Centennial Tree House
Monday 20 Jan 2014
Singapore based Wallflower Architecture + Design have completed a residential project based around a central courtyard with a large hundred year old tree featured in the middle, aptly named the Centennial Tree House. Their client wanted external blank walls, fixed screens and a courtyard to provide light and air. These requirements encapsulated for them the tangible facets of an ideal home, a protective enclosure of solitude.
Introversion has a negative connotation in a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else. But what is withdrawal to some is energising for those who thrive on self-reflection and contemplation; life is found within. That fortitude and strength is visually given expression by a hundred year old frangipani tree literally found within, centred in a large grassed courtyard surrounded with water. The tree was given a new lease of life having been rescued from a Holland Road site slated for new development.
True to the owners' requirements, the facade is entirely sealed off in most areas, and veiled by fixed timber screening in others. There is no yard, no opening or back of house, but a pebbled path between a rhythmic timber screen and a lush wall of polyalthias. Visually, the aesthetics exclude both physically and psychologically, but the timber screens along the periphery of the first storey allow breezes to come through, refreshing the sheltered corridors and living spaces. The central court encourages this, acting as both a light and air well. Throughout the day as the environment changes, the breezes shift, the house breathes. The only area where the timber screens can be opened is between the second storey master bedroom and the courtyard. Motors silently fold the screens away, linking the courtyard to the bedroom.
The central air and light is key to the experience and enjoyment of the house through the day. As the light shifts, different walls and passages, are literally seen in a different light, or shade or shadow. The centennial tree awakes, basks, and rests; and the surrounding spaces share that experience. The aesthetic encounter is intensified perhaps because there are no distractions from the world outside. There is simply a view of the sky above framed by the courtyard, which forms part of the spatial composition. The elemental reduction of sky above, water surrounding an island of grass below, all axially centred by the stolid tree distils for the owners what life can and should be; a re-focus on the basics being pure, simple, and celebrated.