The linear forms of Carve House’s architecture by Ming Architects are stacked above an expansive basement 

The linear forms of Carve House’s architecture by Ming Architects are stacked above an expansive basement 

The linear forms of Carve House’s architecture by Ming Architects are stacked above an expansive basement 

Pass this stratum-like semi-detached residence by Ming Architects along the street and it is not obvious there is more to it than meets the eye. In fact, its name, Carve House, is equally cryptic. But enter the grounds and all is immediately revealed. 

To mitigate what the owner felt was the challenge of a small land area of 325sqm, Tan Cher Ming, Principal of Ming Architects, decided to carve out a full basement and make it the focal point of the house. Anchoring it is a spiral staircase that rises from below ground up to the second floor. 

Designed in a time before building regulations required basements to be closed up with minimal connection to the rest of a house, this project could therefore have a double-volume void above part of the underground zone. 

While it compromised the liveable area on the first floor, it also means that there is an abundance of natural daylight streaming down through the multiple transparent glass panels. 

“With this, we could create more space in the basement to accommodate the necessary floor area for the client’s needs and maintain a full connection with the first storey,” explains Tan. 

What is also interesting is a lap pool that runs the length of the house and has transparent glass panels on the side that faces the basement. “The view of the moving pool water creates interest when seen from different areas of the house, and has dynamic shadow patterns cast on the basement walls and floor at different times of the day,” he adds. 

Even the front garden is lowered to below ground level and has its own dedicated staircase. A long table is installed just in front of it to create a comfortable, nature-immersive work/study-from-home experience. 

The rest of the basement is dedicated to various spaces, such as the formal living room, wine storage, gym, guest room and bomb shelter. Connecting it to the upper floors is the spiral ribbon staircase, a sculptural carving in itself, that twirls up. A recessed handrail that can be lit completes the clean look. 

Tan shares that navigating it offers a peekaboo look into different parts of the house, “As you are coming down, it is pretty open so you have pockets where you can view the water, dining, dry kitchen area or even the basement.” 

The staircase is also visible from the exterior – something he deliberately does, albeit as a hint rather than anything overt.

On the ground floor, a small living area and dining room are located just inside the front door, with the dry and wet kitchen positioned in the rear. A powder room occupies the remainder of the space. 

Dark, walnut-stained wall panelling runs its length on the right side, while on the left is the void accented by a cluster of pendant lights that mimic the falling of rain. The flooring is Silver Hermes marble, chosen for its veined, web-like texture that complement the walls. 

The second floor and attic are occupied by the bedrooms, with a third staircase linking to the master suite on the highest level, with its dedicated roof terrace. 

The basement may take centrestage, but there is much else of architectural interest here, too. Carve House is composed of cuboids elegantly stacked atop one another, each with a different treatment. 

“The first storey walls are clad in dark granite to provide a sense of permanence and presence to the building. On the second and attic storeys, form liners were imported from Germany and used to cast a timber board-form aesthetic onto the fair-face, off-form concrete walls,” he explains.  

Tying everything together are black steel elements, such as the frame of the sliding doors, that also serve to provide a contrast to the walls. 

Clean, contemporary and cohesive, this project is yet another commendable piece of work by Tan, demonstrating, yet again, how he has been able to carve himself a niche in the residential design space.