155TBR Conservation Shophouse

This two-storey shophouse in Singapore highlights a material that was once considered sub-standard and reserved for utility buildings, not modern family homes

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When Singaporean firm Inte Architects were tasked with the renovation, the team, headed by founder Chan Loo Siang, focused their attention on maximising natural light and ventilation while taking advantage of the shophouse’s unusual corner position.

The renovation had to be carried out within the confines of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s conservation regulations, so Inte Architects proposed replacing the existing steel-framed timbre louvred screen that made up the store frontage with glass blocks that are both easy to maintain and add an aesthetic quality. They turned the frame into a surprising and effective glass-block wall, paradoxically creating a sense of privacy and wide-open space. In Singapore, these glass blocks had been stigmatised as an industrial material, largely due to the limited range of designs and unsightly grouting. After experimenting with various techniques, however, the team was able to land on a method of recessing the grouting behind the blocks’ edges, resulting in a frosted wall where the profile of each block creates a modernised aesthetic. Rather than being a conspicuous design feature, the glass blocks blend into the surrounding streetscape, proof that the common material can be used effectively in a residential context. At the same time, the enclosed space, including the area once reserved for a fish pond, extends the wet kitchen. The kitchen and living areas are bathed in natural light, thanks to the skylight and semi-transparent expanse of wall, where clear blocks are interspersed with frosted versions higher up on the facade to maximise the natural light.

Large shutter windows that appear to be part of the original exterior now open onto the enlarged air well, which connects the home’s multiple floors and adds a sense of volume and height that continues up to the rooftop terrace. Here, steel supports are visually balanced by the glass panels that surround the outdoor space. Glass jalousie windows on the terrace provide natural ventilation to the air well and connect the indoor and outdoor spaces, further blurring the boundaries between the two.

Text / Simone Schultz
Images / Courtesy of Inte Architects

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