Fusing architecture and origami


Space constraints led MINKKE architects to design this home with surprising twists, deploying Asian touches such as tiered pavilions and origami to delightful effect.

Photo by MINKEE architects doc.

The Jasmine Road House, so named after the street it sits on in Singapore’s Bishan suburb, is a simple, contemporary home infused with Asian elements, according to Mink Tan, the principal designer of MINKKE architects.

To solve problems posed by limited land, 240 sqm, Tan and his team conceptualized the multi-level house a series of pavilions wrapped around each other in origami-like patterns.

“You can’t have too many boxes,” he says. “Origami looks irregular, but it doesn’t look wrong. The irregularities look as if they’re part of the house. It reconciles supposed irreconcilables.”

The concept runs counter to Western architecture, where “boxiness” prevails and doors or openings is used to link spaces, as in a museum, for example, Tan adds.

Taking Asia as a starting point, Tan drew inspiration from sloping rice terraces when devising the pavilions, which he notes is a quintessentially Asian design touch. “I wanted to express the house as pavilions for sleeping, dining–all things Asian.”

The first level features kitchen, pantry and living functions that have been merged into a single serene and immense space, with natural cement flooring. Nothing obscures the view from the pavilion to the outside save birch-like supporting columns. Above the dining table is a chandelier suspended from the void space that bifurcates the second level.

To one side of the level lies a swimming pool, directly accessed by a timber walkway that connects to the first of three bedrooms. Near the entrance, an exposed walkway wraps up and around the side of house, folded like a piece of origami, to the upper levels, while an interior stairway allows sheltered access.

Serenity and space are felt on the second level as the void separates a second bedroom and an art room from the study to the rear. Glass walls on two sides create a sense of openness in the study, as well offer as views of the chandelier and the lower level. The three rooms share a sheltered common area that runs the length of the house.

On the third level, accessed via interior stairway, the master bedroom is fronted by an upwardly sloping timber deck that wraps around a luscious square of green landscaping. As on the ground floor, there is only open space between the bed and the peaceful view.

Behind is a walk-in wardrobe and a spacious master bathroom, done in marble, featuring a sleek aluminium bathtub on a rectangular black marble pedestal. Natural light comes from a dormer window carved into the marble ceiling as well as from trapezoidal shaped floor-to-ceiling windows to the side. Above the master bedroom is secluded and shaded half-floor with a library.

Retracting metal screens, defined by an gorgeous Japanese-inspired laser-cut filigree, offers an exquisite take on a typically Asian solution for privacy for rooms in the glass-encased upper floors of the house–along with the ventilation needed on the Equator.

Meanwhile, both the swimming pool and the use of unobstructed openings to connect to the outside reflects what Tan calls is by emphasizing the view, using natural materials, bringing greenery into the house or using the sight and sound of water to drown out urban noise.

MINKKE architects work spans Asia, from Supertree at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore to award-winning resorts in China, although Tan says he likes to keep a boutique mind-set.

A musician turned architect (he spent years working as a gig musician in Australia), Tan draws on Chinese culture, which he says is cognizant of reconciling the contradictions of being human, citing the examples of festivities that encourage people to reconnect. Tan wants to apply dialectic to the human environment “to do something beautiful and economically as a way to resolve differences.”

Tan is no stranger to Indonesia: A chance meeting led him to SO/HO (small office/home office) projects in Jakarta, which led to a gig designing the interiors for the Kempinski Residences in Jakarta, which in turn led to a five-star hotel, the Crowne Plaza, at the Paragon Mall in Semarang, Central Java.

“We appropriate what we need and chuck it into the melting pot,” Tan says of his design eclecticism. “Obviously, it all boils down to details: You can’t merge opposites. Modern and classical styles can be made to coexist–if you can find a common ground to emphasize.”

Project Name

Jasmine House


Upper Thomson Area, Bishan Planning Area, Singapore

Land Area

372.2 sqm

Gross Floor Area

354.91 sqm

Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape DesignConsultant

MINKKE architects

Principal Architect

Mink Tan

Mechanical and Electrical Engineer

PCA Consultants

Civil and Structural Engineer

PTS Consultants





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