On Ong Teng Cheong’s Land Plot, a Bungalow With Masculine Appeal

What makes this one stand out is not only its architectural features, but the land it sits on.

Good class bungalows are plentiful in the Bukit Timah area, but what makes this one stand out is not only its architectural features but the land it sits on, was once owned by the late president Ong Teng Cheong.

Architect Carl Lim, founder of Czarl Architecture, stumbled upon this nugget of information when he was studying archival pictures of the former house on this site.

“It’s not every day that you get to rework the site on which president Ong’s first house stood and pay homage to what was there before,” says Lim.

His clients – a doctor and his retiree wife who used to be in the financial sector – asked for a “masculine home”.

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“They were very clear that they didn’t want the typical boxy, glass house. And it had to be a house that would suit our climate with plenty of garden space but not done with a tropical feel,” says Lim.

The clients approached Lim to design their home, because they liked how he had designed Wat Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist Temple. Instead of traditional ornamental roofs, the temple at Bukit Merah has a cube-like structure with a futuristic feel.

Lim kept to the brief by designing the 2-storey house with a basement and attic from a Brutalist architecture-inspired angle. The architectural style is characterised by angular shapes and a focus on building materials and minimalist structural style over decorative aesthetics.

The site – a triangular plot on a sloping land was a challenge Lim had to take on when designing the house.


On the outside, the house looks like one massive block, partially covered on the side with a series of aluminium panels that act as sun shading and privacy screen.

Inside, it’s a different story. Lim created each space, be it the common areas or the bedrooms, as individual units connected by courtyards and passageways. This same clustering is repeated on the upper floors. He was inspired by how the old house was also designed in a similar way.


When visitors step into the house, they enter a foyer – a largely empty space, save for a set of wall-mounted grilles. These are no ordinary grilles, but are the ones found in the old house. “They were rusty, but we managed to salvage and restore them,” says Lim.

From the foyer, guests step into a lounge which is connected to the living room via a short open passageway floating over a body of water. The wife loves this little spot so much, she practises her yoga here.


A short distance from the living room is the dining area, which enjoys plenty of natural light, thanks to the use of full height glass doors. From here, the couple get views of their garden, which is something that they also wanted, since the wife is an avid gardener.

Connecting the basement, where there is a guest room and gym, to all the floors in the house, is an organically shaped staircase. “The curves provide a contrast to the overall angular architecture of the home,” says Lim.

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The staircase, lit up by a Bocci suspension light, was a challenge to construct, due to its curves. But in the end, it is definitely one of the highlights of the house which the couple is proud to show off.

An infinity, semi-outdoor pool on the second floor is something quite unexpected, but Lim has good reason for placing it here. Due to the terrain, there’s not much space for greenery on the first floor. “Instead of sharing garden space with the pool, we decided to put the pool on the second floor,” says Lim.


In between swimming laps, the couple can take a breather by the side of the pool and look out into the neighbourhood. A moveable lattice screen allows for privacy, while a skylight allows the pool to be partially lit by sunlight.

Just like how the first floor comprises clusters of common spaces, here the family room and 3 bedrooms are designed like small villas, again connected by passageways.


The couple have their private space in the attic. There’s a small lounge for reading or watching TV before bed, a study to the side, and their bedroom in the centre.

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Since the couple wanted to be surrounded by greenery, Lim designed a sky garden, with an outdoor terrace that runs around the circumference of the attic. No surprises here that the couple calls it one of their favorite spots as they sip wine and enjoy the sunset.

First designed in 2017, the home was completed only in 2021. Despite the long journey, Lim says, “the house afforded us an opportunity to explore fresh new concepts in bungalow design. In this case, we approached this house by visualizing the idea of a stacked village surrounded by greenery and semi-indoor/outdoor spaces.”

This article originally appeared in The Peak Magazine and The Business Times.

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