Cloister House by Formwerkz Architects in Johor Bahru, Malaysia
We all have or seen homes and properties with some open spaces, and some even have courtyards. But have you ever seen a structure with twelve huge open courtyards with inverted roofs?
We’re talking about a unique ‘Cloister House’ in Malaysia. With twelve huge courtyards and a unique roofing system, this residence is one of the trendy architecture these days. Keep on reading to know more about this unique and unusual structure.
Architects: Formwerkz Architects
Location: Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Area: 1452 m²
Located in a beautiful serene place in Malaysia, this architecture is a private residence. This single-storey house is specifically built for a client and his extended family.
Designed by Singapore-based Formwerkz Architects, this property is spatially delineated into nine sub-grids. The house is built on a 4,500 sq m plot, which is almost the half size of a football ground.
The main feature of this residence is the twelve courtyards of varying sizes! The main part of the building has been partitioned into a grid of rectangles or a grid into a series of volumes. This results in a maze of different and wonderful spaces which can be used for exploration and entertainment.
This large communal living block also has a back garden, a pool, and a smaller annexe for private bedrooms. Now let’s know in-depth about each part of this spectacular architecture. Let’s start with what homeowners initially wanted in a house.
Client’s Requirement For Cloister House
Designed for a Singaporean family, the cloister house is the perfect private property. The family includes a couple with three kids, and they were previously living in Singapore but recently moved across the straits in the city of Johor Bahru in Malaysia. This is because they wanted a more peaceful and tranquil space for living away from the fast-paced city life.
They became fascinated by the lifestyle of the houses living in the open countryside and thus also wanted a communal way of living but also wanted some privacy and security. Homeowners love to entertain, that’s why they needed a home with generous space appropriate for hosting parties and small affairs.
As per the client’s wish, architects came up with the idea of this residence which has huge space for entertaining and playing with safety. The exterior of the building is designed in such a way that the house looks almost indistinguishable from the main street.
Architect Alan Tay explains, “When you live in a landed property, there is always the desire to be as close to the ground as possible, which is more achievable when there is only just one floor.”
So how do architects design this house? What was their inspiration? Let’s know.
Theme & Concept of The Colister House
Architects have been inspired by Geoffrey Bawa’s Colombo House and the House of the Faun in Pompeii.
They have come with the design concept of the cloister house, which is a modern take on traditional tropical houses.
This residence consists of multiple courtyards, which provide a balance between nature and modern lifestyle. To create adequate thermal comfort for the inhabitants, these courtyards and open spaces have been constructed as they provide proper air conditioning.
Architect Seetoh Kum Loon said, “The owner doesn’t like the heat, and there was the worry that the whole house would need to be fully air-conditioned, thereby increasing energy costs.”
Courtyards of The Cloister House
Mr Seetoh says, “The owner doesn’t like the heat, and there was the worry that the whole house would need to be fully air-conditioned, thereby increasing energy costs.”
Architects found the perfect solution to this problem: Courtyards! However, the main twist is that architects have included several courtyards instead of one main courtyard at the center. They all are designed in varying sizes and beautifully dotted around the house.
The entire area of the plot on which the house has been constructed has been divided partially into nine sub-grids. Each grid consists of a courtyard which is helpful in bringing natural daylight and ventilation into the space. They also create stack effects and also increase the natural airflow through the house. This will ultimately reduce the dependency of residents on air conditioning.
As you can see in the pictures, every courtyard is designed differently and uniquely. They are organically arranged spaces as clusters weaving free spaces amongst the interspersed cloister.
Some courtyards have ponds and gravel gardens, while other ones are either screened off with sliding glass panels or bricked up. They are used as an entertainment/family room.
These courtyards are brilliantly designed and placed. These twelve courtyards also bring the openness of the sky into the interiors. These courtyards have varying roof slopes, and the rain gathers and free fall from them.
Timber Clad Roofs of Cloister House
Formwerkz Architects did the interior and landscape design of this project. This firm was established in Singapore in 2004 by Alan Tay, Seetoh Kum Loon, Gwen Tan, and Berlin Lee. Along with the main architects, Alan Tay and Seetoh Kum Loon, the design team also includes Iskandar Idris, Xue Zhen Chen, and Sarah Ng.
Fortified by the five-meter perimeter wall, this single-storey mansion is designed to be inward-looking, contained in itself. As you enter the house, you’ll immediately notice the five-meter-high ceiling. This Merbau timber-clad ceiling above the courtyards is formed by the topography of an inverted pitched roof.
Explains Alan Tay, a Partner at Formwerkz Architects, “The pitched roof, a cornerstone element of the tropical architecture, is inverted and expressed as a key architectural ceiling feature in the house. The roof slopes toward the courtyards in a reverse pitch fashion, giving rise to a series of undulating timber ceiling ridges.”
The funnel-like roofs are designed in a way that they slope from high ridges towards the courtyards. These folds and flexes of the roofs create lofty and intimate zones. These multi-faceted ceilings are made out of strips of chengal wood.
You’ll be surprised to know that each strip is assembled piece by piece by a craftsman, and it almost took 14 months to complete the entire ceilings! Fascinating, right?
“Reinterpreting the cloister as a space imbued with an infinite permutation of possibilities, living occurs organically around courtyards,” added Formwerkz Architects.
Exteriors of Cloister House
As compared to the neighboring mansions, this single storey house looks like a modest box. Only a small portion of the interiors can be seen from the streets of this beautiful but understated home.
From the main street or afar all, you can see the faceted, sloping timber ceilings. However, only residents and a few visitors know that behind these fort-like walls lie a wonderful living space with a series of lush courtyards that can take you to different “worlds”.
Interiors of Cloister House
Though the house’s ceilings are high, architects have specially made the ceiling of the kid’s room a bit low. This looks like a tent-like space where the kids can easily play, climb up to and look down onto the rest of the house.
There are also guest rooms in the building, and the master and kids bedrooms are in an annexe block. Apart from this, there is also a sitting area in the same block. The bedrooms have beautiful natural views. These sections either open in the garden or the lap pool.
Architects explain, “We were exploring and expanding on the contemporary tropical house trope were courtyards and roofs, instead of walls and air-conditioning, dictate and define space. We wanted to create a house that can evolve organically with the family.”
They further added, “We were interested in spaces that inspired and sensitized one to the beauty of nature.”
Awards & Nominations
Due to its unique concept and modern approach to the tropical house, Cloister House was named Design of the Year at the President*s Design Award 2020. The jury really liked the whole concept and specifically the’ reinterpretation of a tropical courtyard house.Mr Tay says, “Cloister House can start a conversation in Singapore regarding the creative use of building envelope control or the setbacks between a house and its surroundings. There will be many more opportunities for single-storey houses to be built if we can look at density differently.”
So, this is all about Cloister House, designed by Formwerkz Architects. This gorgeous and brilliantly designed residence is impressive for various reasons. You can see how architects have integrated various bioclimatic strategies to foster an environment of wellbeing for house residents.
Through the multiple courtyards, the family can feel and contemplate nature. The structure of this home is half-open, half-closed. You can say it evolves organically with the family because this house provides an opportunity to the family to adapt their living spaces based on the changing light.
I hope you liked this blog about this unusual nature-inspired beauty: Cloister House. Share this blog with your family and friends or with anyone who wants a home inspired by nature and away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
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