The Lanai is a house that integrates all the elements that elevate this simple structure into a home.

Once in a while you come across a design that’s very basic yet fulfils an enormous function. Not only must it be economical and modular, it must also prioritise sustainable practices namely energy saving by harnessing rainwater and sunlight. The Lanai, designed by young architects Rien Tan, Howie Lam and Leon Chong for an indigenous family of four, manages to integrate all those features into a beautiful, airy, and minimalistic house.

The communal space which is the veranda or lanai (Hawaiian word for covered porch) is fully roofed and is partly enclosed by wooden railings. This is the centre of the house and is based on the traditional Malay house. This area is designed as as open plan layout to accommodate multi-functional activities such as cooking, reading, living, etc while serving as the communal anchor space to the internal bedrooms.

The Lanai’s design seeks to ‘provide a home rather than a house’. The input of the owners are taken into account during the design stage so that practicalities are fused with culture and identity. The 500-sq-ft house uses localised materials like batik and weaved bamboo on the façade which gives a sense of ownership to the family by having their belongings prominently displayed.

The stilt foundation allows it to adapt to all site conditions particularly on the slope. The basic module of the home provides double volume space and large openings to maximize passive daylighting and welcome cross ventilation into the internal space. While two bedrooms are the basic module, the high volume layout are designed to cater for future expansion within this tight and narrow site. The wet area such as washroom is detached from the home as independent sheltered structure due to hygiene issues.

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The concept of ‘Less House, More Home’ allows the Lanai to be expanded vertically while maintaining sideways within the boundary by having a higher platform and spaces that are able to be expanded through a low tech approach. Due to the challenging 4m width of the site, the building is designed in slanted volume in order to allocate more spaces while providing bigger volume for future expansion as the family grows.

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