Best known for his inventive work with bamboo, lauded Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia has a new project that is decidedly less flashy than some of his eponymous firm’s other recent endeavors including tree-topped concrete planter houses.
The second stab at a prototype home designed specifically for low-income residents of the Mekong Delta whose existing — and largely temporary — dwellings have seen better days, S-House 2 offers comfortable, secure, resilient, affordable, and most importantly, permanent housing. While the home’s precast concrete frame is mass produced in the Long An Province, the lightweight rectangular structure truly starts to take form once it is delivered — possibly by long-boat — to its install site.
Prefabrication helps control quality and cost, and future mass production. Precast concrete frame and foundation guarantee predetermined stability and accuracy. The lightweight structure allows smaller foundation and transportability by small boats, since waterways are still the dominant transportation in Mekong Delta. Finishing materials like nipa palm leaves are sourced locally and assembled by dwellers and local workers all within the budget of US$4000 per house.
Topped with a corrugated concrete roof and clad with inexpensive, readily available/easily replaceable materials, S-House 2 was very much designed with the low-lying coastal region’s oppressive tropical climate in mind. The double-layer roof provides shelter from heavy rains, gaps between the roof and the walls offer natural ventilation, and polycarbonate panels provide for ample natural lighting while also serving as doors that can be left open to let in fresh air when the weather allows. In a nod to his beloved "green steel of the 21st century," the interior walls of the dwelling appear to look like thatched bamboo.
And although it may seem dainty by some standards, S-House 2 is palatial compared to what many residents of rural southwestern Vietnam are used to, offering three times more living space than the shoddily constructed makeshift shacks that dominate the area.
According to Dezeen, Vo Trong Nghia Architects is already at work developing a third prototype S-Home (the first had a steel frame) that will be even lighter and more simple to build than this second one.
Although a depature from Nghia's city-centric projects, S-House 2 is predominately featured in a recent episode of Rebel Architecture, Al Jazeera English’s fantastic, just wrapped-up series profiling six singular architects “who are using design as a form of activism and resistance to tackle the world's urban, environmental and social crises.” In addition to Nghia, other architects profiled include Ricardo de Oliveria (Brazil), Kunyle Adeyemi (Nigeria), Eyal Weizman (Israel), Yasmeen Lari (Pakistan) and Santiago Cirugeda (Spain).
Green architecture helps people live harmoniously with nature and elevates human life by embracing the powers of the sun, wind and water into living space. If the current way of thinking does not change, sooner or later citizens will actually live in concrete jungles. For a modern architect, the most important mission is to bring green spaces back to the earth.
Do take the time to watch not only the Nghia episode, dubbed “Greening the City,” but Rebel Architecture in its entirety.
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