The Owner-Builder Network

Stacking Green

Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam – Vo Trong Nghia

Built:  2011
Area:  250m2 (2,700 sq ft)

Vo Trong Nghia is unquestionably one of the world’s great architects.  After studying architecture in Vietnam, he was chosen for a prime scholarship in Japan where he worked for some years with that country’s leading architects on major commercial, industrial and high-rise residential developments.  Eschewing fame and fortune, he returned to where his heart lay – Vietnam.  His focus has been on green design and construction, often using bamboo.

Stacking Green

The home shown here, although concrete, brick and iron, meets any standard of ‘green’.  Twelve vertical gardens front and rear and a roof garden separate the owners from the outside world, offering a filtered light and cooling shade in an otherwise tropical climate.

The home sits on a site just 4 metres wide by 20 metres deep, a lot size that is apparently very common in Vietnam.  The houses built on these sites are colloquially known as ‘tube houses”.  Here are the architect’s notes:

Whoever wanders around Saigon, a chaotic city with the highest density of population in the world, can easily find flower-pots cramped and displayed here and there all around the streets. This interesting custom has formed the character of Saigon over a long period of time and Saigonese love their life with a large variety of tropical plants and flowers in their balconies, courtyards and streets.

The house, designed for a thirty-year-old couple and their mother, is a typical tube house constructed on the plot 4m wide and 20m deep. The front and back facades are entirely composed of layers of concrete planters cantilevered from two side walls. The distance between the planters and the height of the planters are adjusted according to the height of the plants, which varies from 25 cm to 40 cm. To water plants and for easy maintenance, we use the automatic irrigation pipes inside the planters. We named this tropical, unique and green house “Stacking Green” because its façades filled with vigorous and vital greenery.

The house structure is an RC frame structure widely used in Vietnam. The partition walls are very few in order to keep interior fluency and view of green façades from every point of the house. During the day we get the varying light with the time of day trimmed by the top-light in the centre. In the morning and the afternoon, the sunlight enters through the amount of leafs on both façades, creating beautiful shadow effects on the granite walls, which are composed of strictly stacked 2cm stones.

The green façade and roof top garden protect its inhabitants from the direct sunlight, street noise and pollution. Furthermore, natural ventilation through the façades and 2 top-lights allow this house to save a big energy in a harsh climate in Saigon.

Concerning these ecological approaches, we referred a lot to the bioclimatic principles of traditional Vietnamese courtyard house. In this chaotic city, we defined the full variety of surrounding greenery as a context of Saigon and applied to the main concept of this house.

Although the Saigon townscape is getting uniformed and boring under the influence of the furious urban sprawl of recent years, we intended this house to inspire people to re-define and re-increase the greenery as the character of this city. “Stacking Green” is just one small house, but it is generated from the context of Saigon. We hope that “Stacking Green” makes Saigon become more distinguished and fascinating with much more tropical greenery in the future.

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Another beautiful work by this architect is The Wind and Water Café


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