Call its houses “crazy”, and Aamer Taher wouldn’t mind. In fact, he might be secretly thrilled because that’s exactly how he would describe them himself.
When the architect started on his own in 1994, the first house he designed was that of his father’s boss. Telok Kurau’s bungalow has an upside-down curved concrete roof to collect rainwater for the gardens. It sounds crazy, but Mr. Taher was of the opinion that if he designed a slide that could go around the house, his client could wake up in the morning, slide from his room on the second floor to the swimming pool on the first. “It’s such a great way to wake up, don’t you think,” he said with a straight face.
The client loved it, and the house also caught the eye of design publications around the world. “I got a lot of calls and jobs after that,” he says. Not bad for someone who started their eponymous business because they were frustrated working in a corporate office and quit their job in anger.
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More recently, a good class bungalow he designed in Swettenham Road is not quite what one would expect from a three generation house. The client had taken him to see the site, once a forest, before deciding to buy the land.
Built on a steep, irregularly shaped hill, the 10,980-square-foot five-story home with a curvy facade designed to look away from the mature trees on the site. The volume decreases as you go up, and the house stands out without sticking out like a sore thumb among its neighbors.
From street level, one enters basement two, which includes parking, a guest bedroom, family room, and fireplace that overlooks a pond with a cascading waterfall. The first basement houses a two-bedroom suite with its own living room and pantry for the client’s two adult sons and a bedroom for the grandmother. On the first floor is the swimming pool with stunning views of the neighborhood, as well as the living room, dining room and kitchen. The second floor includes the master bedroom, the daughter’s bedroom, a family area and an office, and finally on the top floor is a suite for the youngest son.
Each family member has their own private area, which also easily connects to common areas. For natural light and ventilation to all rooms, including the family room in basement two, Mr. Taher strategically dug voids in the building.
“It was a difficult site because it was very steep, but I saw a problem as an opportunity,” he says. The design he came up with was immediately accepted by the client, who was impressed that Mr. Taher could fit so much space into the 15,750 square foot lot.
Unlike other architects who come up with multiple designs for a project, Mr. Taher says “my first design proposal is usually the best”.
He succeeds because he takes the time to fully understand the site, visiting it several times during the day to see how the sun’s rays fall or to feel where the breeze is coming from. “I digest everything, then I find what I think is the best fit, and then I put everything else into that whole form,” he says.
Sometimes he can have difficult clients who want to change his views, but ultimately they see his point of view. He convinces them by explaining his plan with reason. “It helps a lot when I draw the client into my thinking process,” he says. “If you can share your thoughts and design sense with clients and their families, then you’ve achieved more than just a home. You shared what you think their life could be like. Often times, you hope to give them more than they expect. You try to give them a good life beyond what a house can do.
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When asked why he thinks customers come to him, he jokes that it’s because of the double A’s in his business name. “If you search alphabetically, Aamer Architects appears early. His clients, having seen his works on his website, often approach him pointing out that he has no distinct style.
“I don’t have a style because it all depends on what the customer wants and what the site can offer them,” he says. Having no style means “I’m asking for the right to a blank canvas and that’s pretty cool.” Clients often get an idea of their dream home and I try to take them away from their typical expectations because we are not a typical business. I would lose the joy of creating if I’m just typical, especially if I’m repetitive.
If he had to describe his approach to architecture, it would be “sculpting spaces in the tropics.” The shape should be unique – almost like an art sculpture, ”he says.
He sees himself as an artist, creating something that speaks to him and his creativity. “I never repeat myself,” says Taher. He’s not the type to run out of ideas. “Having practiced for so long, the standard approach to any project is the same. But with this same approach, you should be able to achieve different results.
A glance at her portfolio shows not only homes with a futuristic theme, but homes that are more understated and stylish. Each is designed with the site, context, and brief in mind, but perhaps one thing in common between them is their sensitive approach to design. The company also carries out skyscrapers and mass developments.
“With a light contact with the ground, I hope not to lose a tree or to be too insensitive to the neighboring house. You hope to get the most out of the site without being overly aggressive, ”he says. “I always educate my clients not to overbuild. It is important to be kind to your surroundings, because they are also residential houses. But in the rare earths of Singapore, sometimes there is nothing else to do when there is a monstrous house next to it. Mr. Taher’s solution? “I’m planting tall, straight trees to block them,” he laughs.
While he was good at drawing as a child, Mr. Taher did not intend to become an architect. It was only at the suggestion of his army mate, Sim Boon Yang, founder of the architectural firm eco.id, that he considered architecture. He studied at the then School of Architecture, National University of Singapore, before joining the prestigious Architectural Association in London. The creation of his own business was also not planned.
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Mr. Taher says he lives his life pretty much this way. “I don’t set goals for myself, I don’t plan for what’s going to happen,” he says. “I’m almost 60 years old, but I’m still looking for my identity. And sometimes it can seem like a negative thing that you don’t know who you are at this age. But it’s okay, because my adventure in life never ends and it’s cool.
This article originally appeared in Home decoration.