Nestled in the quiet slopes of Damansara is a home of concrete and timber, generously fringed with verdant foliage. Seemingly closed off from the rest of the world, is a hillside haven belonging to Ar Hud Abu Bakar, principal of RSP Architects. The structure has been home to his family (and three cats) for the last six years.
“I used to live in Kota Damansara in a slightly bigger house, but I thought I wanted something simpler like an apartment. As you get older, you want a smaller, simpler home,” he admits.
Despite Hud’s desire for simplicity, arguing “the land is not that big,” he confesses the result is a little larger than preferred. Using the unusual topography to his advantage, in which the terrain is higher in the front yard and lower at the back, Hud exploits the steep incline to create a waterfall from textured split stones. The water feature acts as an attractive centrepiece within the home.
Entry into the abode entails walking across a wide timber bridge poised over a shallow pond littered with mossy stones which feed into the waterfall and sunken koi pond on the level below. “It’s kind of like a moat, surrounding a castle,” Hud remarks, pleased with the integration of a living body of water and the touch of security it provides. “When you have water, it helps to cool the whole environment,” the architect adds, emphasising the significance of the pond’s prime placement.
Hud is open about his affection for his koi – large, friendly and approachable creatures with vivid colours that add vibrance to his domain more keenly than any work of art. “On a quiet day, if you look at the koi and give yourself a minute to watch the way they move, you realise that you’ll forget about all the other things in your head and just be still, looking at nature.”
His love of the natural world carries throughout his domicile, which makes use of full-height glass windows to allow an abundance of natural light and surrounding greenery to encroach on the dwelling. Minimal in terms of interior design, the living room boasts an eclectic mix of furniture in earthy tones that do little to detract from the view. When the windows open, cross ventilation fills the split-level bungalow with a dewy breeze. On hot days, mechanised louvres on exterior wall rails may shut to keep the sun out.
“I was inspired to bring the outdoors in, so when you’re inside, you feel like it is a part of the outdoors,” he remarks. As the steady stream of flowing water calms the senses, the view from the formal living area takes your breath away. Hud’s hilltop home overlooks wide-open skies, lush greenery and a panorama of Mont Kiara and Damansara. “Sometimes I can see Genting Highlands,” he adds.
The open-concept formal living room and dining area welcome guests with a private office space just off the entrance, while on the other side, a dividing wall with hidden full-length doors separates the dry kitchen and a family room. Concrete steps lead up to the bedrooms as well as downstairs to the backyard and entertainment area.
The architect’s use of natural elements calls for attention at every turn. Timber floors keep a natural finish and the doorway comprises a rusted steel door. The concrete open ceiling never fails to attract comments from visitors, perfectly charmed by its imperfection. “The pureness is what I wanted,” the architect comments of the honest materials.
Hud describes the use of industrial concrete elements as a form of minimalism. “You’re minimising the work. It doesn’t mean that it’s easier – it just means that it’s one step and you are done,” he elaborates. “Let the material express itself, as much as you can – I like it to be natural,” Hud says, describing the core tenet of his aesthetic preferences.
Downstairs, cement rendered floors are lightly polished and cool to the touch. A sofa welcomes guests as a pull-down projector screen entices movie-nights. To one side, the koi pond sits near the same level as the floor just beyond full-length sliding doors while mirrored on the other end, another set of doors opens into the patio, backyard and pool vicinity. Hud refers to the porch as his favourite place to share company, “it is nice at night when I sit with friends until one or two in the morning. Especially when it rains, we can see the city lights, and we are just cosy here.”
The saltwater pool is slightly raised from ground level, surrounded by a chengal wood deck. While sitting outdoors, the water is almost at eye-level like an infinity pool which adds to the area’s resort-like mood. Tucked between the patio and pool deck access is a gym nook surrounded by glass walls that overlook the peaceful surroundings.
On the way back upstairs, the staircase branches off at the halfway point into a long study room with storage for Hud’s many mountain and road bikes. “In the early morning when everybody is asleep, I go out from here,” the architect gestures to the sliding door at the end of the room, which offers access to a staircase up to the garage and exit.
The master bedroom on the second level is reminiscent of a luxury suite, attached to a TV area that may be communally enjoyed by the family or closed off for privacy. Hud’s glass-encased bathroom offers an uninterrupted line of sight that gives the modest bedroom a spacious feel. Two full-length inconspicuous sliding panels close along a track to separate the bathroom from the bedroom, saving his wife from being disturbed by the light at night. A his-and-her walk-in wardrobe resides in the space just beyond.
The last staircase leads up to Hud’s favourite space – the rooftop balcony. “The mornings are especially nice when the clouds are reddish,” the architect describes though not wholly satisfied with the current layout. “I am going to close this area with glass, so even if it rains, I can just sit here and enjoy the view,” he explains.
“The house, until today, is not 100% complete,” Hud says, admitting that he is always thinking about new additions.
A master in manipulating planes and the spaces between, Hud feels that the house appropriately embodies him. “I think the place must have a soul,” he comments, characterising the soul of his home as the outdoor-centric persona that matches his own.
Hud endeavours to respect nature, not just with his own home but in all his ventures. “As we progress in Malaysia and worldwide, we can see that architecture is trying to reduce carbon footprints and energy usage. I wish that all architects and builders will think about it – even if just a little – within their big projects. Because sooner or later, it will collectively impact the world.”
This story first appeared in Prestige Malaysia’s November 2020 issue.