Right in the middle of the chaotic city of Saigon rises an average ‘tube house’; the only difference is that this one is a cynosure of all eyes on the outside and a haven of comfort on the inside.
Saigon in Vietnam is a disorganised and hectic city with the highest population density in the world. The inhabitants of the city however have a self confessed penchant for flowers and plants and it is because of this that these are displayed in every available free space on its streets. The Vietnamese are blessed with a cornucopia of local tropical plants and flowers and are adept at enjoying these to the fullest.
Architect Vo Trong Nghia of Vietnam is creating many a ripple on the world’s architectural scene these days especially with his project called the Water and Wind Cafe in Vietnam.
Nghia was born in 1976 in Quang Binh; he started architectural training at the Hanoi Architectural University which then continued for some years in Japan. He has been the recipient of a gold medal at the Asian Architects Association’s ARCASIA Awards in 2007. In 2009 he took home two prizes; the 2009 International Architecture Awards in Helsinki, Finland and the shared Silver prize at the Global Holcim Awards. Vo Trong Nghia believes in thinking out of the box and considers no project to be too big or too small. It is this quality of his that led Hoang Thi Thu Ha, an acquaintance who had to relocate to her home country after living in Canada, decided to take his assistance.
After relocating what she could afford was a narrow, dimly lit ‘tube house’, a common residential design in Vietnam. The tall house which had room upon room stacked vertically was uncomfortable; its windows let in too much dust when open and when closed rendered the house without any ventilation.
Vo Trong Nghia, the celebrated Vietnamese architect who honed his minimalist aesthetic in Japan and shared the owner’s appreciation for sustainable design came up with a novel plan for the house.
The ecologically conscious modern style involved sandwiching the long tubular inner space with vertical gardens. Rows of carefully selected plants flank two sides of the house. On the inside every interior space can look out on two sides at lines of beautifully matched plants. From the outside two facades of the house are seen to have row upon row of different plants creating a beautiful, living green sheath. When completed it was given the moniker of ‘Stacking Green’. In a time frame of just eight months Vo Trong Nghia completed the house and turned the owners’ plight into joy.
Landscape design has always been an element which comes in to complete the house with a complimentary design. Here the tool of landscaping became the very core of the house solving its big and small issues and turning the house into a city garden that could be enjoyed from within as well as from without.
The neat rows of potted plants do the job of negating the ever present noise and dust and at the same time let in air which is filtered by the plants themselves.
Ms. Ha, may have become slightly busier with the onus of watering and caring for the multitude of tropical plants, but as anyone with a green thumb will tell you, it is hardly a chore for a nature lover especially if the happy outcome is that tiny yellow butterflies idle over the plants all day and the scent of flowers wafting in creates a heady ambience.
Text By Mala Bajaj
Photographs Courtesy Hiroyuki Oki