Light, material, volume, and relationships—Kuala-Lumpur-based architect Fabian Tan believes that these four are what make up a whole that reflects the essence and consistency of a space. This design philosophy serves as his guide to creating structures of subtle beauty, like the gable-roofed Knikno House in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
On a 18-by-27-meter piece of land, Fabian Tan Architect rebuilt this semi-detached house for a young family of four (a young couple and their two daughters) plus two dogs. The project is laid out on two different levels, connecting two volumes with different functional zones.
From the road, the predominantly white and grey property opens to a roofed car porch occupying most of the lower area. The car porch is connected to the main house on a higher area by a ramp accessible from the left side, which is hedged by stone perimeter walls.
From the ramps, guests are able view the dominant longitudal two-storey building and the open-layout single-storey structure perpendicular to it, interposed by the front garden. The front garden also serves as another layer buffering the house from the road.
The entrance corridor leads to different spaces in the Knikno House: on the left, the open-plan living areas, almost inseparable from the outdoor areas; on the right, the private living areas and an ascending staircase leading to the second floor; and, straight ahead, a workspace that’s also accessible from the koi pond.
The dominant upper floor follows a gabled form from the front to the rear. This gable, conspicuous even from afar, is inspired by the client’s request for a modern interpretation of a country house. Fabian Tan Architect made the main house’s upper floor façade from modular grey concrete blocks, sitting like a solid and substantial weight on the light and open floor below it.
While the façade and the interior walls remained neutral colored, the ceiling of the single-floor volume is covered with inverted timber adding more barn-house feel to the space. The wood finish continued on the staircase leading to the second floor. The landing on the second level serves as a mezzanine overlooking the open living space below, and accentuates the pitched ceiling.
On each side of the mezzanine opening are two smaller glass windows that allow more light and ventilation into the house. On the other end of the corridor (pictured below) is the master bedroom, with a clear view of the black koi pond below.
Each space in the Knikno House is accentuated by different material palette, helping distinguish the spaces from each other. Lighting also plays a role in creating focal points to separate each areas.
The Knikno House gets more dramatic in the evening when the cove lighting highlights the ceiling. Warm light is integrated into the entire house, expressing a cozy atmosphere into the ‘modern barn house.’ Fabian Tan Architect also installed sconces in the lounge deck in the rear garden, and more accent lights in the front staircase from the car porch.
The 251 sqm project took one and a half years to complete despite its simplicity, and though constructing the two different volumes of the building on different ground levels posed challenges to the design.
“The plan is ‘T’ shaped and creates precise experiences with the exterior and interior through a series of spatial geometry and symmetry. It is difficult to describe this home in a simplistic sense as its parts seem to mesh with each other, giving multiple repeated descriptions of spaces but hopefully, it will speak for itself in clarity to the present listener,” Tan says.