soft breeze, and then the sun is down over there at the front of the house,” says Isabel.

Ding and Isabel sought to maintain purity in the interior’s color scheme, opting for a predominantly white palette. Breaking the monotonous whiteness are a collection of paintings and sculptures by Ding himself and from selected contemporary artists. “We kept the interior simple with whites, creams, a little bit of color,” says Ding. “Because in our jobs, we deal with colors all the time! So when we get home, we just want it to be quiet, serene and relaxing.”

Familiarity with the site, an intimate understanding of their needs and preferences have helped Ding and Isabel Asuncion design a house that fulfills their vision of a modern oasis tucked away in the suburbs, where they can relax in when the urban landscape has become too tiresome. B ender

This article first appeared in BluPrint Vol 1 2013. Edits were made for BluPrint online.

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