Dynamic. Chaotic. Intimidating. Sweaty. Bonkers. Delicious. While many words can be used to describe the singular experience that is Ho Chi Minh City, "verdant" has rarely been one of them.
A sprawling, traffic-ridden concrete and glass jungle through and through, Vietnam’s largest city isn’t exactly blessed in the greenery department (you’ll have to venture to the countryside if you're looking to commune with Mother Nature), when compared to some other Southeast Asian cities. In fact, only .25 percent of the landscape within the Ho Chi Minh metro region — home to well over 9 million people — could be considered as remotely vegetative.
As a means of reintroducing much-needed greenery to the former Saigon, the award-winning eponymous firm of Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia has developed a lovely and unusual dwelling that resembles a quintet of oversized concrete planters — an arrangement you’d be more likely to find on the patio steps than in the uber-dense residential heart of a bustling city.
Dubbed House for Trees, the residence boasts 2,432-square-feet of fragmented living space spread out amongst five boxy, green-roofed structures — “pots,” as the architects refer to them — clustered around a shady central courtyard that serves as both an al fresco living room and nexus that connects each living area. As you can see, the fragmented home’s namesake perennial plants — banyan trees, to be exact — emerge from the top of each bi-level box: dining room, library, kitchen, and other communal living areas can be found on the ground floors while the second floors, connected by metal bridges, is where you’ll find private bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. Interesting — instead of kids fighting over what bedroom they’ll sleep in, they’ll be fighting over which gigantic planter to call home.
All of the people-sized planters are two-story affairs with the exception of the smallest, which houses an alter room.
In addition to filtering air pollution, the lush planter-roofs act as stormwater basins to help prevent localized flooding. The green roofs also help to insulate the home and muffle noise, important when your living in an awkwardly positioned lot crammed in between existing homes on all sides with no street access.
Explain the project architects, who have explored other unique methods of incorporating greenery into space-sensitive residential projects.
The aim of project is to return green space into the city, accommodating high-density dwelling with big tropical trees. Five concrete boxes, each houses a different program, are designed as “pots” to plant trees on their tops. With thick soil layer, these “pots” also function as storm-water basins for detention and retention, therefore contribute to reduce the risk of flooding in the city when the idea is multiplied to a large number of houses in the future.
Constructed with load-bearing concrete walls over a bamboo framework along with a host of locally sourced materials to help reduce both cost and the associated carbon footprint, House for Trees was built with a modest budget of just $156,000 according to Vo Trong Nghia Architects.
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