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A Modern Expression of Luxury

Exploring the changing nature of luxury living through two modern residences by ip:li Architects.

The labels ‘modern’ and ‘luxury’ are certainly laden with complex social and cultural connotations. Luxury, in particular, has come to signify different values in different social milieus.

In both Midtown Modern and Martin Modern, Yip Yuen Hong of ip:li Architects finds new expression of luxury by assimilating the most important aspects of our modern life today into the design goals.

This means creating spaces that prioritise human experiences and spaciousness. Materiality is then used to enhance delightful experiences in spaces. To the architect, a modern idea of a luxury home does not have to conform to traditional notions of sleekness and steel.

“The great trap of modern life is the belief that more is better, but I believe that going back to basics is the greater wisdom.”

— Yip Yuen Hong on Midtown Modern

Such human- and experience-centred principles serve to ground the design in authenticity instead of opulence. Translated into architecture, luxury strives for unencumbered and minimally-programmed spaciousness so as to make room for the most charming parts of life to unfold.

To better grasp what luxury in today’s modern home entails, we gathered some of Yip’s views and approaches in his designs for Midtown Modern and Martin Modern – two modern luxury residences that are the culmination of Guocoland’s work with the architect.

The arrival court in Martin Modern is designed to emphasise the sense of arrival


At the heart of Yip’s approach to all his works is the understanding of human behaviours, desires, and the ways in which spaces are used. Human-centric design, as he has expressed, is fundamental for good architecture that defines finer living.

“Because we’re designing homes for people to build their lives upon, what I hope to evoke in residents is a feeling of warmth and intimacy – as if they are coming home to the comfortable companionship of a close friend.” —on Midtown Modern


Creating a sense of arrival is often reiterated in Yip Yuen Hong’s architectural oeuvre. In Midtown Modern, the elevator experience is orchestrated to the view as it travels to the lush garden on the third floor. In Martin Modern, a long picturesque driveway leads to the drop-off porch, emphasising arrival. Yip also believes that ‘too much of a good thing’ dilutes the architectural experience, and aims for delight over an excess of excitement.

“The minute you drive into the development, the tall walls, the expansive green spaces and the all-embracing plantations carry you into a slower and more relaxed world. It will be like your home being situated in an environment completely different from the outside world.” —on Martin Modern


The architect once said that it is difficult to predict ‘timelessness’ in design, but his objective is to create well-crafted spaces with materials that will stand the test of time. This works in tandem with creating an enduring environment that holds space for our unique human experiences.

“As an architect, I’m always looking to design robust spaces that encourage people to fully embrace living in their own homes – rather than being reluctant to do so because it’s too immaculate or precious. Midtown Modern exemplifies this with its rugged aesthetic.”


If luxury affords space, why clutter the experience? Rather than over-programming the architecture, Yip chooses simpler forms to create spaciousness. Like the Japanese idea of ‘Yutori’, spaciousness leaves ‘margins’ for what can happen, allowing people to notice the details and little shifts in the environment.

“Modernity is moving forward to a luxury of space rather than that of materials… No matter how small the space is, I try to incorporate a sense of spaciousness. Without that, the magic cannot happen.” —on Martin Modern


Big outdoor spaces are one of the most important features in Midtown Modern and Martin Modern, with more than 80% of the developments dedicated to landscaping. In both developments, biophilic gardens that are deliberately unmanicured work together with Yip’s ‘rugged beauty’ architectural aesthetic to create a sanctuary in the city. The poetry lies in bringing the natural world into a modern home environment.

“We’re after a wilder type of beauty. And it’ll be so overgrown that actually after a while you wouldn’t be able to tell that you’re living in a city.” —Yip Yuen Hong on Midtown Modern, in an interview with Lookbox Living

Martin Modern’s wild and poetic gardens exemplify the masterly use of materials, textures and light in space.


The modern-day narrative of luxury living is constantly evolving, but perhaps a space artfully put together is the most enduring indicator of what luxury might mean in this context. It is about the quality of light in space, the articulated use of materials, the balletic sequence of the spatial experience – and how all of it comes together to consider the movement and encounters of people in a space.

It is perhaps this pursuit of luxury centred around the human experience that defines the modern residence. In both Midtown Modern and Martin Modern, for example, adaptable spaces, the comforts of home and various scales of abundant greenery interweave to create a sanctuary in the city that is also alive and part of a thriving community. Ultimately, it is the positive interactions between people and spaces that the modern residence seeks.

The pockets of forested gardens in Midtown Modern makes luxuriating in nature a part of daily life.


The car-lite city of the future makes space for human needs and experiences that will improve our urban lives

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Samuel Isaac Chua is the Photo Editor at The Edge/Edgeprop. In this interview, he shares how he represents space through the medium of photography and how good design evokes emotions.


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