These two villas stand next to each other on the island of Sentosa. They are effectively mirror images of one another with just minor variations: not identical twins, but close siblings.
The brief called for an ‘iconic’ building ─ one with character, but which enhanced its neighbourhood and which, in terms of scale and aesthetics, did not dominate its neighbours. The villas also needed to optimise the site, and to respond to the tropical climate and to the immediate context of water and the adjacent golf course. In addition, the brief called for optimal use of natural materials, sustainable strategies and to observe certain " feng shui requirements.
The island of Sentosa is a mere 15 minute drive from downtown Singapore and it is the only part of Singapore where non-residents can buy land freehold. As a result, there is a lot of money ‘parked’ on Sentosa. Perhaps this, combined with strict guidelines, may be why the island has not produced a lot of outstanding architecture. On the other hand, there has been a certain amount of architectural experiment, though not always very successful.
Part of the guidelines is the restrictive requirement for a 30º pitched roof if an attic is required ─ which it invariably is, because of the desire to maximise floor space while conforming to height regulations. MDL’s response was to see the restriction as a challenge with Massimo Mercurio commenting that “I will take full advantage of this imposition, a creative reaction to a regulation I deem a bit too restrictive. I will give you a pitch from top to bottom " ─ a 180 degree pitch.
This has been achieved by way of a “visual trick”. The arching carport contributes to the pitch, but is in fact separated from the main building. The architects have here taken advantage of the regulations which allow a carport in front of the setback line, thus preserving the design intent while also complying with the guidelines.
The resulting semi-circular form suggested a sunrise which seemed apt in that location so close to the open sea ─ hence, the name ‘Alba’, which is Italian for sunrise. With the basic form suggesting a sunrise, the image was then reinforced by the red terracotta roof and warm travertine cladding. This is signaled at the entrance where ‘Sunset’ is placed to the side of each villa. This is a stone carved bowl with an orange resin sphere inside which, as it pours water into a pool, symbolises the sunrise and abundance, promoting good " feng shui.
The approach to Alba was consistent with two key principles in MDL’s practice: integrated design and symbolism as a driver of form. Aiming for integrity between outer form and inner living, the image of the rising sun is repeated inside informing the spatial organisation, materials, palette, furnishings and bathroom fittings, while also creating visual interest looking out from Level 2 and the attic. Even the plates for the dining table setting and the paintings on the walls were customdesigned to maintain the mood.
However, the dramatic arcing roof to the villas plays an important part of the sustainable strategy. Along with supplementary screens, the roof provides shade from the sun and protection from heavy tropical rain. Deep, shaded recesses complement the water feature/pool to provide natural cooling, while minimal glazing on the western facades ─ the villas are aligned on a north-south axis ─ also minimises heat gain. The heat- resistant terracotta tiles have an air cavity behind them to enable air and water circulation to further naturally cool the house. This is supplemented by energy efficient glazing and planning which facilitates cross-ventilation to take advantage of the breezes which flow across the open vista of the golf course. Crossing the canal and the pool, these breezes also provide natural cooling for the house.
The entry to the house is set off to one side and dramatic double-height timber doors which, once opened, provide a grand moment of arrival with sweeping views of the canal and the golf course. The living/dining space is one grand space with a timber pool deck to one side and extensive glazing which promotes a sense of uninterrupted connection between the inside and the open landscape beyond. This is reinforced by the way the space has a sheer edge to the pool which runs the full length of the rear of the house, creating the sense that this grand space is hovering over the water and continuous with the water and the greens of the golf course.
The dramatic visual effect is enhanced by the angled cut-out windows. The dynamic travertine piers between the panels then become feature walls which also serve to edit the landscape beyond in a variety of intriguing ways. The fluid interior space is an extension of the dynamically curvilinear external form which, in turn, is set in an exciting counterpoint to the sharp angularity of the inside walls and windows, which are not just laterally angled, but sometimes angled out to heighten the drama.
Extensive glazing, the use of skylights and decks on every level ensures ample natural light throughout the house. The sumptuous double-height master bedroom opens on to a wide timber deck with views across the golf course, while the attic sitting room becomes a cosy retreat looking out to an intimate elevated courtyard lined with planters.
Natural materials, such as the Burmese Teak (used most notably in the master bedroom for the double-height bedhead and ceiling battens above the bed), complement the warmth of the interior travertine and the lava stone used for the bathroom flooring.
515 sqm / 500 sqm
YEAR OF COMPLETION