ARENA HOUSE

Programme: Residential
Project size: 373 sq.m
Location: Singapore
Status: Completed 2012

Design Architect: Teh Kan Wee Wagen, AIA
Design Team: Portia Wijatno

Collaborators: EK
info

The Arena House is a synthesis of two architecture typologies that toggles between extreme difference in programmatic scales. The proposed design is the insertion of an adapted segment of the arena typology between the party walls of the residential site in Singapore.

The residential estate is characterized by homogeneously subdivided plots of land measuring 8m x 24m for intermediate terrace house development. The allowable building envelop is limited by planning guidelines comprising of a 7.5m front setback, a 2m rear setback and a maximum building height of up to two stories with an attic. High property prices often drive the motivation to maximize the floor plates on each storey to achieve maximum built up real estate. As a result, common spaces such as the living room are contained at the 1st storey and are segregated from the private bedrooms located on the upper stories.

The clients’ lifestyle calls for a re-imagination of this conventional typology. In addition to the typical residential programmatic requirements of bedrooms for their family of four and a domestic helper, the gregarious couple, who are also avid sports fans, emphasized the importance of the living room for their frequent hosting of big groups of friends for parties and the screening of movies and live sporting events in their design brief.

The design subverts the “layered cake” organization of spaces. The bedrooms, kitchen and dining room are organized to the rear end of the intermediate terrace house plot while a resultant high ceiling living room space is located at the front to mimic the spatial relationship between the seating bowl and the event space of an arena.

On an event day when the owners’ guests congregate to enjoy the screening of a live sporting event or movie, the sliding doors and curtains of the bedrooms at the 2nd storey and the master bedroom at attic level retract to become box seats in addition to the seating structure at the 1st storey. Collectively, they transform into a segment of the arena seating bowl with a sixteenfold increase in occupancy. A large format 4.5m x 4.5m motorized projection screen lowers into the event space to provide visual entertainment. It activates and converts the high ceiling event space into a focal point of the congregation. The fully operable slide and fold glass panels extend the event space at the 1st storey into the carporch for staging bigger parties when the need arises.

On a regular day, the “arena space” reverts to the domestic scale in response to the family needs at a more intimate level. The curtains and sliding door of the bedrooms could be drawn to define the individual private spaces for each of the family member. The seating structure, which was also designed as a stepped shelving system for storage of books and display of collectibles, becomes the living room for the family. Each of the occupant could engage in their own individual activities such as reading, taking a nap, using the laptop as such on the separate tiers. Or they could engage in family activities such as watching television programme together or even engage in a game of table tennis on the open event space at the 1st storey.

The building envelop and boundary gate at the front is articulated with a checkerboard field of porosity and opacity to animate the event space within. It offers glimpses of the programmatic alternation between a regular domestic day and an “arena” event day from the outside, alluding to an unconventional typological addition to the homogeneously subdivided residential estate.