Panorama Drama: BUDJI+ROYAL’s M House

Its lighting fixture is the sun during daytime; the cooling system, the wind; and the wallpaper, nature.

  • August 14, 2017

  • Written by Sibyl Layag and Miguel Llona

  • Photographed by Ed Simon

We now live in an age where a house can function not only as a shelter from nature’s harsh elements, but also a platform from which one can view and admire the best of nature. Design firm Budji+Royal considers this viewpoint to be the cornerstone of their design style and aesthetic. “Nature always inspires,” as principal architect and president Royal Pineda expresses it. This philosophy comes through in one of the firm’s recent residential projects, the M House, situated in a 1,246-square meter lot in an exclusive village south of Manila.

The garden is the main attraction of the M House
The garden is the main attraction of the M House, with the structure serving as the “frame” with which to view it. The L-shaped layout creates strategic vantage points for its occupants to appreciate the greenery, especially the kalachuchi tree in the middle of the garden.

The design focuses on the concept of panorama, vistas and landscapes. In this house, there are no windows, only views. Its lighting fixture is the sun during daytime; the cooling system, the wind; and the wallpaper, nature. “Our starting canvas was a generous lot peppered with trees,” Pineda says. “It’s basically a garden waiting to be discovered and appreciated.”

A wooden canopy coaxes visitors to the wide front door
A wooden canopy coaxes visitors to the wide front door, and creates a “grand, welcoming sense of arrival.” Bato negro (black stone) was the material of choice for the wall and walkway, acting as a counterpoint for the all-white house.
M House stairs
A small pocket garden under the stairwell further shows the firm’s fondness for incorporating nature into the architecture.

He was glad to have convinced his client, a family of seven, to change their minds about clearing the property of trees. Apart from providing refreshing views, the trees screen off unwanted attention, noise and heat. The façade has also been given treatment for privacy through walls and landscaping to shield the homeowners from the prying eyes of passersby.

The heavier portions of the massing were pushed to the back, leading to a 606-square meter L-shaped footprint that puts the garden front and center. “When Royal first presented this design, I wondered why the garden was in front, because in our old house, it was located at the back,” shares the lady of the house. “He explained it to me by asking me to stand in the middle of the lot. ‘This is your garden, your party space,’ he said. ‘Here, you will see all the trees. If we put the party space behind, all you will see are the roofs of the neighbors. Do you want that? Just enjoy the trees and the sky!’”

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M House living room
The philosophy of the firm is apparent in the living area. “The public spaces are open and transparent, encouraging communion with nature,” says Pineda.
M House foyer
The foyer is spacious, but instead of using it as a mere transition space, a small breakfast table surrounded by Kenneth Cobonpue’s Parchment chairs was set up there. The glass wall on the left gives the family a refreshing view of the pocket garden outside.

Upon entering the house, “surprising reveals happen,” says Pineda. The front door opens to the spacious foyer that branches out toward the living area to the right, and the dining area to the left. The open and wallless spaces allow dwellers and visitors to commune with nature, and with each other. “We created strategic vantage points where the house and the gardens can be appreciated from a much wider, deeper range of views,” says Pineda. Another signature design element is a water feature, in this case one that flows from the massing of the master bedroom to the lap pool below.

As with most, if not all, of Budji+Royal’s residential works, the M House utilizes natural light. It is also equipped with automated lighting that controls light intensity and correspondingly adjusts energy consumption. The flooring is made of compacted grass/bamboo, which is resistant to mold growth and termite infestation, and the paint is of an organic plaster kind that does not contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Faucet flow and flush rates are optimized for water conservation. These environment-friendly systems are part of a design strategy the firm calls “practical luxury,” which makes use of modern energy-saving techniques and technologically advanced and eco-friendly materials.

Budji+Royal exercised restraint when it came to the form of the house, letting the elements of nature take center stage.
M House lanai
The lanai next to the living room is the family’s favorite spot, as it gives them the feeling of being in a resort. Because of the area’s orientation towards the west, a lap pool was  positioned beside it to help cool the air during the afternoon. The kalachuchi tree helps block afternoon sunlight as well.

Through the communion of architecture and nature, the M House makes for a relaxing residence for its inhabitants. Most importantly, it shows how architects can harness the elements to create a tropical house that suits the evolving lifestyle of the modern Filipino.