by Jerry ElengicalFeb 04, 2023
If the west’s architectural ideology and its age’s chief innovation is rooted in the glass-and-steel skyscraper, the east, or at least the Asia-Pacific region, seems to have found a remarkable style, a voice almost, in its modernist re-interpretation of an age-old, vernacular style of building. This succinct language is at fine display especially in the residential sector, where a definitive niche seems to have been carved by emergent practices in Vietnam. My self-initiated enquiry, then, into the characteristics of Vietnamese architecture at large, and residential architecture in the country in particular, has even suggested that the source of innovation for the kind of architecture that is under the lens here, may actually stem from a resource limitation. The residential landscape in this part of the world is fast transforming, for the better, and I see a lateral shift in thinking on the part of clients and homeowners as well, fast approaching. This is especially significant in the post-COVID era, wherein the notions associated with a home itself have been slightly eschewed from places that one would visit between work, to a space for holistic recreation, a refuge in the most literal sense. Larger questions of context, a term that is, largely, also dependant on population density in these regions, all stand to be redefined through such interventions. Hoa’s house, located in a dense mixed-use neighbourhood in Ho Chi Minh City and designed by H.2 Architects, is a fine addition to that repertoire.
Remarkably designed and constructed on a site measuring only 113 sq.m. as a second home for a client from Saigon, the house then professes a unique choice for a place for unwinding, and for the client to indulge in “resort-style” living. This is in stark contrast to most such second home respites digging their foundations far away from any sort of jostling “urban space. Hoa’s house firmly positions itself in the midst of a bustling market town, and much of its architectural language is in response to shielding the house from the commotion outside, while also carving spaces that allow for necessary commerce to proliferate within its premises. Along the client’s brief, the purpose of the house is thus defined with a “minimalist outside space that is also modern and fully functional inside”, reflecting a key trait of the resident’s personality of being a realist, interpreted by the architects through a plethora of vegetation and relatively unadorned finishes on the undulating surface of the house.
With a diverse spatial program spread across six floors, Hoa’s House falls under the umbrella of an apartment building that is designed to fulfil multiple purposes. Being in close vicinity of a major market street, roughly half the area on the ground floor of the structure is leased out for business, while the other half comprises a garage space and a few services. The floors above adopt a much softer approach in developing habitable spaces that take into account, basic livability needs for its residents. With a centralised layout that essentially looks out, all spaces of the house are planned to have either direct physical, or visual contact with the green terraces outside, adding an essential layer of rejuvenation for better living.
The floors above comprise the primary and secondary residential spaces of the house, with three small and large sized apartments for rent on the first and second floors respectively. In a bid for effective space planning along the vertical plane, both these floors house sleeping and resting quarters on connected mezzanine floors above the respective access level for the floors. The owner’s sprawling residence begins with the third floor, consisting of a master bedroom, two small bedrooms, and a semi-open living space. Interestingly, service spaces for this residence are situated on a separate floor above, housing a kitchen and dining room, opening up to expansive views of the city, and a green terrace hosting perennial plants and a vegetable garden that complements the kitchen. The garden is outwardly enclosed by elegantly curved arched openings in the concrete walls of the house’s inner envelope, implying an increasingly reductive floor footprint on successive levels, with green communes and rugged landscapes on the resulting intermediate terraces. The building’s terrace on the top floor is partly occupied with an office space for the client that overlooks the entire market street and the city below, connecting with the kitchen below via a partly open staircase.
The residence’s best quality, that of its regulated porosity, comes alive in the undulating sheath wrapping the upper floors of the residence, forming the most distinct part of the house’s façade and visual identity. Constructed of iron frames and cemboards, the sheath matches the overall bare, concretised aesthetic of the residence. The team of architects at H.2 terms this a “ventilation wall”, ensuring necessary privacy for the residents along with latticed views of the life that the pulsating street proliferates, and natural light and ventilation for the sizeable vegetation harboured within. It is through these series of interventions that the house transcends typical characteristics of newly constructed residences. The overgrown vegetation on the upper floors peeps through the lattice; the cracks in the exposed concrete arches present a layer of rather untold stories, of agedness, of a lived-in quality that is hard to otherwise cultivate, even in years altogether.
Name: Hoa’s House
Location: Ward 13, Binh Gia street, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Design Team: Trần Văn Huynh, Nguyễn Thi Xuân Hải, Nguyễn Đức Khánh, Nguyễn Văn Hóa, Đỗ Trọng Nhân Kiệt, Nguyễn Văn Trung
Interior: KAA Studio
Gross Built Area: 113 sq.m.
Construction: AT cons
Lighting: Megan Man