The extraordinary Villa Otto (Italian for ‘eight’) in the Jervois Hill area of Singapore was driven by the client’s enthusiasm for the Chinese philosophy of feng shui. The feng shui-driven formal proposition was the lucky number eight in Chinese culture. Hence, the curvaceous interlocking of two circular pavilions, each with an internal ‘courtyard’ or atrium in the middle, emphasises the eight-form and draw light down into the building.
UNIQUE PROPERTIES / PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
This home is a massive piece of sculpture whose stainless steel cladding lends the house a spectacular and unique character. The house is an art work in its own right and, whether viewed from the ground level or above, demands the attention of any onlooker and provides the satisfaction we expect from an exemplary work of art as a massive piece of sculpture.
Having arrived at a dynamic plan for the building, the architects then conceived an equally dynamic elevation, resulting in a building which resembles a ‘flying saucer’. Due to the transparency of the first and second storeys and the outward thrusting walls and canopies, the house gives the impression of a spacecraft either about to land or take off. If one could look down on the house, this image would be amplified by the way the pool surges around the perimeter of the house (morphing into a water feature) by the radial canopy to the outdoor barbecue area, and also by the way the paths and landscaping undulate around the building, perhaps like the outward thrust of air forced down from the hovering spacecraft.
OPERATION / FLOW / INTERACTION:
This is very much a house for entertaining and the private domain ─ a master and two junior bedrooms, two guest bedrooms, a prayer room, study and game room ─ is clearly separated and contained on the second storey. Entry to the house is either through the basement or through the ground floor main door. These offer two very different arrival experiences. The basement contains a huge underground carpark. From here the visitor enters the basement lounge, down a broad travertined corridor. The basement has a cruciform plan with a lounge at the point where the two axes intersect. The entry axis looks down past this lounge to a karaoke room. On the left, the intersecting axis leads to the laundry and a particularly luxurious sauna, spa and shower room. On the right, it leads to a bar, wine cellar and home theatre.
The arrival experience upstairs is quite different from this darkly opulent world. Visitors arrive under a porte cochère formed by an arched canopy extending down to the ground. The curving driveway and canopy, the meandering paths and water feature, the swooping forms of the house itself immediately communicate the feeling that this will be a fully integrated and continuous experience. The visitor crosses the moat over a footbridge and enters another portal space, signalled as downstairs, by another circular sculpture, ‘Vase Otto’, which intensifies its impact by an optical illusion. It is actually a two-metre, semi-spherical bowl with a lamp hanging above it. But the light streaming down from the lamp creates the illusion of a single piece of sculpture.
On this ground floor level, the organisation is again axial. Turn left and the visitor enters a large dining room ─ more like a restaurant ─ for accommodating large numbers. To the right is another, slightly more intimate and less formal, dining space with living room and lounge leading out to the pool and barbeque area with its radial canopy. Both these atrium spaces are floored with glass tiles which draw light down into the basement. The smaller space has another large sculpture as its centrepiece, ‘Infinity’, which sits in the atrium or courtyard space. It consists of two intertwined infinity symbols, but began life as a four-leaf clover. Hence, it combines two auspicious elements and represents “a limitless fortune”.
The spaces in ‘Otto’ are big. The bedrooms, for example, are massive ─ the master bedroom occupies half a floor plate, about 500 square metres. Despite the voluptuous external form, the internal spaces are largely straight, the bedrooms having just one big curving wall. Nonetheless, there is an opulence to these rooms which seems to celebrate the privacy of personal space as a kind of luxury. Villa Otto is the best example so far of MDL’s integrative philosophy where everything ─ from the landscaping through the external form to the interior architecture, fixtures, finishes and furnishings ─ forms an integrated whole, a single experience, to communicate one central, driving idea for the house.
PROJECT DURATION AND LOCATION:
Villa Otto began construction in 2010 and was completed in July 2015. This luxurious residential villa is located in Jervois Hill, Singapore.
FITS BEST INTO CATEGORY:
Architecture, Building and Structure Design
PRODUCTION / REALIZATION TECHNOLOGY:
The stainless steel cladding that wraps the second floor of the house, where the bedrooms are, is the glory of the project. Instead of using traditional materials like aluminium, zinc or even titanium panels that would have given a fragmented look to the façade, Mercurio Design Lab worked with a team of stainless steel forgers for two years to embark on building a giant steel sculpture, which is also a unique piece of architecture.
Th￼￼￼e steel was forged in huge curved sections that were welded together. After polishing, it appears as one contiguous surface like the fuselage of an airplane. Only expansion joints, that had to be introduced because of thermal expansion, separate this metal beauty into large sections to make up one great whole.
￼But it does not stop at stainless steel. Mercurio Design Lab pushed the boundaries with beautifully forged bronze panels that appear as walls in the toilet. It also boldly plays with stone: the buttresses of travertine Noce forming the base of the first floor, resembling the landing gear of the spaceship, are a work of craftsmanship that most stone suppliers would not even dare to imagine.
Since steel had already been plasticized, there was a desire to do the same with the stones. As such, travertine blocks were cut in curved and conical shapes, then molded like the curvaceous steel façade, in a manifestation of fluidity that only few would even dream to bestow upon a building.
SPECIFICATIONS / TECHNICAL PROPERTIES:
For details, please refer to the document attachment of this submission.
Mercurio Design Lab, MDL, Villa Otto, Otto, Singapore
Situated in a pre-dominantly Chinese-speaking country, Mercurio Design Lab wanted to tap into the short but rich cultural Chinese history of Singapore. The research for Villa Otto was mainly driven by the ancient Chinese philosophy of feng shui, which was responsible for the number eight shape of Villa Otto, an auspicious figure in Chinese culture. The positioning of the home is also influenced ideologically by feng shui; its back faces a wide landscape of forestry, reinforcing the belief of 'stability'; when bolstered by a sturdy support (khao san).
The ‘spacecraft’ image is supported by the cladding. Influenced by the sculptural work MDL was doing, using apparently seamless stainless steel, the idea was to give the house the same quality and have it appear as “one unique piece of steel floating on water”. In other words, this is a massive piece of sculpture whose stainless steel cladding lends the house a spectacular and unique character. The original intention was to use titanium, but it was not feasible to weld titanium and achieve the ‘seamless’ effect. Therefore, stainless steel was used with only an expansion groove every 8 metres to allow for heat expansion.
TEAM MEMBERS (3) :
Massimo Mercurio, Kimberly Liu and Cecilia Kusomo
Massimo Mercurio, 2016.