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Planter Box House: A Narrow Lot Home with Edible Landscapes and Raw Concrete Façades

Planter Box House: A Narrow Lot Home with Edible Landscapes and Raw Concrete Façades

/ Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia /

/ Story: Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Ameen Deen /

Edible landscapes provide amazing benefits. But what if you don’t have space for them? Raised garden beds and planter boxes come in handy to deal with the challenges of living in a small space. This narrow lot home in Kuala Lumpur is a living proof of creative design and the advantage it brings to garden plants fit to be eaten. Done right, they thrive everywhere, building façades included.

Form panels made of bamboo strips leave their imprints on poured concrete surfaces and unadorned planter boxes on the building façade.

Boasting beautiful edible gardens and lush fruit trees, the modern home in KL affords 340 square meters of living and functional spaces. The overall effect is impressive notwithstanding its austere simplicity characterized by the rawness of concrete surfaces. But that’s precisely the quality that radiates curb appeal.

There’s more to it than meets the eye. The secrets to creating indoor thermal comfort and sustainable living environments lie in those planter boxes that adorn building façades at the front and back. Plus, the rooftop deck has even more room for raised garden beds filled with herbs, vegetables and fruit trees growing luxuriantly.

A drawing illustrates the positioning of living, functional and gardening spaces on all three levels of the house plan. / Courtesy of Ameen Deen
A side-elevation view of the house plan in cross section shows front and rear façades bedecked with deep planter boxes starting from ground level all the way to vegetable gardening spaces on the rooftop. / Courtesy of Ameen Deen

Named the Planter Box House, it’s the brainchild of Formzero, a homegrown architectural practice renowned for advocating sustainability and design best suited to the geographical features and the Tropical climate prevailing in this part of the Malaysian peninsula.

That being said, it’s designed to be power efficient, thanks to passive building strategies that include deep planter boxes on the balconies where lush trees and edible plants grow. Together they work in tandem to keep the sun and heat out, thereby regulating indoor temperatures by allowing just the right amounts of daylight and fresh outdoor air into the home.

From a distance, the planter boxes crafted of poured concrete have a rawness feel to them that blends seamlessly with trees in the vertical garden landscape. The building exteriors are made to appear untidy and unrefined by design.

Take a closer look, and you discover more than 40 types of edible plants. For safety, big trees are securely anchored in deep planter boxes. Needless to say, they fill passers-by with curiosity as to whether it’s some kind of a fruit orchard tucked in the middle of an urban neighborhood.

A drone’s eye view shows planter boxes filled with fruit trees overlooking edible plants in the front yard garden directly beneath them.

For lack of a better word, it’s a home in a class of itself, one made attractive by a forest of lush foliage and the upper branching of trees that set it apart from everything out there. The poured concrete surfaces lack sophistication as a result of bamboo strips being used to make concrete form boards.

For the architects who designed it, the house represents a fusion between heritage unique to this part of Kuala Lumpur and a new design concept that attempts to redefine Tropical residential architecture from a modern perspective.

A concrete form board made of bamboo strips leaves its imprint showcasing ridges and grooves on the surface in its austere simplicity.

Take a look inside and, surprise! The solid, unsophisticated exteriors belie the fact that the house plan is quite open and airy creating a sense of space, thanks to windows and doorways glazed using clear glass with generous wall openings strategically placed for good ventilation all year round.

Downstairs sitting room enclosed by a clear glass wall affords a view the front yard filled with thriving fruit trees.

The ground floor contains a kitchen and dining room lying furthest to the back of the house. A set of light and bright stairs crafted of steel separates them from a sitting parlor with comfortable furniture located upfront. The kitchen and dining room combo takes pride of place under a high ceiling that rises 6 meters from ground level.

It’s a spacious, well-lighted place, thanks to clear glass walls that stand tall from the floor to the ceiling. On the opposite side of the stairway, the sitting parlor affords a view of the front yard garden adorned with edible plants and trailing woody-stemmed vines handing down from concrete exteriors.

A steel staircase made light and airy by design separates the living room upfront from an open kitchen and dining room lying furthest to the back of the house.
The homeowner enjoys his retirement busy making art in the dining room enchanted by high-ceiling design.
A small piece of ground affords room for vegetable gardening right next to the kitchen and dining room.
A large dining table takes the most prominent position under a high ceiling that rises 6 meters from ground level. The room serving multiple purposes feels light and bright enclosed by a glass wall with swing doors opening to a small backyard.

