Wallflower and DS Architects collaborate to design a traffic-stopping condo, Claydence
When developer Hong How Land wrote out the brief for the residential project that would become Claydence, it consisted of one line: when driving at 60km/h along Still Road, the condominium must be noticed. For Wallflower Pte Ltd and DS Architects, which collaborated on the design, they immediately knew that whatever they came up with had to be “striking”, possibly even a “landmark”.
After accounting for technical and commercial considerations, the solution took the form of using bricks as the dominant material. Consequently, all the planes of the one-block development’s massing are clad with the rich, red-coloured material, and the rest are in dark grey plaster.
“The blocks of apartments are separated by large flat walls. Bricks delineate these surfaces. It’s a bit like when you order a kueh (Malay for “cake”) and there’s a piece of paper around it,” describes Cecil Chee, Co-Founder of Wallflower.
Certainly, its location on the fringe of the heritage-rich Joo Chiat neighbourhood contributed to the decision of using this classic material. Other factors included its green nature, aesthetic value and insulating qualities.
“This project is about inserting bricks in a modern context. We don’t want to stay in the past; we only want to bring out its essence,” explains Koh Choon Ngee, Co-Founder of DS Architects.
Bricks to stand out
The decision to use bricks was derived from wanting to introduce clay, its raw material, into the project. This was in part due to its use in the Peranakan-influenced shophouses in the enclave that Claydence borders.
While researching its use in the contemporary context, Chee came across entire, beautifully designed buildings in Iran made from bricks. He naturally took inspiration from them.
“Brick has an aesthetic of its own. The simplicity of the material gives off a sense of honesty. There’s also the chance to work with a natural colour. Then, as you go closer, the texture begins to appear. You can appreciate the building from many distances,” he elaborates.
There is continuity within the apartments too, with balcony walls constructed from bricks to allow residents the opportunity to appreciate their tactility up close.
However, rather than literally build walls of brick, the decision was made to adopt a cladding system where thin brick tiles are affixed onto aluminium frames and locked in place. This also mitigates the challenge of bricks falling off the building.
Another advantage: an air gap is created between the wall and cladding, creating a layer of insulation against the tropical heat. In fact, when the brick is soaked with rain, as the water evaporates, it lends a cooling effect on the environment. Efflorescence is minimised too, making it easier to maintain. “I don’t know why people don’t use it more,” quips Chee.
Benefits of brick aside, Hong How Land’s Director Teo Teck Weng was fully onboard with the design solution. “Joo Chiat is very monotonous – everything is five storeys – which is why we had the brief say we have to stand out from the rest of the neighbourhood. To quote the legendary graphic designer Paul Rand, ‘If you cant make it big, make it red.’”
Red, green and blue
Teo’s reference to size was something that most definitely affected the design direction of Claydence. The site that the project sits on, 99 Still Road, was originally made up of three plots before Hong How Land bought and merged them into one.
Unfortunately, because of its location next to a Category 2 road (Still Road), regulations dictate that the building has to be set back by 15m instead of the usual 7.5m. The result is only half of the land is usable, and an L-shaped building footprint decided as the most efficient.
The use of brick as a cladding therefore became even more imperative in helping the condominium stand out. “We tried to be practical by proposing something that is a landmark, while being creative. It was about trying to strike a balance within the allowable norms and performance requirements,” says Koh.
A consequence is that there is plenty of space for landscaping, which is a natural and beautiful complement to bricks. Coen Design International was responsible for further greening Claydence and has done a stellar job by introducing native flora, such as gardens themed Ulam, Kedongdong and Chin Chow.
“The development of the greenery is curated from elements of the more traditional types. It brings a bit of flavour of the past but without being tied to it. Again, we are not creating an old building but are trying to constantly bring back certain elements of what was associated with the place,” explains Koh.
In addition to 28 units of one- to four-bedroom apartments, residents will enjoy the lap pool and Jacuzzi on the roof, gym and two edible gardens. Chee points out the lengths they went to make sure Claydence looks good on the inside.
The drop-off plaza is dressed up with a slightly retro feel, using curved glass that breaks away from the rectilinear language of bricks. Borrowing elements from the nearby shophouses, he also introduces patterned floor tiles.
Both architects are unanimous when it comes to how enlightened Hong How Land is as a developer to allow the project to evolve to the version that it is today. Teo, though, is refreshingly candid, “We initiate the design of every project from purpose and context. When well executed, design will endure and value will hold.”
And if it is striking enough to stop traffic, that will be an added bonus.
Click here to see the virtual tour of the project.