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House for Trees 24.09.14

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  • The trees help to shade the courtyard

  • The external walls are made from bamboo-shuttered concrete

  • A tree grows out of a deep planter on the roof of each block

Vo Trong Nghia's prototype for a family house, made up of five small linked blocks, aims to reconnect Ho Chi Minh City dwellers with nature

Ho Chi Minh City, the capital of Vietnam, is a sprawling metropolis with a population well on the way to exceeding ten million inhabitants. The rapid growth of the city over recent years has led to an urban condition that is frequently defined by a super-dense pack of buildings on small, narrow sites, surrounded by roads overwhelmed by cars and motorbikes.

The House for Trees, by prominent young Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia, is an attempt to rescue a sense of nature from this extreme congestion.

The site of the House for Trees is a small courtyard surrounded by high-density development, and is accessed only through a narrow passageway from the street. Within this cramped space, the functions of the single-family house have been broken up into five small blocks that offer a variety of different ways of treating inside and outside space. On each of the roofs is a deep earth pit from which grows a tree.

The arrangement of the blocks creates two smaller courtyards, with the more family-oriented spaces such as the kitchen and library located at the lower level. One block functions as a toilet and vertical circulation core, off which radiate a series of walkways that provide shade and lead to the more private bedroom spaces on the upper levels.

The ground-level external surface is made from concrete blocks set in grass, creating a quasi-lawn effect, while the external walls of each block are made from bamboo-shuttered concrete. The interiors have walls finished in locally sourced brick, with polished screed floors and full-height openable glazed walls. This means that the external spaces can be considered as extensions of the internal rooms.

The shade created by the trees, walkways and the blocks themselves provides shelter from the heat of the city, and the detailing of the materials helps to lessen heat retention in the building fabric. The tree pots also collect water to help protect against flooding during the rainy season. But beyond the immediate functional requirements, Vo Trong Nghia sees the project as being a prototype for urban development that stops people losing their connection with nature. By drawing greenery back into the building, he hopes to offer "a tropical lifestyle that coexists with nature".

Vo Trong Nghia works in design partnership with a contractor, Wind and Water House, to create buildings that combine experiments
into sustainable construction with both contemporary international design and Asian architectural traditions. In projects such as Stacking Green (2011) – a tall, thin block with an interior shaded by planters that run all the way up the building – or the Binh Thanh House (2013), which combines concrete shading and tropical terraces, they've hit upon a methodology that reinterprets local traditions for the values of the 21st century. It is an approach that is fast gaining them global recognition and awards.



Douglas Murphy


Images: Hiroyuki Oki

quotes story

By drawing greenery back into the building, he hopes to offer "a tropical lifestyle that coexists with nature"

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