Climb a flight of stairs, and you come to the second floor that’s in fact a private mezzanine containing a bedroom and a sitting room en suite. From here, the stairway continues on to third floor holding a quiet, secluded reading nook. Worthy of attention is that every part of the home is surrounded by vegetables and herb gardens growing luxuriantly at the in front and back of the building.

Concrete planter boxes and fruit trees provide a privacy screen for the semi-outdoor shower room enclosed by glass walls.

Proceed to the rooftop deck, and a beautiful panorama of the cityscape unfolds before us. Equally fascinating are lush and shadowy gardens developing vigorously covering the full extent of the deck space.

Low-profile barriers on the third-floor balcony afford a beautiful panorama of the cityscape.

Albeit small in size, it’s a living space that speaks volumes for the homeowner’s love of gardening. And it shows in the way raised garden beds and planter boxes are put in every possible place.

In the end, it boils down to ingenious design, the kind that’s fit for the warm and humid Tropical climate prevailing in this part of Malaysia. Plus, it’s a confluence of ideas resulting in crisp cool shade, good ventilation and indoor thermal comfort. Simply fantastic!

Architect: Formzero

Principal Architect: Lee Cherng Yih

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Nhà Voi 7 Gardens House: Small Size Not an Obstacle to Decorating with Greenery

Nhà Voi 7 Gardens House: Small Size Not an Obstacle to Decorating with Greenery

/ Can Tho, Vietnam/

/ Story: Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: MinQBui /

This narrow lot house is located in Can Tho, a modern city in the South of Vietnam. It lies on the south bank of the Hau River, one of several estuaries through which the Mekong River empties into the South China Sea. Like any busy city, it’s no stranger to incessant activity and overcrowded streets. That’s a practical difficulty for the design team at Da Vang Studio, a homegrown architectural practice based in Ho Chi Minh City. And they rise to the challenge by integrating as much green foliage as possible in the house plan. The result is impressive. The gardens house with a narrow frontage to the street transforms into an oasis of calm, one that offers plenty of comfortable living spaces in close touch with nature.

gardens house
The solid external envelope keeps the house interior safe and secure.

The elongated house plan occupies the full extent of the land that measures 4.5 meters wide and a whopping 23 meters long. As may be expected, the external envelope of the house also doubles as the perimeter of the garden.

The exterior walls are built tall and unable to be seen through for privacy reasons. Yet, the design team has found a way to provide physical ease and relaxation. They called their design approach “Fitting”, meaning everything has to be kept in proportion, nothing more or nothing less than what’s necessary.

Albeit small, it’s a light and airy, well-thought-out house plan.

The Floor Plans of Nhà Voi 7 Gardens House courtesy of DA VÀNG Studio.
In cross section, the elongated house plan illustrates linear arrangements of rooms, functionality, and greenery spaces. Correct building orientation paired with solid exterior walls protects the home from the sun’s harmful rays. Picture by Courtesy of DA VÀNG Studio.
Nhà Voi 7 Gardens House
Healthy green foliage lining the walls and the face of the building keeps the front yard light and breezy.

Nhà Voi 7 Gardens House
The kitchen and dining room combo lies at the front of the house plan illuminated by a full array of rooftop skylights.

The two-story house on a narrow lot offers plenty of usable spaces arranged in order of priority. Go in the front door, and you come into the hallway that connects to a dining room and kitchen.

The living room is halfway down the passage with a flight of stairs set against the wall leading to the second floor that holds two bedrooms.

The light and airy living room lies halfway down the passage decorated with small patches of greenery.
Adding visual interest to design, arched structures separate the living room from the stairway connecting to the second floor.

The quiet, more secluded master bedroom lies at the very end of the first floor that opens to a small sun-kissed courtyard. It’s protected by a lattice patio cover that lets the sun shine through and drives natural air circulation.

The light and airy master bedroom on the first floor opens to a small backyard garden.
The master bedroom has a view of the bright and breezy backyard that lies protected by a lattice patio cover.

Gardens House

Calming color and texture add a relaxing effect to one of the bedrooms on the second-floor.
The glass-brick wall admits natural daylight into the second-floor bathroom decorated with plants.

What makes this tiny house unique is the fact that all the indoor and outdoor rooms are enclosed behind solid walls. The feeling of being boxed in is nicely compensated by small interior courtyards and patches of greenery designed for comfort and relaxation.

Of the seven green spaces incorporated in the house plan, the front yard and the backyard are the biggest and the greenest. Adding a touch of nature to the interior, low-light and easy houseplants are positioned at intervals along the walls. Even the bathrooms have small patches of greenery that’s easy on the eyes.

Although small in size, this gardens house comes complete with comfortable living spaces and modern conveniences for healthy living.

Architect: DA VÀNG studio (

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