The curved façade of Movement House by Genome Architects hints that it is no ordinary residence
There is so much to share about Movement House by Genome Architects that it is hard to decide where to begin. For instance, there are the unusual rounded edges of the exterior of the upper floors, a ground floor design that takes inspiration from an open garden deck and the tango of light and space on level two.
Far from arbitrary, these features were introduced by Wu Yen Yen – who leads the practice – after much thought and consideration. “We go through phases where we test different ideas in projects. We were commissioned to design this terrace house when we were investigating curved glass,” she shares.
In doing so, she questioned why residences tend to have monotonous, flat facades. “How do we introduce dynamic movement into them?” she wondered. Her eventual response: go the route of curved volumes with edges that eschew right angles.
On to one section she overlaid a screen made of close-set vertical strips of aluminium coloured to resemble timber. This immediately gives the façade a warmth and texture, making it stand out from the row of houses it is located along.
While it looks as if it conceals the third and part of the fourth floor, it actually shields the upper half of a double-volume space on the second level, and past the floor of the attic terrace, enabling this volume to create a stack effect for the cooling of the house. As is typical of a project by Wu, there are always creative surprises lying in wait.
To understand this better, it is best to go inside. In keeping up with the times, Wu convinced the owners Eugene and Maggie Chan that they should place the communal living spaces on the second level of their multi-generational home.
There, the ceiling height was raised to 5.6m and so allowed for the insertion of a mezzanine with three bedrooms, albeit recessed from the front façade. One of the bedrooms overlooks the living room and also has a view straight to the outside through one of the clear glass, curved volumes on the façade.
The result is a second floor with varied ceiling heights, from 2.7m to 5.6m. Light pours in from the curved glass façade on the upper volume and in the morning, the shadow of the vertical strips of aluminium get cast on the floor to create a beautiful chiaroscuro effect. On the lower volume, sliding doors open up to a terrace that is also the car porch roof.
“We opted to have a lot of movement, firstly on the façade where it is bouncing and staggering, and then as you are going up on the inside, there is a floating glass box and volumes that give the sense of movement too,” says Wu.
Special mention also has to go to the ground floor that she opted to keep programme-free. There is a bedroom for the owners’ mother to live in, guest washroom and bomb shelter. The rest of the space is kept completely open, with sliding doors at the front and back that can open and allow for a seamless flow across the 1,800sqft plot.
Wu took inspiration from an open garden deck, where this space can be versatile enough to be a play area for children, their grandmother to host a game of mahjong or for the owners to entertain their friends. “It feels like an indoor-outdoor flexible space,” she adds.
Tucked in a corner of the driveway is a small landscape section where ferns crowd around the base of a variegated Bucida tree. The latter receives sunlight through a quadrant cut out in the porch. “It gives the opportunity to open light very close to the house,” Wu explains.
The tree was deliberately positioned so that the owner’s car is parked at an angle. “I’m picky about these things,” she admits. “The headlights of a car should never be pointing into a living space because it’s just disruptive.”
Another remarkable design feature is the staircase. This is located in the middle of the house and topped with a skylight in the attic roof that lets natural light in. Rather than standardise it, Wu opted for different configurations to give it a varied experience for every floor.
From levels one to two, the C-shaped flight has glass panels in place of a bannister and is overlooked by geometric shapes of a pendant light from Catalogue.
On level two, instead of stacking the next flight of stairs atop the first flight, it instead continues on adjacent to it in another C-shape up to the mezzanine. From there to the attic, it switches to a floating dog-legged staircase. Perforated steel replaces the glass panels.
“I like the idea that going up the staircase is not a chore but a meandering kind of experience, similar to the façade. You’re nudged to a new space every time you move from one floor to the next.”
Up on the highest floor, the master suite takes up the entire space, coupled with a balcony at the front. In the front, the glass curves on the edge too, keeping the façade design dialogue consistent.
Says Wu, “With a terrace house, it has the predicament of the predictability of the floors, and a flatness to it. There are no windows on the side either, so the solution is always going to focus on how you manoeuvre the blocks in section, and how you’re moving up that will make it interesting. This is exactly what we strove to achieve.”