When I arrive at Siglap Plain, architect Han Loke Kwang invites me first to view the house from across the road. We cross the quiet street and look upon the grey, gable front form. \u201cIt is as a child would draw a house,\u201d Han comments.\r\n\r\nThe building\u2019s monolithic silhouette would have registered as a solemn semantic statement of the house as an icon, except the punctures it bears indicate a more contemporary and innovative spirit.\r\n\r\nHan has played with offsets in the size and positioning of the house\u2019s front portals. \u201cThe form is symmetric but the openings are asymmetric,\u201d he says. \u201cThese openings reveal the concept of the house \u2013 but not totally.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe house falls in line with what Han calls his \u201ccourtyard houses\u201d \u2013 buildings designed to enjoy exterior spaces while simultaneously finding privacy. Outside Siglap Plain, one gets a suggestion of its spaces, but not of its activities. We see the car porch on one side, and an intriguing atrium-like space on the other.\r\n\r\nHan explains, \u201cI\u2019ve been [working on] houses with external spaces that are a key part of the overall design. The external spaces are usually enclosed in some way \u2013 some enclosed on the top, some are open, but there is usually a wall or enclosure that I incorporate in the overall form.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe motivation for such courtyards is multi-fold. \u201cWe have nothing to look at in most of the sites in Singapore. The plot sizes are usually quite small, so they don\u2019t have a big garden,\u201d says Han. \u201cWe thought, if we can\u2019t find anything to look at, maybe we can find a way to look within.\u201d Apart from views, Han\u2019s design and placement of such courtyards also afford the greater house free-flowing air and plenty of natural light, as well as a level of privacy in the exterior spaces.\r\n\r\n\u201cBy enclosing the outdoor areas, we reclaim a bigger share of the outdoor area into the house. For most houses the external spaces are all around, but they are outside, so here I blur the distinction between inside and outside,\u201d says Han.\r\n\r\nIn the case of Siglap Plain, a pool has been placed in the courtyard. The pool abuts the guest room on one end, continuing down the length of dining and living areas before extending out towards the landscaping. The enclosing brick wall and peripheral garden provide privacy, while the atrium remains open overhead, giving the residents a nice connection to the tropical weather \u2013 rain or shine. Still more important to the family is the relationship of the pool atrium to the rest of the house; the adjoining living spaces and the upper levels that look into it. Lee, the patriarch, says: \u201cThe living room is a common area for our family to gather when we are unwinding at the end of the day. Having a view of a pool, instead of a TV, is calming and also encourages conversations. My grandchildren like to play in the pool \u2013 although I am unable to swim, watching them and seeing them happy brings me great joy.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe design of the house also involved considerations for the needs of a multi-generational household. \u201cAt that time, I was retired and had more time to spend at home with my family. Essentially, the new house had to be future-proof as we are largely an ageing household; I needed a lift and the interior to be elderly friendly,\u201d says Lee.\r\n\r\n\u201cI also like my son and his family to live with us, as I did with my mother before her death, thus it needed to have enough space for their needs. My daughters, together with their families, also visit regularly. As such we need a big living room and dining area. I also wanted the house to be adequately self-contained with a pool, gym [and] home theatre so that the entire family can do their leisure activities within the house. The design was largely left to Han and his team after we told him about our needs and lifestyle.\u201d\r\n\r\nMy visit to the house yields more surprises as we explore its interior. Entrance to the living areas is a gentle incline of steps, as the house is raised almost a metre (following building guidelines for this low-lying area). The living and dining areas share a span of space, which, having no columns and adjoined by the voluminous courtyard atrium, feels remarkably spacious \u2013 quite the perfect setting for big family gatherings. On more placid days, one enjoys the house in quieter ways. The breeze, welcomed through those large front openings, passes over the pool and into the living area. The Bianco Venatino marble underfoot feels cool on this incredibly hot morning. Stepping out to the courtyard, one is presented with even greater enjoyment of the architecture, particularly of the latticework and the brick construction, both of which partake in the daily play of light and shadow.\r\n\r\nPrivacy and personal spaces for individual family members is another key consideration of the architecture. Mini-courtyards are enjoyed from the privacy of bedrooms. A junior master suite occupies the entire attic level, planned for Lee\u2019s son who has just started his own family. Even if relatively private, the attic and other such spaces (including Lee\u2019s own study) look down to the pool atrium \u2013 where,\u00a0of course, the family retires.\r\n\r\nSiglap Plain is a wonderful design of relationships \u2013 in both spatial and familial terms. While beautifully built and detailed, the success of the house is in large part due to how it serves the family, particularly in the ways it addresses the needs for connection and privacy. On this, Lee says, \u201cHan has completed a beautiful house for our family. We are living here comfortably.\u201d A testimonial as simple and as solid as a brick house.