A Towering Tree Grows Through the Roof of This Tropical Sanctuary

A Towering Tree Grows Through the Roof of This Tropical Sanctuary

By Luo Jingmei / Photos by Fabian Ong
The occupants of the Aperture House by Formwerkz Architects take shelter under lush foliage and expansive eaves.

The portfolio of Singapore-based Formwerkz Architects is filled with unusual projects—from a home with a ramped running path to a residence with a dramatic roof that mimics origami folds. However a common threads run through each work: an affinity for natural, unadorned materials and greenery—often in the form of grass-capped rooftops and flourishing landscaping.

Case in point: the Aperture House is defined by a low-dipping, mono-pitched roof punctuated by a large opening for a tall indoor tree. Compared to neighboring houses with multifaceted roof angles and fussy facades, it is dramatic in its simplicity.

The home’s simple, abstract shape contrasts with neighboring homes, which are mainly clad in terra-cotta roof tiles.

A tall tree grows through a large aperture in the mono-pitched roof, bringing an outdoor feel to the inside of the house.

There is a contemplative quality to the clean lines that provide respite under shadowed eaves. The roof plane, made with a steady rhythm of steel and timber, is precise and neat.

This quietude and elegance is in tune with the clients’ desires. The homeowners wished for privacy from the prying eyes of neighbors, and for cool, comfortable spaces sheltered from the glare and heat of the unforgiving tropical sun.

From the street, the house is shielded from inquisitive eyes.

The plot is unusual, as it shares a boundary wall with a rear neighbor.

The plot’s long frontage made addressing these needs challenging—while most semidetached houses are conjoined to one neighbor from front to back, the houses in this row share a boundary wall with rear neighbors.

"This gives the front of the house a long and wide of 27.5 metres and the appearance of a bungalow from the street," says Alan Tay, the project’s lead architect and one of the firm’s partners. Tay employed several strategies to turn this potential obstacle into an opportunity.

Tall trees and an extended roof canopy provide the house with plenty of privacy.

The slanted roof’s steep pitch enables the occupants to dwell in semioutdoor spaces on the second story while being shielded from sun, rain, and inquisitive eyes. Mirroring this roofline is a 16-foot, flat canopy that cantilevers over the first-story carport, entrance patio, and swimming pool.

The mono-pitch roof extends past the glazing to shelter the interiors from extreme sunlight and rain.

Tall trees make up a green wall along the home’s front elevation, and timber screens frame the vista from the living room to the pool. Thanks to these elements, the first story is as sheltered as the second story from both passersby and the upper levels of nearby houses.

10 apertures of different sizes arranged above the pool illuminate the front yard with natural light.

Angular apertures—hence the house’s moniker—cut into the canopy illuminate the pool’s surface with squares of light. "The pool in the garden feels very much part of the interior, bathed in the soft light that streams through the perforated slab in the day. The perforation lights the rock garden above as the sun sets," Tay says.

The rock garden on the first-story roof canopy offers contemplative views to rooms on this side of the house.

These light gymnastics are deliberate, as "the house is conceived to capture, calibrate, and contain the right amount of daylighting," adds the architect. This motif repeats throughout the house.

The home’s board-formed concrete exterior walls exude a rustic, imperfect quality.

On the side elevation of the corner plot, windows of varied sizes are arranged in an asymmetrical fashion, punctuating the robust concrete walls. Larger apertures send natural light and ventilation deep into the plan, illuminating interior courtyards.

"[The clients] appreciate nature in a controlled aesthetic. This appreciation for the simplicity of nature translates into a disciplined and considered garden where a few trees make a huge impact," says architect Alan Tay.

The largest of these terrarium-like gardens is on the second story, abutting a terrace with seating outside a bedroom. Here, Tay inserted a tall tree whose foliage pokes through a large opening in the slanted roof. 

The abundant use of timber connects the home to nature.

Another courtyard abuts the rear boundary wall. It brings a sense of the outdoors to the dining room, which is entirely opaque at its street-facing side. Upstairs, it lends a fresh burst of light and greenery to the corridors.

"Having the trees in elevated planters gives the occupants the feeling of being in a sunken space. It is almost like an ant’s perspective," says Tay.

A courtyard rises up through three stories of the house.

The seating on this terrace outside a second-story bedroom not only functions as a balustrade, but also provides privacy. It faces the raised planter wall in the courtyard.

While Tay gave much thought to illuminating the inward-looking home, the staircase is deliberately darkened with black walls, ceilings, and balustrades.

"The curved stairs were conceived and articulated to be a sculptural object to create visual interest. The cool, shadowy realm of the staircase distinguishes this transitional space from the rest of the house, which receives [ample] daylight," says Tay.

The staircase is offset from the straight walls to emphasize its curvaceous lines.

This transition from dark to light enlivens the experience of traversing the house, which is laid out in a straightforward manner. The first story holds the living and dining areas, there are two bedrooms on the second story, and the leisure areas lie up in the attic.

On the first story, the walls facing the carport are entirely opaque for total privacy.

The gardens scattered throughout these spaces establish a constant dialogue with nature. The Aperture House’s name suggests openness and connectivity, but it is also very much about enclosure and seclusion. Tay’s design is a reminder that both are essential in creating a livable home.

Aperture House first story plan


Aperture House second story plan


Aperture House attic plan


Aperture House roof plan


A long section showing the courtyard at the second story next to the atrium above the dining room.


A short section showing the courtyard abutting the rear boundary wall that is elevated at the dining room on the first story.

Related Reading:

A Tree Grows Right Through the Roof of This Radically Updated Eichler

A Crumbling Home Is Revived Around a Massive Tree Trunk

A Tree Grows Through the Center of This Echo Park Rental

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: Alan Tay, Sarah Ng, Formwerkz Architects / @formwerkz

Builder: EMMA Groups Construction Pte Ltd

Civil and Structural Engineer: Portwood & Associates 

Mechanical and Electrical Engineer: SS Design Consult Engineers LLP 

Quantity Surveyor: BKG Consultants Pte Ltd

Aluminium and Facade Sub-Constractor: Vento Systems Pte Ltd

Save
Get the Dwell Newsletter

Get carefully curated content filled with inspiring homes from around the world, innovative new products, and the best in modern design.

See a sample