Where Trees Grow Through the Ceiling in Singapore

Where Trees Grow Through the Ceiling in Singapore

January 11, 2013
Photo by: Chang Architects

A grove of trees in the kitchen, a two-story fern wall in the living room, and moss-covered pebble paths in the bedrooms—even in a wilderness glen, the Elok House would be remarkable. Located in a residential neighborhood near Singapore's main shopping street, though, the house is a mirage. Leaves sprout from walls, floors yield to tall trees, and falling leaves collect on the kitchen floor, while the house's glass façade further dissolves the barrier between indoors and outdoors, urban and natural.

In the house, a three-story dwelling designed for a family of five, there are few discreet boundaries or sealed spaces: An overlapping wall replaces a door, and stairs seem to float against a wall. This is an approach that has always served architects of the organic school, and it allowed Chang Architects to design a house in which the natural seems to yield to the built, rather than the other way around. 

Chang Yong Ter, of Chang Architects, says that he conceived of the house not as series of spaces that accommodated natural elements, but a landscape installation into which living spaces were inserted. The living spaces were defined by voids, rather than walls, which afforded much more latitude to integrate elements of a natural landscape—plants, rocks, water. 

In the Elok House, it seems that anything is possible, plant-wise. Slim trees stalk through the street-facing kitchen and soar through perforations in the ceiling. Side walls are covered by vertical gardens that rise into a shielding parapet at the roof. At the rear of the house, a pebbled waterfall spills down a two-story retaining wall. A pond collects rainwater below. 

Chang Architects completed the Elok House in December 2007, when architects weren't quite as versed in vertical gardens and maintaining interior micro-climates as they are today, which makes the house all the more impressive. 

All photos © Chang Architects