Mercurio Design Lab interlocks two triangles to form a spacecraft-like bungalow in Mountbatten
“Something cool.” This was the starting point of a creative narrative that concludes with a bungalow in Mountbatten that has elements of the Lamborghini Gallardo supercar, a spacecraft and the Greek letter that symbolises the idea of a wavelength. Disparate as they sound, the reality is anything but, given how it was conceived by Italian boutique practice Mercurio Design Lab.
Villa Lambda, as the residence is named, stands out in the estate of landed houses it is located in for two reasons: firstly, its massing is composed of two skilfully balanced, interlocking triangles; secondly, it is painted a pure white, contrasting starkly against the terracotta-clad pitched roofs of its surrounding neighbours.
“I find triangles among the most fascinating geometries, almost to the point of being esoteric,” says Massimo Mercurio, who helms the eponymous design firm. Statements like this by him are not uncommon, given how he first trained as a mechanical engineer and has a strong interest in mathematics.
He had previously tutored the subject to university students, taking a special interest in the juncture between mathematics and physics. “It helps to explain how complex systems evolve,” he adds.
A spaceship has just landed
The concept of Villa Lambda, though, begins from a simpler place. The owner sought him out to design something different from what is usually found in Singapore, while also maximising the GFA and having the space to park nine cars.
“The client looked around his office and said he wanted ‘something cool’, while pointing to the model of a Lamborghini Gallardo. I said I could do something better than that, something that looks like a starship,” shares Mercurio.
It was lift off from there. Bouncing from the form of the supercar with its abstraction of two inter-related triangles led to the final concept of them offset in opposition to one another, locked in what he describes as “an intense dialogue”. This, in turn, feeds into the idea contained in the name of the house, lambda (Λ), the Greek letter representative of a wavelength, distinctive for its upward-pointing, triangular shape.
Extrapolating on these ideas, Mercurio then introduced features that allude to a spacecraft – such as the two stainless steel aerofoil shading devices hanging from the concrete canopy to make up the porte-cochère (that is definitely large enough for nine cars). Remarkably, the concrete canopy is part of a 20m exoskeleton cantilever that angles out from two point loads approximately in the middle of both the side facades. They lend the illusion that the structure is balanced on the tips of the lower, larger triangle.
Another feature is the attic, formed by the second triangle, chamfered at the rear to add an aerodynamic quality. On the terrace, a pair of doghouses mask the air-conditioner condensers and look like the air-intake vents of a vessel’s engine.
Equally extraordinary is the sense of weightlessness – a seemingly impossible task given how the house has a built area of 1,345sqm. The trick was to have most of the structural load supported by the exoskeleton of the building and where there are glazed windows, those are set back. “The end effect is that of a spaceship that has just landed,” laughs Mercurio.
Privacy and sun protection are provided through generously sized eaves and canopies all around. To compensate for the lack of a front garden, the bungalow is surrounded by pools and ponds.
A geometrical description of space
On the inside, many custom-designed elements serve to unify the interior and exterior in an integrated design scheme that is so important to Mercurio’s practice. “We were careful to give a sense of space and opulence, while eschewing complicated furnishings,” he explains.
The core of the house is the dining hall, above which yawns a double-volume space overlooked by a gallery on the second floor. Feasts can easily be had on the table, a 10m-long, white-quartz monolith balanced on a stainless steel base shaped like a triangle.
Travertine covers the floor and spills over to clad the customised bar counter. Beside it, the pool table is another bespoke piece by Mercurio, this time stacked atop a pair of legs shaped like inverted pyramids – and yet another reference to the house’s massing.
On the second storey, two double-height, symmetrical bedrooms of equal size are differentiated by their palettes of classical beige tones and silver and red. Lie in bed and the eyes are immediately drawn to an elaborate false ceiling lined with gold and silver leaf.
The attic is where the study is located, alongside three other rooms. Because of its triangular form, the space is not only habitable but also substantial in size. It is easy to imagine the owner, a businessman, piloting this ship from there, as he strives to reach for his metaphorical stars.
Mercurio has definitely provided the perfect setting for it, while also ensuring it embodies the design principles that he values. He concludes, “Villa Lambda is a geometrical description of space. It exemplifies our passion for pushing the limits of building technology, and penchant for exploring how to keep dynamically opposed forms in a state of tense equilibrium, hence the ‘futuristic’ quality of many of our projects.”