Singaporean architect Chang Yong Ter established his firm, Chang Architects, in 2000. Upon finishing his A-Levels at Secondary School, he enrolled in the School of Architecture at the National University of Singapore and after graduation, apprenticed with Mr Tang Guan Bee for several years before starting his own independent practice. Over the course of his career he has received a number of awards for his work, including; The International Property Award in the Best Architecture Single Residence category, a Gold Medal in the ARCASIA Architecture Awards, acknowledged as one of the outstanding “20 Under 45” Young Architects in Singapore by the URA and Design of the Year (2013) for his project ‘Lucky Shophouse’. Yong Ter bases his work on the relationship between the user and nature, emphasising the idea that architecture “can enhance living, in a grounded comfortable way” and as a rule, “needs to connect to the emotions and feelings of the people.”
Built in the 1920s, the ‘Lucky Shophouse’ is indicative of the unique building type of Singapore and Southeast Asia. Combining a residential space above a shop, shophouses were constructed between the 1840s and the 1960s, and at one time formed the majority of the urban landscape of the old Singapore city centre. Moving forward to the present day, they have become a valued heritage space and as is the case with the ‘Lucky Shophouse’, are being preserved to combine modern comfort with vernacular origins. The front of the building has been stripped back to its original façade to meet with conservation requirements, while the inside has been opened up to reveal the now carefully restored brick walls, timber rafters and floor joists. Embracing the idea of openness, the house utilises large windows to allow natural sunlight, long corridors to promote ventilation and interaction with the outdoor garden, a space that allows for shade and privacy for the residents and neighbours. The ‘Lucky Shophouse’ demonstrates the possibility of adapting tropical vernacular architecture to integrate with modern lifestyle choices, whilst still encompassing interconnected social spaces and low energy consumption ideals.
Located just behind Orchard Road, the Elok House combines concrete, glass, timber and steel in conjunction with natural elements such as plants, trees and water courses – creating a living forest in the middle of the city. With a request by the owners to have at least 40% of the house made up of landscape elements, Chang Architects designed a space that does exactly that. Natural light saturates the house during the day, whilst the green walls and pond ensure the house is kept cool and the open spaces encourage ample cross ventilation. Several trees have been planted throughout the house, and a number of walls have been converted to vertical gardens, a feature that is irrigated through collected rainwater from the ponds within the living room. “Each living space has views to open spaces giving a feeling of airiness, but they are separated with the use of the atrium, planters and difference in heights leading to a feeling of privacy.” Such a design has reduced the need for air conditioning and artificial lighting dramatically, highlighting the idea that passive measures in modern tropical abodes can be sustained in the right conditions. The buildings own microclimate has provided the residents with a tropical green oasis, blurring lines between the traditional modern concept of indoor and outdoor space.