New home design on wooded site blurs the lines between indoors and outdoors

The raw, fair-face concrete wall experienced on the approach to this home belies the openness and transparency found on the other side of the home

Story by: Paul Taylor Photography by: Lawrence Choo
The raw, fair-face concrete wall experienced on the architecture, building, condominium, cottage, home, house, mixed use, neighbourhood, plant, real estate, residential area, tree, black
The raw, fair-face concrete wall experienced on the approach to this home by architect Chan Chin Yeow belies the openness and transparency on the other side of the home.

Your home is your castle – or at least that’s how many homes are designed, with four solid walls to protect inhabitants from the ‘hostile’ environment outside. But that’s not the approach taken by architect Chan Chin Yeow for this award-winning home. 

Instead, Chan refers to the house as a bird cage house design, a term first used to describe a Miami home designed by architect Igor B. Polevitzky back in 1951.

“In a bird cage house, the envelope between the inside and outside is barely distinguishable,” says Chan.So it’s an apt description for the house he designed for an 8000m² virgin jungle site about 40km north of Kuala Lumpur.

“There were over 100 trees on the site, which also had a 20m drop across it. But by using an existing natural flat platform, we were able to construct the house without destroying any terrain, and losing only two of the trees.

”The open nature of the house stems from the way Chan developed its structure as a C-shaped box, which presents as a solid, raw concrete wall on the street side.There is no front door as such on this facade, but a smaller concrete box, wide concrete steps and a void create an informal entrance into the home. Behind the concrete wall is a second wall – this one in brick – and the space between these two walls forms the main circulation corridors for the home’s ground and first floors, and the roof garden.


This home’s main circulation system runs through three architecture, building, daylighting, handrail, house, tourist attraction, gray, brown
This home’s main circulation system runs through three storeys between the exterior concrete wall and an inner brick wall. Brick used throughout the interior has been left raw rather than plastered, making the surface low maintenance and long-lasting.

“It’s a transition space,” says Chan. “You don’t feel as if you’re inside or out. You can’t clearly see the boundaries of the house."

”On the other side of the brick wall are the living spaces, with much more transparency and openness on the back facade. 

“This facade fits around existing trees and has a sophisticated palette of finishes – a mixture of concrete, glass, clay brick wall and bamboo railing.” The fair-face concrete was cast on site and used for the main building components such as the facade wall, roof, columns and beams, while clay bricks were used for internal dividing walls.

“All these surfaces were left raw, rather than plastered, so they require less maintenance and will have a longer life.

”The owner occupies half of the ground floor, while the rest of the space is given over to four guest rooms on the first floor and shared facilities such as the ground floor kitchen enclosed in a glass box. Both floors include outdoor, multi-functional gathering spaces.

“We tried to break away from the usual concept of how people perceive a house,” says Chan. “We wanted to reconfigure the internal spaces so there would be enough flexibility to blend with the exterior.”

May 14, 2018

Credit list

Chan Chin Yeow, CY Chan Architect
Fair faced concrete panels
Interior walls
Fair faced concrete panels; bare clay brick
Malaysian Institute of Architects PAM Award 2017 - Single Residential - Gold, PAM Award 2017 - Building of the Year Trends International Design Awards (TIDA) – International Finalist
Zhen Ye Projects
Reinforced concrete roof, cast in-situ
Cement render; laminated timber in bedroom





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