The clients for this project approached us with three key requirements for their new home - it should be 1. well-ventilated and 2. brightly daylit as much as possible, and as a young family with three children, it was important to them that 3. the different spaces throughout the home are well connected both visually and spatially.
Natural ventilation and daylighting are typical challenges faced when designing intermediate terrace houses, since air and light are not able to penetrate the house at its two shared boundaries. In our case, the site was particularly deep, which exacerbated these challenges.
Seeking to break the mould of the typical landed house design, we began by introducing a skylight at the very heart of the house to bring daylight into the deepest parts of the house - these would have otherwise been the darkest spaces. The skylight divides the house into its front and back, which are staggered at different levels, the front being half a storey higher.
Firstly, this creates an exceptionally high-ceiling area at the front of the house, which conjures a grand sense of entry. In addition, the added ceiling height allowed for a row of clerestory windows to be built above the car porch roof, bringing ample daylight into the living area. As a result of this, the living and dining areas on the first storey remain brightly lit throughout the day.
Skylights are commonly avoided for the worry that they would introduce too much heat into a home and indeed, that would normally be the case. Here, the effect of the heat is mitigated by the introduction of cross-ventilation through a row of clerestory windows situated at the top of the stairwell, just below the glass skylight. During the day, heat from the sun warms the air within the stairwell. The warm air rises and is allowed to escape through the clerestory windows. This then causes air to be drawn in from below and thus, a constant draught of air is generated that flows through the home, naturally ventilating and cooling it. Although the dining area on the first storey is directly below the skylight, it actually doesn't feel warm even during midday when the sun is overhead.
Another important design concept we explored in this home was openness. On the first storey, the kitchen is enclosed by a pair of glass pocket sliding doors at its front and back; when these doors fully open, the living, dining, kitchen and patio become fully connected as one contiguous space. Not only does this improve the cross-ventilation throughout the first storey, the visual connectivity created between these spaces also allows different family members to remain always within sight of one another - someone could be in the kitchen preparing a meal, another in the living room watching television, someone in the patio reading a book, or children playing in the rear garden; they would be able to see and communicate with each other easily.
The concept of visual connectivity further resonates throughout the house due to the staggered levels. In a typical house, each storey would be mostly cut off from the others. Here, the staggered levels allow someone at the family area to overlook goings-on in the living and dining areas on the first storey; a large glass window at the laundry area on the third storey means that even while doing menial chores, one may observe other family members going up and down the stairs.
In all, this project encapsulates our design ethos; that a well-designed house should be comfortable, sustainable and most importantly, suit its users' unique needs. In Skylight House, we are pleased to have not just designed a house, but a long-lasting home for a growing young family.