The Binh Thanh home, designed by Vo Trong Nghia Architects in partnership with Sanuki + Nishizawa, draws on the traditions of Vietnamese architecture, traces of which are still widely visible in the city of Ho Chi Minh. This is where the new house stands, with its bare concrete façade: a sustainable home kept cool by natural ventilation. The home, named after the district of the same name, stands on one of the long, narrow lots typical of the city, on which buildings with a strong vertical orientation stand one next to the other, with no breathing space between them so that very little natural light gets in. These “tube houses”, known for their disproportionate height and width, are characteristic of the streets of cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, and bring up the issue of ensuring a healthful living environment, with big sunbreak windows on the façade to let fresh air in.
In the past this need generated a whole “catalogue” of richly decorated, spontaneously created windows with handmade wooden frames. This project also addresses the theme of the ornamental façade, but uses concrete, the material forming the floor slabs, the roof and the prominent spiral staircase beyond the entrance gate.
As in the past, this does not have a merely decorative function, but favours function, in this case improvement of living conditions in a tropical climate. Sunbreaks have been created in the concrete on the building’s two open sides, which not only promote ventilation but give the façade a creative twist.
The volume stands on a lot in a residential zone near a canal and the city zoo, in a high traffic neighbourhood. The project takes advantage of the natural force of water and the beneficial effect of vegetation. The disorderly design of the concrete grid recalls that of the windows of old-fashioned Vietnamese façades, created without an overall plan but built up over the years as needed.
The building has six levels, one of which is underground, with concrete floor slabs overhanging both the open walls. The organic vocabulary of the building’s section creates empty spaces for vegetation, present on every level. And thus the aesthetic generated by concrete interacting with nature is confirmed once again.
The free floor plan organises the empty space between the two boundary walls and the open walls differently on each level: sometimes there is a big living room, other times dividing walls which order space without breaking it up. On the inside the grids continue, standing out with their massive presence, letting the home’s inhabitants enjoy the view of their surroundings while protecting their privacy. Lights and shadows alternate in their daily lives, while the limits of the living space extend well beyond the walls to embrace the landscape. Transparency and discretion find the right balance.
Design: Vo Trong Nghia Architects, Sanuki + Nishizawa architects
Project head: Vo Trong Nghia, Shunri Nishizawa, Daisuke Sanuki
Location: Binh Thanh, Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)
Total usable surface area: 516 m2
Lot size: 140 m2
Project start date: 2010
Completion of work: 2013
Builder: Wind and Water House JSC + Danang Company
Concrete spiral staircase
Concrete and brick structure
Concrete, wood and stone floor
Photos: © Hiroyuki Oki