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Learn from WOHA's Breathing Architecture: A PDF Guide to Their Principles, Elements, and Examples

WOHA Breathing Architecture: A Review of the Monograph

If you are interested in architecture that is environmentally-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and socially relevant, you might want to check out the monograph WOHA Breathing Architecture. This book showcases the work of WOHA, a Singapore-based architectural practice that is known for its innovative and sustainable designs that blend with nature. In this article, we will review the main concepts, features, and examples of WOHA's breathing architecture, and show you how you can download the PDF for free.

woha breathing architecture pdf free


The Principles of Breathing Architecture: How WOHA designs environmentally-friendly buildings that blend with nature

WOHA stands for Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell, the two founders and directors of the firm. They started their practice in 1994 with a vision to create buildings that are responsive to the tropical climate, the urban context, and the human needs. They coined the term "breathing architecture" to describe their approach to designing buildings that are alive, adaptive, and integrated with nature. According to them, breathing architecture has three main principles:

  • Environmental sensitivity: Breathing architecture respects and enhances the natural environment by minimizing its ecological footprint, maximizing its biodiversity, and generating its own resources.

  • Aesthetic integrity: Breathing architecture creates beauty and harmony by using natural materials, colors, and forms that complement the surrounding landscape and culture.

  • Social relevance: Breathing architecture improves the quality of life and fosters community by providing comfortable, functional, and diverse spaces that cater to different needs and preferences.

The Elements of Breathing Architecture: The key features and strategies that WOHA uses in their projects

To achieve these principles, WOHA employs various design features and strategies that make their buildings breathe. These elements can be grouped into five categories:


WOHA incorporates plants and vegetation in their buildings to create a green oasis in the city. They use greenery for various purposes:

  • Cooling: Greenery reduces the heat island effect by shading and evaporating water.

  • Cleaning: Greenery filters the air and water by absorbing pollutants and toxins.

  • Healing: Greenery improves the health and well-being of the occupants by providing oxygen, humidity, and psychological benefits.

  • Beautifying: Greenery adds color, texture, and variety to the buildings by creating gardens, terraces, and sky parks.


WOHA optimizes natural airflow and cooling in their buildings to reduce the need for mechanical ventilation and air-conditioning. They use ventilation for various purposes:

  • Circulating: Ventilation creates a comfortable indoor climate by allowing fresh air to enter and stale air to exit.

  • Cooling: Ventilation lowers the temperature and humidity by enhancing the wind effect and evaporative cooling.

  • Regulating: Ventilation adjusts the airflow and cooling by using operable windows, louvers, and screens.

  • Integrating: Ventilation connects the indoor and outdoor spaces by creating openings, courtyards, and atriums.


WOHA maximizes natural lighting and minimizes artificial lighting in their buildings to save energy and create a pleasant ambiance. They use light for various purposes:

  • Illuminating: Light provides adequate and uniform illumination for the indoor spaces by using skylights, windows, and reflective surfaces.

  • Modulating: Light controls the intensity and quality of illumination by using shades, blinds, and curtains.

  • Animating: Light creates dynamic and dramatic effects by using colors, patterns, and shadows.

  • Transforming: Light changes the appearance and mood of the buildings by using different lighting schemes for day and night.


WOHA collects, stores, and recycles water in their buildings to conserve water and create a refreshing environment. They use water for various purposes:

  • Harvesting: Water captures rainwater and stormwater by using roofs, gutters, and tanks.

  • Storing: Water stores water for future use by using cisterns, ponds, and pools.

  • Recycling: Water reuses water for non-potable purposes by using greywater systems, blackwater systems, and bioswales.

  • Decorating: Water adds beauty and vitality to the buildings by using fountains, waterfalls, and streams.


WOHA reduces energy consumption and generates renewable energy in their buildings to lower their carbon emissions and increase their self-reliance. They use energy for various purposes:

  • Saving: Energy minimizes the energy demand by using passive design strategies, energy-efficient appliances, and smart systems.

  • Generating: Energy produces renewable energy by using solar panels, wind turbines, and biogas plants.

  • Distributing: Energy delivers energy to where it is needed by using microgrids, batteries, and inverters.

  • Metering: Energy monitors energy usage by using sensors, meters, and dashboards.

The Examples of Breathing Architecture: How WOHA showcases their principles and elements in four case studies

To illustrate how WOHA applies their principles and elements of breathing architecture in practice, the monograph features four case studies of their projects. These projects are examples of different building types that WOHA has designed in different contexts. They are:

The Tropical House: A family home that is open, airy, and green

The Tropical House is a private residence that WOHA designed for a family in Singapore. The house is located on a narrow plot of land surrounded by other houses. To create a sense of openness and privacy, WOHA designed the house as a series of pavilions that are connected by courtyards and gardens. The house is oriented to capture the prevailing breezes and natural light. The house also features a green roof that collects rainwater, a solar water heater that provides hot water, and a biogas plant that converts food waste into cooking gas. The house is an example of how WOHA creates a tropical living environment that is comfortable, functional, and sustainable.

