Architecture: Singapore's Black & White Houses

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Singapore home featured in the March 2010 issue of Architectural Digest represents a classic example of a design style known as the "Black and White".   In the 19th century, Singapore was considered a colony, ruled by the British Empire.  The wealthy European expatriates that settled in this tropical landscape built houses incorporating design elements that blended both the Western Arts n Crafts & Art Deco styles.  Architecturally, these house were designed to live in harmony with the hot & humid climate and lush environment.  The Black and Whites are 2 story homes, with most of the living spaces on the 2nd floor - this measure was in response to the very real threat of snakes, monkeys, and other various creatures making their presence known.  Due to the excessive heat, cooling measures included plenty of windows and balconys that opened out to welcome breezes, while also incorporating air flow design features on the interior between rooms, to keep cool air flowing.

The Black and Whites were built until WWII, where at that time the high command of the Japanese military took over most of these estates.  Following the war, Singaporeans abandoned the Black and Whites, believing they would bring you bad luck if inhabited.  Fortunately over the last 15 years or so, residents recognize the historical & design significance of these homes and their relationship to Singapore, and have renovated these amazing architectural gems.
I fell in love with the Black and White style when I had the opportunity to live in Singapore in 1997.  I found the open floor plan to be so contemporary for its day, but how timeless it has become, dictating the way we live in our homes in the 21st century.  I love the simple & natural materials that most homeowners use to furnish the interiors, incorporating silk and wood details, with a blend of Asian art & accessories. 

For more info on the Black and Whites houses of Singapore, pick up Julian Davison's book - Black and White: The Singapore House 1898-1941.  The Amazon link can be found below...
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