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Pile Houses

Pile Houses

in collaboration with

DC Akitek (M) & Rakan Rakan, Architect of Record

Jurutera JRK Sdn. Bhd, Civil & Structural Engineer:

Kong & Associates Consultants Sdn. Bhd., Mechanical Engineer:

JQS International Sdn. Bhd., Quantity Surveyor:

Active Bungalow Builders Sdn. Bhd., Building & Construction Company



An existing pile grid located in a cul-de sac between two golf courses in Johor Bahru, Malaysia forms the foundation of the project. Originally piled in 1995, the site was abandoned after the 1997 Asian financial crisis. After thirteen years of dereliction, the new architecture was tasked with resurrecting the ambitions of earlier years. The design extends the original pile grid into twenty-six new houses, transforming a generic housing development into a small neighborhood of cohesiveness, environmental concern, and optical calibration. One house has been constructed to date.

Three agendas drove the design. The primary ambition was to utilize the existing pile grid and structures on site, conserving existing resources, limiting structural reworking, and taking advantage of what exists in the formation of the new architecture. The second ambition was to strategically modify the urban configuration of the road and cul-de sac to amplify the neighborhood, minimize the hardscape, and maximize public green space throughout the development. The final ambition was to make visible the operations of real estate speculation through an amplification—albeit a critical one—of ‘the view’.

The approach to roof design will be consistent across all of the houses. The aggregate roof landscape also serves to modulate the scale of the neighborhood into smaller components, breaking up the normative articulation of roof to plot. The tapered forms will also extend vertically within each of the houses, bringing in filtered natural light from above, while double functioning to evacuate heated air. Rendered in a deep brown with iron oxide pigment, the finishing will allow the dramatic quality of the architecture to be seen in its totality as a neighborhood, rather than in terms of the overt individualism that is common in similarly scaled developments in the region.

Subtle yet important updates to the original planning of the cul-de sac enhance what would otherwise be a generic development. The road width is reduced and sidewalks are flanked by large planting areas. Each of the plot areas has been repurposed to contribute to the street landscape, with part of each property in effect donated for the enjoyment of the wider neighborhood. Seen as a collective, the architectural forms allow for two distinct spaces and spatial experiences; an entirely private and protected courtyard forming the communal entry space for each house, and a typology of aggregated roof forms that through a common architectural trope produce a collective identity necessary for the scale of the neighborhood. Combined with the optical effects of looking out onto the landscape, as a series of optical lenses, the pile houses embrace and expose the primary modes of development in Southeast Asia.