by Zohra KhanMay 19, 2020
It is an entirely heartening predisposition when a single structure braves to define its context by extensively drawing from it. The Bat Trang House, located in the eponymous town where ceramic pottery is a nearly 10 decade old tradition, is a result of as well as testament to that concision. Designed by Ho Chi Minh City based Vo Trong Nghia Architects, from a brief for a residential structure for a seven-member family, the Bat Trang House develops in two distinct layers. Its exterior, formed of earth and rust coloured unglazed ceramic bricks, is inspired and informed by the traditional beauty of the town. Its interior, buffered by a series of court like volumes on different levels, almost ‘fed’ by its outer porous skin, adopts a more modern approach to ensure convenience and comfort for its inhabitants. Together, the house resonates and reflects, inward and outward, transforming into an almost respiratory entity.
In recent times, Vietnam, and a number of young firms in the country, more particularly, have displayed a sharp propensity for displaying a new brand of architecture: an identity emerging from limitations, of budget, land, and resources, paving the way for and lending itself to an array of energised innovation. Through the packed, vibrant streets of Vietnam’s bustling towns, it is not an uncommon sight to now spot an impeccably designed ‘block’ amidst ‘plots’. The eastern side of the globe, a laboratory for global architecture in the 21st century, is thus witness to an emergent, contrasting new architecture, between swirling opera houses lining the Chinese coast in the northern hemisphere, and an architecture informed by its footing in its part of the world in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. This is remarkably similar to the situation in the west, where such a dichotomy is similarly observed in the United States, and a fresh wave of Mexican architecture. Inspiration is sought in diversity, and diversity is being found through context, by looking and digging around.
Besides its residential typology, Bat Trang House also functions as a shop on the lower levels, trading traditional ceramic products of the pottery town. The residence, apart from embodying a strong sense of its surroundings and the firm’s distinct aesthetic, is also informed by a number of the client’s definitive choices, who defined his ideal home as one where nature intertwined with the other functions of the house. The owner of the plot also happened to be a ceramic specialist, leading to accessible and effortless material specialisation for VTN Architects. Apart from lending the project its entity in its ember-like hues, ceramic serves as an important intercessor here. Boasting of high durability as well as a distinct, raw aesthetic, ceramic is iteratively used to form the project’s weave like façade. Each of the ceramic blocks was individually made to size to create an alternating rhythm, opening up in some places while closing in others. While the smaller gaps act as natural vents, the larger ones frame bilateral views, interjected by sizeable greens that filter light inwards, forming natural avenues for each room to look at and attractive green terraces.
Following a minimal approach, the house generously makes use of large glass panels to frame selective fenestrations without the necessary oversight of having the house overheated, belonging to the climatic zone that it does. This is since the house essentially acts as a double screen, filtering direct sunlight and any glare unto its own, comprising the latticed ceramic façade and the green buffer between its skin and living spaces. Doubling up as an excellent ‘weave’ facilitating cross ventilation rendered the provision of artificial air conditioning beyond minimal demands redundant for the building, even during peak summer months.
The imbibed sustainability of the building through passive cooling measures and a grounded material palette is complemented by solar panels on the terrace, and rainwater collecting systems. Alternating ceramic openings partaking in a dynamic play of light and shadow, along with an arboretum within the building render it into a microcosm; a living, transforming mini-ecosystem of its own.
Name: Bat Trang House
Location: Bat Trang, Hanoi, Vietnam
Site area: 220m2
Architecture firm: VTN Architects
Principal architect: Vo Trong Nghia
Design team: Ngo Thuy Duong, Nguyen Van An, Do Huu Tam, Pham Phuong Thao.