Joseph House: A boxed-in living decoded.

Mr. Waris Sinsuebpol

Introduction :

The project is to design a shophouse conversion, turning a 6-unit shophouse into a warmhearted familydwelling. The main requirement is to make the one who live in this house feels like they are in a proper homey-feeling house although all the shophouse conditions still need to be maintained, because they have been living in these boxes since they were born, so no more boxed in feeling. This is an actual and a practical architectural and interior design project to be constructed in 2023. 

To crack the code, both physical and psychological conditions of being in a shophouse (ie. Structure, opening void, ventilation, interior space and feeling, etc.) have been studied, along with the users’ behaviors, design elements, space analysis, and the sense of place theory. Those areas of study have later been used to facilitate the design to achieve the requirements. 

Design Process has been summarized and divided into chapters as follows. 

-Chapter1: Living out of the box. 

-Chapter2: Enter the outside. 

-Chapter3: Vertical transfer. 

-Chapter4: To lose to gain. 

-Chapter5: Light is vital. 

-Chapter6: Belief, faith, and way of life. 

-Chapter7: Style comes last, but first to be seen. 

-Final Chapter: Façade, the first communication to the context. 

At the outcome of this project (as submitted), it is in the process of architectural and interior design working drawings and preparing all information for the contractor. The project is scheduled to start constructing by May 2023. 


To design a shophouse conversion, turning a 6-unit shophouse into a warmhearted family house 


Design Process has been summarized and divided into chapters as follows. 


Chapter1: Living out of the box. 

To define the feeling of living in the shophouse from the users, what is, or what cause the meaning of it by studying the users’ perceptions and behaviors. what we’ve found is 


-space defined by people who 

-freedom of space

-can allow natural light in  



-limitation of space (by shape, lives in there grid structure, and size)

-NO journey, NO transition, or and utilization NO sequences of access

-lack of natural lighting and space as per required ventilation 


Chapter2: Enter the outside. 

To enter the house, you open out to the courtyard -The main entrance (acting as a gate) starts with the outdoor living area, where the owner will be using as a house reception and a leisure space as well as some activities relating to the religion (ie. Christmas). Above this space is the extension used for mother and daughter’s unit. And through this transition, the house entrance door will be found. 


Chapter3: Vertical transfer. 

The main circulation of the house is a lift and a staircase. They transfer people to a next main spot. Because this is an integration of 6 units of a rowhouse, the key is to locate the suitable place for them to gain the access to all functions. 


Chapter4: To lose to gain.

Being in the shophouse space, the grid system of 6 units makes the space like a big box. To crack them, wall panels and columns grid need to be stripped and considered separately but parallelly. one pain point of being rowhouse is because there are 3 spans in depth with 6 units (spans) in width with 4m long in each span, therefore the middle part of it will lose the connection to the outside space. One solution was to sacrifice the front row of all units shifting the wall panel in the middle space, leaving the front space as a big open-air balcony to gain the sense of an outdoor terrace and plant some greens there.

One basic function of the house that the shophouse might have never been found is the laundry and where to dry the clothes. This is another task requested by the owner and, considering the buildingorientation, the best location is in the far-left corner. To create this, the mass of the big box was again cut a small cube to create an opening to allow the light to get through that balcony to be able for them to dry the clothes. 

Other voids have also been created to vertically connect the 2nd and 3rd floor space. This doble height space is to make a visual relation and eliminate the feeling of being isolated from one another when staying in each floor. 


Chapter5: Light is vital. 

From the last chapter, another problem of being a big box is a natural light, especially in the middle space. At the double space and the stairwell, there is an opportunity to bring in the natural light from rooftop to the living room floor. Therefore, the skylight has been created above those area to allow the sunlight in the space. However, the direct sunlight will come with heat, so to avoid that the angle of skylight is designed regarding the sun direction making it an indirect natural light. 


Chapter6: Belief, faith, and way of life. 

Another factor of this house is their belief in religion. St. Joseph and Mary are the sacred icons. The exact location needs to be carefully indicated to appropriate to their everyday life. This creates a “sense of place” feeling which carries on from the place where they had been living since, they were born. 

St. Joseph statue is in the outdoor living area for some ceremony activities and Mary is in the sacred chamber, which is designed to submerge in the living are. 


Chapter7: Style comes last, but first to be seen. 

Mood and tone and styles issue was then being discussed after the main space had been created and most of the problem is solved, to satisfy all users as each of them have different interests and preferences. This seems like a normal step of design, but behind this, it relates to the “sense of place” as well. 


Final Chapter: Façade, the first communication to the context. 

The last part of the project is to design its cover. There are 2 issues, 

1. To make it not to look like a separated 6-unit shophouses anymore, but rather be a one-unit building. Therefore, the design pattern is considered the big area and using random vertical line to intervene and hind the rhythm of the shophouse span making its own new rhythm. 

2. Security to an open balcony in living area that has been created. While keeping all open is the best option for view and ventilation, however, it affects the privacy. Therefore, this aluminum perforated façade is designed to cover but still allow some natural light and ventilation to the building. 


Techniques and Materials:

A shophouse conversion and house extension in total of 800 sq.m. 


This preliminary design is done and approved by owner. The design development and working drawings are in the process. The construction is expected to kick off in May 2023. 


Vamvakidis, Simos (2018). Composing Architecture and Interior Design. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers. 

McMorrough, Julia (2018). The Architecture, Reference+specification book (3rd edition). Massachusetts: Rockport Publishers. 

Lengen, van, Jhan (2008). The Barefoot Architect, A handbook for green Building. California: Shelter Publications.