The Permeable High-Rise: A residential tower that is porous, diverse, and communal

The Permeable High-Rise: A residential tower that is porous, diverse, and communal

The Permeable High-Rise is a 66-storey condominium that WOHA designed for a mixed-use development in Bangkok. The tower is located on a busy street with limited views and ventilation. To create a sense of openness and variety, WOHA designed the tower as a stack of modular units that are arranged in a staggered alignment to create gaps and voids. The tower is oriented to capture the prevailing breezes and natural light. The tower also features a green facade that covers 60% of the surface area, a sky garden that spans every three floors, and a rooftop terrace that offers panoramic views. The tower is an example of how WOHA creates a permeable high-rise that is comfortable, diverse, and communal.

The Cutting-Edge Resort: A hotel that is luxurious, sustainable, and adaptive

The Cutting-Edge Resort is a 5-star hotel that WOHA designed for a resort complex on the island of Bali. The hotel is located on a steep hillside overlooking the Indian Ocean. To create a sense of luxury and sustainability, WOHA designed the hotel as a series of villas that are embedded into the landscape and connected by bridges and walkways. The hotel is oriented to capture the views and natural light. The hotel also features a green roof that blends with the surroundings, a rainwater harvesting system that provides water for irrigation, and a passive cooling system that reduces the need for air-conditioning. The hotel is an example of how WOHA creates a cutting-edge resort that is luxurious, sustainable, and adaptive.

The Community Space: A public building that is interactive, inclusive, and innovative

The Community Space is a public library that WOHA designed for a civic district in Singapore. The library is located on a prominent site next to a historic park and a busy road. To create a sense of interaction and inclusion, WOHA designed the library as a transparent and porous structure that invites people to enter and explore. The library is oriented to capture the views and natural light. The library also features a green wall that filters the noise and pollution, a sky garden that offers outdoor reading spaces, and a flexible layout that accommodates different activities and events. The library is an example of how WOHA creates a community space that is interactive, inclusive, and innovative.

The Benefits of Breathing Architecture: How WOHA improves the quality of life, the environment, and the society with their designs

WOHA's breathing architecture not only creates beautiful and functional buildings, but also brings various benefits to the people, the planet, and the society. Some of these benefits are:

  • Quality of life: Breathing architecture enhances the well-being and happiness of the occupants by providing them with comfortable, healthy, and enjoyable spaces that suit their needs and preferences.

  • Environment: Breathing architecture protects and restores the natural environment by reducing its impact on resources, climate change, and biodiversity.

  • Society: Breathing architecture contributes to social cohesion and cultural diversity by creating spaces that foster interaction, collaboration, and identity.

In conclusion, WOHA's breathing architecture is an inspiring example of how architecture can be environmentally-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and socially relevant in the tropical context. If you want to learn more about WOHA's projects and philosophy, you can download their monograph WOHA Breathing Architecture for free from this link: [insert link]. You will find more details, illustrations, and essays about their breathing architecture in this book.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions that people might have about WOHA's breathing architecture:

  • What is the difference between breathing architecture and biophilic design?

Breathing architecture and biophilic design are both approaches to designing buildings that connect with nature. However, breathing architecture focuses more on creating buildings that are alive, adaptive, and integrated with nature in terms of form, function, and performance. Biophilic design focuses more on creating buildings that enhance human health and well-being by incorporating natural elements, patterns, and processes.

  • How does WOHA balance the trade-offs between environmental performance and aesthetic quality?

WOHA does not see environmental performance and aesthetic quality as trade-offs, but as complementary aspects of their design. They believe that environmental performance can enhance aesthetic quality by creating buildings that are harmonious with nature and culture. They also believe that aesthetic quality can enhance environmental performance by creating buildings that are attractive and engaging for the users and the public.

  • How does WOHA adapt their breathing architecture to different contexts and climates?

WOHA adapts their breathing architecture to different contexts and climates by conducting thorough research and analysis of the site, the culture, and the climate. They also use local materials, techniques, and traditions to create buildings that are appropriate and responsive to their specific locations. They also test and refine their design solutions through simulations, models, and prototypes to ensure their effectiveness and efficiency.

  • How does WOHA involve the users and the stakeholders in their breathing architecture?

WOHA involves the users and the stakeholders in their breathing architecture by engaging them in the design process through consultations, workshops, and feedback sessions. They also design their buildings to be flexible and adaptable to accommodate different needs and preferences of the users over time. They also design their buildings to be accessible and inclusive to encourage participation and interaction among the users and the stakeholders.

  • How does WOHA measure the impact and success of their breathing architecture?

WOHA measures the impact and success of their breathing architecture by using various indicators and methods, such as energy consumption, water consumption, carbon emissions, biodiversity, user satisfaction, user behavior, social impact, economic impact, and awards and recognition. They also monitor and evaluate their buildings after completion to learn from their experience and improve their future projects.



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