Vietnamese studio Vo Trong Nghia Architects has completed a house in Ho Chi Minh City with half of its floors screened behind hollow concrete blocks and the other half exposed to the elements (+ slideshow).
Working alongside architects Sanuki + Nishizawa, Vo Trong Nghia Architects designed the six-storey Binh Thanh House for three generations of a single family, adding curved concrete ceilings, a spiral staircase and gardens on each floor.
Alternating levels offer a mixture of both air-conditioned and naturally ventilated spaces. "The concept of the house is to accommodate two different lifestyles in a tropical climate," said the architects.
The second and fourth floors have glazed facades that slide open, bringing natural light and cross ventilation through a pair of family living rooms that both occupy an entire storey. One features an undulating concrete ceiling, while the other is framed by a row of barrel vaults.
The hollow concrete blocks create patterned walls either side of the first, third and fifth floors on the building, allowing light to filter through to bedrooms, a kitchen, a small dining room and a home gym.
"Pattern blocks [...] used to be a popular shading device in Vietnam to bring in natural ventilation," said the architects. "While this house looks different from the stereotypical townhouses in Ho Chi Minh City, all the architectural solutions are derived from the local lifestyle and wisdom."
These upper floors are staggered back and forth, creating balcony gardens on both sides of the residence, while the sunken ground floor accommodates a parking area.
Vo Trong Nghia Architects has offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Recent residential projects by the firm include a spiralling stone house with a grass roof and a "tube house" with a vertical garden on its facade.
Here's a project description from Vo Trong Nghia Architects:
Binh Thanh House
Located in the centre of Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam, Binh Thanh House was designed for two families; a couple in their sixties, their son, his wife and a child.
The plot has a bilateral character, one is facing to a noisy and dusty street in a typical developing and urbanising area in the city and one is very close to a canal and Saigon Zoo with plenty of greenery.
Against a backdrop of this duality of its setting, the concept of the house is to accommodate two different lifestyles in a tropical climate; a modern and well-tempered lifestyle with mechanical equipments such as air-conditioners, and a natural and traditional lifestyle, utilising natural lighting and ventilation with water and greenery.
The house is composed of two different spaces positioned alternately. Spaces for modern lifestyle are allocated in three floating volumes wrapped by concrete pattern blocks. And the spaces between these three volumes are widely open to the exterior and allocated for the natural lifestyle where the residents enjoy wind, sunlight, green and water.
Three volumes are shifted back and forth to bring natural light into the in-between spaces, as well as to create small gardens on each floor. The bottoms of the volumes become the ceilings for the in-between spaces. These surfaces are designed with various curved shapes, providing each in-between space with different lighting effects.
Bedrooms and other small rooms are contained in the floating semi-closed volumes to enhance security and privacy. On the other hand, the open in-between spaces are designed to be independent living spaces for two families.
Pattern blocks, which used to be a popular shading device in Vietnam to bring in natural ventilation, are made of pre-cast concrete with 60cm width and 40cm height. It not only prevents the harsh sunlight and heavy rain but also enhances the privacy and the safety.
While this house looks different from the stereotypical townhouses in Ho Chi Minh City, all the architectural solutions are derived from the local lifestyle and wisdom. The house offers an interpretation of the ecological lifestyle in the modern tropical city. It is where modern and natural life are compatible with each other.
Architect Firms: Vo Trong Nghia Architects, Sanuki + Nishizawa architects
Principal architects: Vo Trong Nghia, Shunri Nishizawa, Daisuke Sanuki
Status: built in June, 2013
Program: Private house for two families
Location: Binh Thanh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
GFA: 516 sqm
Site area: 140 sqm