Once your eyes adjusted to the darkness, you’d notice, on the right, a small charred wood plank cantilevers from the wall. Initially thought of as a seat, I’ve later learned that the client is a tea connoisseur, and the plank is where the tea-ware are placed.
Should you sit or not sit? Such is the mystery of the architecture of darkness. The body searches between denial and discovery, somewhat transitorily and somewhat at peace. You learn to be curious again, like a child.
Eventually, when you exit the dark space, you see the whole house, and all its original view and light and honesty and openness, with clearer and brighter vision. Chan effectively uses the dark, secondary, service spaces to create a sense of containment and repose in order to heighten the three dimensional spaciousness upon reentering the primary, served spaces. Like the day when the world was first created, the bathrooms and meditation room have become shadows of the living space, unassuming and faithful.
Besides the modernized kitchen, the rest of the house remains more or less in its authentic configuration. Through various clever yet subtle interventions, Chan has given the spatial hierarchy and sequence of the house a finer definition, achieving so with modesty and respect. The gentleness and grace Chan has demonstrated in handling a project of heritage significance, especially when the house was originally designed and dwelled by his former employer, exemplifies a kind of virtue that allow architecture to transcend a mere creative undertaking. Tanizaki would have tacitly approved the renovation while sitting inside one of those bathrooms.