Architecture: Daniel Yao, Jarrett Boor, Bing-Yu Yu
Situated near the historic “Taiwan-Renga” brick kiln from 1899 that prospered in this working-class district in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the Veil House revisits this history by weaving a modern, tapestry-like façade utilizing floating clay bricks. In a district with very narrow streets, close proximity to neighbors, and a hyperactive social fabric, privacy is often compromised. To maintain boundaries, windows are often shaded throughout the day; outdoor spaces, such as balconies and terraces, are left largely unused.
The Veil House challenges this public/private dynamic of compact urban living by creating a peaceful retreat that redefines the nature of this neighborhood’s typical house: a perforated brick façade liberates the need for window treatments and still allows filtered light into all the living spaces and bedrooms. The impetus for security and privacy reimagines the home as a body with breathable, permeable skin. Like skin pores, perforation density is devised according to the functional needs behind the enclosures.
With cored bricks secured by rebars, shelf angles, and steel channels, the brick veil is designed to withstand the local challenges of earthquakes and typhoons. There are also three emergency exits, engineered with saw-tooth pivots, seamlessly inserted onto the façade. The entry, through an interior garden, helps quiet the transition from the bustling city streets and provides a deep threshold into the heart of the home, thus acting as a type of perforation. The residents circle around an open atrium clad with 2 by 6 vertical aluminum louvers, to enter the main living area on the second floor.
This materiality pays homage to another Taiwanese vernacular of protected fenestrations while enhancing the verticality of the home. Programmatically, this atrium is the engine of the house: it is an urban garden on the ground floor; on the bedroom’s balconies it is a light well introducing natural illuminance into the rooms; it is an airshaft for cross-ventilation with the brick veil at the front facade; and it is a connector that ties circulation and program together across multiple floors. Behind the veil, this shifting perspective and the vertical stratification of the program accentuate public versus private relationships. This forms the central discourse on the introverted approach to the home.
Throughout the home’s interior, custom-designed terrazzo flooring defines spaces within the largely, open-plan living floors, while full-length, custom white-oak millwork conceals not only the kitchen but the entertainment and storage spaces as well. The reductive use of materials enhances the focus on the brick veil and the respite gained in the quiet, minimal interior. The desire to build a cozy, airy lifestyle behind an urban façade that successfully withdraws from the frenetic street life is the defining characteristic of the Veil House.