Freight Architects designs a pair of semi-detached houses near MacRitchie Reservoir Park each with a unique theme

Freight Architects designs a pair of semi-detached houses near MacRitchie Reservoir Park each with a unique theme

Freight Architects designs a pair of semi-detached houses near MacRitchie Reservoir Park each with a unique theme

They are “cousins”, not twins. This is how Kee Jing Zhi of Freight Architects describes the pair of semi-detached houses he has designed, located within a stone’s throw of MacRitchie Reservoir Park. Naturally, he took inspiration from the location, resulting in one having a garden theme and the other, water. What also binds them together is their linear design language, fit-out and that they are being sold by the same developer, Kuhlmann Land. 

“A lot of developers typically want an identical pair of semi-detached houses but instead, we conceptualised cousins, so that when they are joined together, it almost looks like a whole detached house,” says Kee. “From a neighbourhood standpoint, it looks neater and nicer. We also hope to attract people to buy the whole thing.”

Working in his favour is the regular, rectangular 8,000sqft plot that the project sits on, along Westlake Avenue. This led him to be able to divide the land evenly into two, resulting in a pair of squares. Another advantage: the wide frontage of 15.2m for each site. 

The result is a massing that is linear in nature. Further emphasising it is a vegetable garden that runs the length of both houses, right above the porch, requested by the developer. This is in fact the mezzanine, inserted for more living spaces and to compensate for using the land for its respective purposes. 

Kee also opted for natural materials like balau wood and granite on the façade, “This play of natural materials on the outside is one of our signature styles.” 

But that is where the similarities end. Look more closely at the renders and there are differences in the façade design that subtly hint at the respective themes. 

Westlake Tropical Modern by Freight Architects, facade profile
Further emphasising the linear massing is a vegetable garden that runs the length of both houses, right above the porch, requested by the developer.

Green for families, blue for parties

Occupying numbers 39 and 39A Westlake Avenue, the semi-detached houses are named The Tembusu House and The Caspian House, respectively. Tembusu is a sizable evergreen tropical tree, native to Southeast Asia and therefore, the abode has a garden theme. Caspian is a term commonly associated with the sea in Eurasia that is in fact the world’s largest lake. Consequently, its namesake bears the water theme. 

Beyond that, each of the properties has a target audience too, and is designed to reflect their preferences. The Tembusu House is best suited for multi-generational living, while its cousin is for those who enjoy entertaining. 

The most distinctive trait of Tembusu is how the garden takes up a generous one quarter of the land – or some 1,000sqft. In the rear, a sunken outdoor entertain area has been integrated, alongside a deck and outdoor barbeque pit. 

Worth highlighting is that the landscaping is done in collaboration with the renowned Hong Kong artist and fine jeweller Dickson Yewn. Expect an amalgamation of the traditional Taoism philosophy of nature and the five cosmic agents of change – Yin Yang Wuxing, tracing back all the way to I-Ching, the Book of Change – to create a contemporary tableau. 

Westlake Tropical Modern by Freight Architects, car porch of The Tembusu House
The Tembusu House’s garden takes up a generous one quarter of the land and in the rear, there is a sunken outdoor entertain area. 

On the inside, the mezzanine and second floor is set aside for bedrooms that total five, including the master. Spaces to gather and mingle are on the first and attic levels, including a big kitchen and dining room on the former. Connecting the first two floors is a sculptural spiral staircase. 

“MacRitchie is highly sought after by families. They love to go to the nearby reservoir to exercise and hang out but also enjoy having more outdoor space at home. That is why we came up with this design proposition,” explains Kee. 

On the other hand, The Caspian House is party central, with a cascading waterfall in the rear and an L-shaped swimming pool that flows into a Jacuzzi. The living and dining room on level one sit beneath an impressive double volume space and in place of rooms, the second floor has a sheltered outdoor area. Up on the attic level, an outdoor spa sanctuary sets the master bedroom apart. 

“Caspian is obviously catered for the owner that loves to entertain. Guests will be wow-ed when they walk through the front gate,” says Kee. “We put more landscaping on the façade to compensate for land being used for pools. The exterior is also a bit more porous to accommodate the external entertainment areas.” 

German-engineered fit-out

To fit out the houses to give them a luxurious feel, marble was the choice material, coupled with bespoke modular interior carpentry from Kuhlmann International, a sister company of the developer. 

Everything from the doors to the wall panelling, kitchen and wardrobes are supplied by it. Other optional features include a walk-in wardrobe tailored with biometric locks, watch winders and a dehumidifier. A state-of-the-art wine cellar can also be included to showcase rare and precious Grand Cru bottles.

Westlake Tropical Modern by Freight Architects, bedroom
German-engineered materials and furniture characterise the fit-out of the semi-detached houses.

Having visited the factories in China, Kee says he is suitably impressed by what he saw, “They use German equipment (originally from Kuhlmann) and the have engineers stationed there to supervise the quality. The lead time is also fantastic – it takes two months to have everything manufactured and then when it arrives in Singapore, the assembly takes one to two weeks.” 

He is equally pleased with the wide selection of designs that it has to offer, enabling him to paint the semi-detached houses with lighter tones that do not distract from what is outdoors, “At Freight, we always talk about bringing the external landscape into the house. We’ve kept to this style too, for this project.”

Westlake Tropical Modern by Freight Architects, living room of The Tembusu House
Connecting the first two floors of The Tembusu House is a sculptural spiral staircase. 

Kee’s involvement in this project is no mere coincidence. He is also part of a design collective, KAPA Design Co, co-founded by the developer, himself and real estate and marketing specialist Torie Frances Doshi. They aim to curate a network of built environment creatives to work together on real estate projects. This pair of semi-detached houses is the first one launched under this umbrella.

It is easy to see why he was approached to be a part of it. One can only hope that he will soon be commissioned to design a cousin to these cousins – the residential design scene will surely benefit from it.