A Simple Factory Building addresses two contradicting demands: the mitigation of tropical solar radiation and the openness to view sought by the clients in a basic industrial typology. Designed and built between 2009 and 2012, the 10,742-square-foot (998-square-meter) building is located in an industrial area of Singapore. It utilizes a sophisticated 4-foot-deep (1.2-meter-deep) veil fabricated in lightweight EIFS and a bronze full-height window-wall envelope to reconcile this architectural conflict.
Wrapping continuously as a loop around the front elevation, car porch ceiling, rear elevation, and roof, the veil shields the building from the harsh tropical sunlight while calibrating views to the exterior. It also amplifies natural illumination, directs natural ventilation, and conceals mechanical equipment. It calibrates the performance of the building as a climatic engine.
The normative architectural categories of façade, roof, and ceiling, are upset by the continuous wrapping of the veil; the distinct architectural categories are merged into one continuous deep envelope. A service core stretches the length of the building along its western façade and performs as a thermal mass, buffering the habitable workspaces beyond and ensuring minimal thermal gain to the interior. Raised off the ground, the building mass maximizes cross ventilation as a means to cool the interior. The reflective bronze aluminum window wall, simple reinforced construction, and minimal use of petroleum membranes mean that the building will be almost entirely recyclable when the site is redeveloped in the near future — a typical occurrence in the Singapore context of perpetual tabula rasa.
The veil of A Simple Factory Building is anything but simple. Complex geometries and intersecting profiles were made possible through CNC routing and computer-controlled hot wire cutting. Though alluding to screening devices found throughout Southeast Asia, the veil performs myriad roles, merging atmospheric, performance, and inhabitation practices into one. As a screening device, A Simple Factory Building’s veil is an apt counter-narrative to the temperate region’s fascination with glass and transparency. Both closed and open, both shadowed and reflective, both permitting view and creating interference, the project illustrates that architecture can be a robust and powerful undertaking, even for banal industrial typologies.