“A house is made of brick and mortar, but [a] home is made by the people who live there.” 

This quote from M.K. Soni is a perfect way to describe the family home of Architect Christine Buyco-Sy in Davao. Designed by the architect herself, the house is built on the same lot where the house she grew up in used to stand. Despite being relatively new, the house still holds a lot of memories and stories to tell about each member of the family.

Architect Buyco-Sy designed the house to create a breathing and calming space for her half-retired parents. Her mother loves gardening while her dad does meditation. She also adds that the house serves as a gathering space for the family with seven grandchildren.

“My mom looks at it as an ancestral home. A legacy to our family so it was more of a minimalist approach to act as a vessel to contain and retain all the happy memories,” Architect Buyco-Sy told BluPrint. 

The overall design of the house is intended to complement the tropical weather in the Philippines. It features large overhangs and high ceilings to create a comfortable indoor-outdoor space. Large windows were also used to allow for filtered sunlight and wind cross-ventilation, maximizing the design’s suitability with the environment. 

The living area features a high ceiling, making the space feel larger. Architect Buyco-Sy explains this element is beneficial for tropical weather because hot air goes and makes the space cooler. Continuous paneling of the ceiling from inside to outside makes the wide overhang even appear more expansive, through the see-through effect of the all-around glass.

The architect added large sliding doors that fully open to connect the family and dining areas, with ceiling fans to allow for movement of air, maximizing cross-ventilation.

Additionally, the house is characterized by a horizontal line which, in architecture, is parallel to the earth’s horizon. This gives the massing the effect of stability and grounding. She adds that it appears to “lie down” which exudes the feeling of stillness and tranquility. 

One of the interesting things about the house are the gray and black tiles on the driveway. At first glance, the pattern looks random but it actually follows the morse code for “a great love lives here.” 

The house also has two parking spaces separated by a tree which they allow to jut out of the carport roof instead of cutting it. 

Sustainability was also considered in the design of the house. “I believe sustainability is all about co-existing with our environment,” Architect Buyco-Sy shares what sustainability in architecture means to her. She adds: “as an architect, I take my responsibility seriously on the impact of my design to our natural surroundings. We are all stewards. Sustainability is best defined as taking care of our natural resources for the future generation.”

The house is an adaptive reuse project. Instead of completely tearing down the original house, the architect reused and recycled old finishings, including the hardwood panels that used to cover the walls of the family and dining rooms. 

“I worked within the built framework to accommodate expansion of the living room, tv room, mezzanine lounge, and the spacious verandah. This helps reduce wastage of what is already existing,” Architect Buyco-Sy explains.

Going around the house, many pieces have sentimental value. The wood used for the door and the staircase, for example, came from the molave tree that was forcefully cut from the house’s backyard. In the dining area, meanwhile, a wooden sculpture of The Last Supper is also on display. This sculpture came from the architect’s and her sister’s piano teacher who truly adored them during her lifetime.

Moreover, the parents’ bedroom is simple and straightforward. What makes it special is the wall covered with drawings and letters from their grandchildren, their special way of keeping them. “This is an authentic representation of their personal space,” says Architect Buyco-Sy.

In the bedroom, the architect also designed a pair of louver bi-folding doors that can be fully pushed to the side to allow maximum light and ventilation to come in. This system eliminates the need to use curtains because the family wanted to go away with the constant washing of curtains. The design is partnered with railing, allowing the room to have a balcony-feel even without the balcony itself. 

Other special features of the house include alcove lighting attached to the walls underneath the glass in the living area. These further accentuate the floating roof when lit at night. A Kublai painting and a Panton chair also give the space extra personality. 

Creativity runs in the family’s blood. One of Architect Buyco-Sy’s daughter, Ally, is a published author of her own children’s book at the age of 10.

A house, may it be designed with grandeur or with simplicity, becomes a home through the happy memories created within its walls. Architect Buyco-Sy’s family home is not only designed for comfort but also with bits and pieces that bind every member together. 

Photography by Ed Simon

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