by Meghna MehtaJan 12, 2021
Floating Nest, conceived by atelier NgNg, can be best described as a narrow house that rises from a crowded residential area within Ho Chi Minh City; a latticed bamboo screen covering the entire length of its street facing façade. The dwelling combines modern design aesthetics with that of traditional Vietnamese architecture. The client, a mother with two children, is passionate about gardening and so requested atelier NgNg for an airy, sufficiently lit, soothing space that she could come back to after a hectic day at work, with blossoming pockets of green to satisfy her love for growing plants and flowers.
Constructed and completed despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Floating Nest sits on a compact plot of 4x12m, akin to many other houses in the area. It is blocked by neighbouring structures on three of its sides, while the fourth one faces the west. The woven bamboo curtain is specifically placed on this side to screen the harsh western sun and boost natural ventilation, to provide privacy as well as for aesthetic relief, relays the Vietnam-based research and design studio. The verticality of the façade is decorated by a brown iron gate, and a bamboo lattice skin with three arched balconies that jut out from each floor, as if they float. “It seems like architectural elements appear to be hung in the air,” says Dung Ngo, co-founder and principal, atelier NgNg.
To give the spaces inside a lighter feel, ‘greenery’ and ‘voids’ essay the role of functional room dividers, to omit the use of partition walls, thus allowing for enhanced natural lighting and ventilation. Three large voids inform the residential architecture – a front and back garden which spans all three floors, separating it from the busy street. A light well sits across the two upper floors, separating the home office from the resting space, and the garden from the worship area below.
Likewise, small gardens are placed periodically to separate the interior and exterior, the washroom from the bedroom and kitchen, and the stairs from the bedrooms. According to the studio, this was done for a smoother spatial transition, in tandem with ensuring that all functional spaces are in contact with nature.
The exterior bamboo screen references the rattan walls seen in traditional Vietnamese countryside architecture, and rolls up to provide shade on the rooftop. The material palette employed is also a combination of the contemporary and traditional, reflective of features seen in Vietnamese villages – glass and iron make friends with rustic bamboo and wood. Phi Nguyen, co-founder and principal of atelier NgNg, remarks that other reasons for choosing bamboo includes it being found in plenty locally, it is both environmentally friendly and economical, and also to advertise its organic nature.
The exterior continues inside the backyard skylight that hangs above the stairwell, also fashioned out of vertical bamboo sticks. “This enables a visual connection with the façade while serving as a sunshade. It also lets filtered light go through, creating interesting shadows as well as happy sounds like wind chimes hung in gardens,” adds Nguyen.
The coffee brown entrance gate at the ground floor hosts CNC iron partitions with cut out leaves, a stylised version of a traditional wind screen (bình phong). These textured sheets are also used as sunshade on the balconies and continue inside as decorative space dividers. Simple terrazzo flooring against white walls and ceilings define most of the earthy interior design, apart from the bedrooms that see polished, warm wooden floors.
One steps into the plain living room that leads into a dining area with a six-seater wooden table, that extends into a kitchen and sink island, and a washroom at the rear. Enclosing the small plant filled courtyard at the back of the house is an L-shaped staircase with glass rails that connects all floors, proceeding first into a mezzanine floor with a bedroom with an attached washroom and closet. This is followed by the first floor where a small study prefaces another bedroom, with a closed off balcony. A similar bedroom plan is followed in the proceeding floor minus the study.
Arched doors form entrances to all bedrooms, which are decorated with the same CNC iron sheets, with small pocket gardens attached to the washrooms with stone sinks. Greens are beautifully planned to weave in throughout the small residential design, sprucing it up instantly and infusing calm energy throughout. “All these elements sing together to create the feeling of a house as an open, connected whole,” informs Ngo.
To reduce structural weight, thin sheets of iron are used as architectural components that are usually built with concrete such as stairs, balconies, sunshades and plant pots, and are treated to look like they hang freely in the air. This material is also employed as backdrops to the spaces inside the Floating Nest, such as the altar on the upper floors, which is the most important area according to the client. This extends down to the lower floors and transitions into a meditation space.
“These different strategies make the whole house feel light, as if it were floating in a large green space and filled with light. At dusk, when the sun sets, the light from inside the house shines through the gaps between the bamboo trunks and the leave cuts on the iron walls, making the house look like a lantern in the middle of the neighborhood,” continues Ngo.
“Because the house is built on a very small and narrow lot, we wanted to achieve the most openness and lightness in terms of form and space. All volumes and architectural elements, thus are deliberately designed to feel like they are defying gravity - from the omission of partitioned walls, the use of open space to separate functional spaces, to the seemingly floating balconies, planters, staircase and the plants that subtly spice up the simple design,” concludes Nguyen.
Name: Floating Nest
Location: Quan 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Gross Built Area: 192 sqm
Year of completion: 2020
Architect: Atelier NgNg
Lead Architects: Dung Ngo, Phi Nguyen
Technical Team: Ngo Viet Hung, Do Van Dung
Structural Engineering: Viet Technical Co. Ltd