Lucky Shophouse

Singapore, Homes –

CHANG ARCHITECTS captures childhood memories and contemporary elegance in a Joo Chiat conservation shophouse for modern residential living


A 1920s BOOKSHOP in Joo Chiat is re-created into a modern home for its owners who grew up in the neighbourhood. They remember buying books, cassettes and chewing gum from this shop called Lucky Book Store – a typical Singapore shophouse with shop on the ground floor and living or storage space on the upper level.

The front facade. The multi-layered paint-coatings were carefully removed to reveal its original tone and colour


Juxtaposing grown up sophistication and childhood nostalgia in a simple layout for flexible usage, CHANG Architects brought back to life many of the original elements. The tone and colour of the front facade was uncovered and preserved, likewise the fading ‘Lucky Book Store’ signage on the front pillar. Old brick walls, timber rafters and floor joists were restored and made leading statements to the space. The generous use of timber and wood, concrete, brick and rustic stone aggregate for the interior’s finishing and furnishing along with charcoal-coloured elements bring everything together in effective composition.

A double-volume dining space becomes the common, popular gathering space that visually connects the ground floor and the upper level. A delightful view of the green outdoors is framed through a pair of full-height timber sliding panels that opens out to the central garden space with its breezes, and overlooks the new rear house extension. This structure is made of rustic stone aggregate, which adds to the old-world charm of the project as well as its surrounding neighbourhood.

Lucky Shophouse has garnered a string of awards including the Unesco Asia-Pacific Award for New Design in Heritage Contexts.

Front shophouse living. Progress through the house is always to the side
View of mirrored bath room cubicles
Kitchen Dining area with double volume space
Kitchen Dining area
The Central Garden space extends to the rear where the new single-storey house sits


A chat with CHANG YONG TER, founder and principal architect of CHANG Architects

Chang Yong Ter: Design from your heart

What Singapore vernacular architecture do you have a soft spot for?

The HDB (Housing & Development Board) dwelling.
While shophouses have strong appeals in terms of architectural characteristics, the HDB dwellings speak louder to the hearts of many locals, and have shaped the way most Singaporeans live their lives. One could find similar typologies of the shophouses and B&W bungalows in neighbouring countries, but the HDB dwelling is particularly unique to Singapore.

What materials do you love to work with in terms of architectural design?

There is a strong affinity for materials that are raw in their natural state, as if they are (and in fact they are) still alive and pulsating.

How do you sketch your ideas? 

First in the mind, then quick pencil sketches on paper to capture its tangibility.

What Singapore food do you crave for after a hard day at work?

This would mean late night or past dinner time – any of the local ‘zi chars’ would be highly-satisfactory.

What advice would you give a young student who wants to be an award-winning architect like you?

Never aim to be ‘an award-winning architect’. Rather, do the best that you can as a conscientious designer, for whatever task that lands on you – regardless of size and scope. Design from your heart and exercise your intuitions as much as you could. In this age dominated by artificial intelligence, innate human wisdom is key.


Story by Carol Kraal. Photographs courtesy of CHANG Architects