A continuous balcony envelopes the second floor of a GCB in Holland by RT+Q Architects

A continuous balcony envelopes the second floor of a GCB in Holland by RT+Q Architects

A continuous balcony envelopes the second floor of a GCB in Holland by RT+Q Architects

Given the astronomical prices of Good Class Bungalows (GCB) in Singapore, it is typically the practice for their owners to live in them. Breaking from the norm was this client of RT+Q Architects, whose request was to design a house that could be rented out. In doing so, the residence had to aim for what it called “a universal appeal” for both its façade and layout. 

Working in the architects’ favour were elements such as the low-density neighbourhood located in the district of Holland, lots of greenery between the plots and an upward-sloping piece of land. That the 1,500sqm site had a long driveway was advantageous too, since the client wanted the house sited as far back from the road as possible. A final request: something that was “easy to build and compact”.

In response, the team, made up of Rene Tan, TK Quek, Jonathan Quek and Jes Ang, conceived a distinctive, square-shaped, two-storey building with a continuous balcony around the entire perimeter of the upper floor. This is perched past the 25m-long pool and lengthy entryway. They went on to aptly name it the House of Verandahs.  

Good Class Bungalow in Holland by RT+Q Architects, driveway
The Good Class Bungalow stands on a plot that has a gentle rise, allowing it to be sited far back from the road. RT+Q Architects also opted to give it a cube-like massing.

On the square 

Viewed from the front, it is not immediately apparent that the massing is a 25m-by-25m cube, especially given the truncated pyramid that makes up the form of the roof. What is most obvious is the balcony on the second floor that wraps all four sides, uninterrupted. 

“Sliding aluminium lattice screens for sun-shading can be adjusted as needed for a fluid façade design,” points out Jonathan Quek, who was the project’s lead architect. This was a deliberate move to ensure that all the rooms could enjoy the advantages of a verandah, sort of like “an open perimeter plan with no dead ends”, he adds. Additionally, recessing the glass line ensures the overhangs protect the interiors from the tropical weather, while the screens provide shade and privacy. 

Good Class Bungalow in Holland by RT+Q Architects, lattice screen
Perspectives of the sliding aluminium lattice screens for sun-shading that can be adjusted.

The roof, sitting atop the cube, has a gentle slope and then levels out at the top to accommodate a skylight that is also square in shape. The latter is positioned in the centre of the building footprint, allowing the heart of the GCB to be bathed in ventilation, light and shadow. This sustainable solution means there is less reliance on air-conditioning and artificial lighting during the day. 

“What all this serves to accentuate is how the relationship of the elements of the façade (roof to wall to slab) is clear and honest,” he further explains. “The familiar, domestic form nestles comfortably in the low-rise skyline of Singapore’s prime residential district.”

Of moon gates and open plans 

Complementing the structure are features that evoke surprise and a strong connection to the sizable outdoors, given the relatively modest footprint of the house. Quek directs attention to the long, dignified driveway up to the house that runs alongside the swimming pool, “The accompanying deck offers a peaceful, elevated stretch to gaze upon other houses in the neighbourhood on the hill.”

At the end is a car porch, where a delightfully unexpected moon gate is cut into the slate-finned wall. Its gentle curve seems at odds with the straight lines of the rest of the GCB, but Quek says it is deliberate, “We believe in the idea of putting the right thing in the wrong place. Following this design ethos, a traditional Asian-inspired moon gate auspiciously frames the entrance to the entertainment deck that stretches out to the pool.” From there, guests can enjoy the large garden too, where groupings of variegated Bucida trees were modestly interspersed for composition and layering.

Enter the house to find a ground floor plan that is open, with living spaces in front and everything else at the rear. Slate-finned walls extend significantly past the outline of the house at opportune points, which, according to Quek, help to provide definition to the outdoor spaces and delineate the functionality and privacy for the back of house areas.

On the upper floor, the master suite takes the prime spot at the front of the house, facing the pool and driveway entrance for optimal sightseeing. Combined with the well thought out design and layouts, it is almost guaranteed that RT+Q’s client will have no problem finding a tenant.