House Tour: The Overlapping House

Welcome to a home where traditional Chinese architecture and modern design principles harmoniously co-exist, and where the boundary between interior and exterior is intentionally blurred.

Updated on June 13, 2017 8:06 am

Jerni Camposano


Nestled on 20 Cluny Road, The Overlapping House (also called The Cluny House) has design enthusiasts and architecture lovers in Singapore and the world over revel in its unique concept, workmanship, and beautiful aesthetics. It is Shanghai-based firm Neri & Hu Design and Research Office's first project for a private residence in Singapore.

Neri & Hu designers said they paid homage to the client’s Chinese roots by taking cues from the Siheyuan courtyard house, which is a superb showcase of the unique charm of northern Chinese folk homes. To Lyndon Neri, Rossana Hu, and their talented team, the courtyard house is the embodiment of the spatialisation of Chinese notions of domesticity.

The Overlapping House "expresses the relationship between periphery and core, celebrating the inner zone as a space for the family to gather. It speaks to the complex relationships between the 'self' and the 'communal,' layering public and private in a spatial procession."

Designed to accommodate four families across three generations, The Overlapping House boasts of features and elements suitable for multi-generational living, an ideology unique to the traditional Chinese family structure.

Neri & Hu adopted the rudimentary formation of the traditional courtyard house but they also made sure to put a fresh spin on it. Instead of turning the home layout into a blockish mass, the designers worked on two elegant L-shaped volumes. In turn, the inner courtyard opened up to the lush greenery that surrounds the home.

"Continuity between exterior and interior, a typical feature of tropical living, is taken literally here. Lifting the private living quarters off the ground, the ground surface across the site is expressed as a monolithic base which flows seamlessly from inside to outside."

The interior living areas spill out into the garden and pool areas, as if "occupying and claiming" the exterior spaces. Meanwhile, the landscape is almost hugging the interior, thanks to the transparent glazing of the first floor.

"A meandering strolling path encircling the site produces uninhibited views across the property, while water features stitch the building inextricably into the surrounding landscape. In effect, the entire stretch of land is here occupied; the whole site becomes home."

Materials used in the house—timber, stone, metal, water, and glass—add to the traditional-meets-contemporary charm of The Overlapping House. It also complements its lush surroundings very well.

The notion of continuity is apparent in every little detail in the house: from the uninterrupted vals quartzite ground plane with glass enclosed public areas to the wood-clad private spaces on the upper floors (including the ebonized teak louvers in the second-level bedrooms). Perforated wood screens in white oak line the corridors of the bedrooms and can be folded and tucked away.

Neri & Hu worked with Singaporean firms Bescon Consulting Engineers PTE, Langdon & Seah, Bulthaup, K2LD, and Tuan Sing Holding Limited on the creative and production processes of The Overlapping House. It took almost six years to complete this masterpiece of a home.

The Overlapping House, which sits on 2,888 square metres of land and features 13 bedrooms, is designed to blur the boundaries—between inside and outside, land and house, private and public—to create a complex spatial experience. It is undeniably one solid stunner in the heart of Singapore.

Photography by Pedro Pegenaute


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