The site was long and narrow, and bounded on both lengths by parti walls, onto which the neighbouring houses shared, typical of most terraced house plots in Singapore. Conveniently, the shophouse is another typology that has a very similar footprint that we were looking at. We decided to borrow the air-well that is long associated with the traditional shophouse, which functioned mainly to bring light and ventilation into a long and narrow massing.

We call this the House with the Sky-well. A glass double-volume of void-space is carved out from the centre of the house, open to the sky and the elements, and elevated well above the ground – that is – on the second floor where the private spaces of the bedrooms, study, and family lounges are found. A sliver of sky and natural sunlight penetrates into the dining room below through glass panels, allowing for a glimpse up into the weightless space above the new “ground”. In other words, we brought the ground up closer to the living quarters on the higher floors – opening the spaces above to a secret garden, with its private slice of the sky.

The sky-well is not a static volume of “outside” space contained within the “inside” space. Like how it teases views down to the dining room below, the sky-well collides with the adjacent spaces, creating a multiplicity of experiences. When the glass doors surrounding the sky-well is drawn open, the study, children’s room and common walkway are pulled out into the deck, becoming an outdoor exercise terrace, a veranda for reading, a place for family gatherings, and even a children’s playpen. The walkways and rooms on the floor above also open to relate to the courtyard-like space below, where the children are kept safe whilst playing in the open, amidst a flurry of household activity – and where the presence of the family is felt throughout the day.

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