In the evening, the house is a lantern illuminating the surrounding area. You may not see the verdant landscaping but the garden uplights throw lush leaf-shaped shadows to mingle with sharp edges. A thread of light running from one corner of the garage ceiling to the front door directs guests to enter and compels passers-by to gaze at the Distorted Box House by Zubu Design Associates.
The two-storey residence in Filinvest, Quezon City, is a part of a series exploring the distortion of pure masses. “The intent was for the architecture to affect the experience and movement of people,” Zubu principal Buck Sia tells us. Picture a rectangular prism bisected horizontally giving you two floors of the same shape. Then the form lying on top is bent, “distorted” the architect says, as if on a hinge. The void created by the difference of angles was an opportunity for meaningful space—a connection of top and lower floor. It allowed a living room seven meters high and a second-floor hallway open to below.
“Every visit is a surprise in this house. For example, you stand on this spot in the kitchen and you appreciate a certain angle. The next time, you encounter another nook where the experience of it is different,” says the client, who moved back from a ten-year stay abroad two years ago. Actively searching for someone to finally build in the 300-square-meter lot he purchased, he stumbled upon a magazine feature of Sia then googled more about the architect to set an appointment. “He asked for few weeks then gave me a render of the house and I immediately loved it!” he says. “This was the first study. We didn’t change anything. So this is basically Buck’s soul here.”
The dynamic space was the outcome of a basic brief: four bedrooms (one bedroom on the ground floor) with a bathroom for every room. The client also set a budget which the architect readily worked with. Another notable parameter is the house would be put up for sale. “A good challenge,” says Sia. “I thought I could do something adventurous like my other houses but with the right amount restraint.”
From the front door, one traverses the living area obliquely. The public spaces on the first floor were openly planned. Instead of walls, the shift of space marks where one area ends and another begins. Cove lighting, which looks like a ceiling detail during the day, highlights the distortion of the second floor volume and draws the eyes towards the dining room when you enter the residence. On the second floor, where bedrooms are delineated and enclosed, the diagonal overlooking hallway separates the master bedroom from the rest. The variation of movement, which feels like crossing a bridge, in order to access that room signals that it is a special space in the home.
Jonathan Fernandez of JP Meister Construction Corporation, the contractor for the project, recalls the process of working on the house: “One of the challenges here was the ceiling. As you see, it is very geometrical unlike conventional houses. The finishing has to be very meticulous because the lighting will expose flaws.” Paul James Gunda, partner in the company, echoes the sentiment: “A lot of angles will always add a degree of difficulty in the execution. But it’s very fulfilling when you finish and execute it in its truest form.”
The house not only facilitates the movement of people. Air circulates as well. During the drier periods of the year, the sliding door dividing the dining area from the patio can be left open, allowing air to cross to the other side where the stairs are flanked by a series operable windows. Portions of the large windows in the living area are also operable to increase exhaust of the entire space.
Much like the form of the house, emotions felt in the experience of it are also in flux. “From daytime to nighttime, it’s different,” says the client. “During the day, it is energetic. At night, it is arresting!” We saw this when we shot the final frames for the day from across the lot. As the sky darkened and Distorted Box House stood in contrast, cars, pedestrians, and even a pedicab slowed down as if the lights and angles were telling them that they were welcome to jump right in.