Blog : green facade

The Hiên House: A Wood and Concrete Home Full of Balcony and Terrace Ideas

The Hiên House: A Wood and Concrete Home Full of Balcony and Terrace Ideas

/ Da Nang, Vietnam /

/ Story: Kanamon Najaroen / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Quang Dam /

This Tropical style house is in Da Nang, a coastal city in central Vietnam famous for its gleaming sand beaches, Buddhist shrines and the Marble Mountains. The beautiful Han River runs through it. The home built of wood and concrete goes by the name of “The Hiên House” for its lively green façades, Hiên being Vietnamese for the semi-outdoor rooms along the outside of the building.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home

The house’s external envelope is simple yet contemporary in style enhanced by verdant balconies and terraces symbolic of homes in the Tropics. Plus, there’s a unique Vietnamese flair to it. As the architects intended, it’s a layout that speaks volumes for a lifestyle that seeks reconnections with nature.

The concept is manifested in the way the ordinary balconies and terraces transform into the proverbial “breathing space” for nature to recover from disruptions. That said, it makes perfect sense to live more sustainably in this day and age.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home

Wood and Concrete House

Situated away from a densely populated urban area, the wood and concrete house occupies the full extent of a long and narrow lot sandwiched between two roads. It’s home to three generations of a family highly skilled in traditional carpentry living in one household.

There are four stories of living spaces, excluding a rooftop deck. By design, the floor plans cater to the needs of different generations and hence vary in size and appearance from one level to the next. To celebrate the family’s distinguished career in carpentry, the architects made woodworking front-and-center concerns in house design and interior decoration.

During construction, the homeowners were also on hand to provide technical expertise at various stages in the process, especially where traditional Vietnamese woodworking skill was needed.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
The light and airy front entrance is visible from the driveway covered in stone pavers.

To help protect the environment, the design team at WINHOUSE Architecture, a design atelier headquartered in Da Nang, chose to use reclaimed wood instead of newly cut timber from the lumberyard. The recycled building materials used in this project included parts of the staircase, such as treads and risers taken from old homes that had been torn down previously.

Other parts were adapted from old decking, post sleeves, balusters and handrails as well as wooden fascia. They were made suitable for a new use or purpose. And, importantly, they were easy to transport and repair without using specialized tools.

Timber is durable even as it ages. It’s safe to handle and capable of withstanding heat and humidity in the air over a long period of time. Old and weathered wood has a natural appearance that’s beautiful and needs no preservative chemicals to prolong its lifecycle, which translates into big savings and convenience. Using reclaimed wood in combination with local knowledge and modern techniques add a new dimension to construction technology.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home

Balconies and Terraces for Free Air Circulation

What sets the four-story house apart from the rest is its surprising room ideas and lively green balconies that fill up the entire front façade. They are integral to a design that brings natural light and fresh outdoor air into the home. At the same time, they help dissipate heat from the building keeping the interior cool during the daytime.

Elements of design common for Southeast Asian architecture, the roofed open-air platforms along the outside of the building, be it the balcony or the terrace, perform many useful functions. Among other things, they expand the living areas, protect against the elements, and provide space for sitting rooms and passages for walking along.

First Floor Plan / Courtesy of WINHOUSE Architecture
Second Floor Plan / Courtesy of WINHOUSE Architecture
Third Floor Plan / Courtesy of WINHOUSE Architecture
In cross section, a side elevation drawing shows space planning decorated with plants working in tandem with wall openings to admit natural light and fresh outdoor air into the home. / Courtesy of WINHOUSE Architecture
Isometric visuals show reclaimed building materials being adapted to suit new purposes on all four levels of the new home. The message is clear: save the Earth and cut costs. / Courtesy of WINHOUSE Architecture

As is often the case with most houses, the elements of design such as balconies and terraces are built on the outside of the house. But in this particular case, the architects think it wise to incorporate them in the interior as well, sort of like going in the reverse direction. First they put in an inner courtyard at the center of the ground floor plan.

Then, by disposing the rooms around the courtyard, the areas with a faint light, such as the sitting room and workspaces, suddenly become well-lit and well-ventilated. It’s a clever hack to bring the outdoors into the home. The result is a comfortable living space filled with natural light and fresh air that contributes to feelings of relaxation.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
The kitchen in the farthest room is well-lit and well-ventilated.
THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
Going in the reverse direction, the terrace that in most cases lies along the outside of the house is put inside overlooking a lively green inner courtyard.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home

Taking as a whole, the traffic patterns and space design make the long and narrow house plan feel roomy inside. Walk in the front door and you come to a hallway that’s light and airy, thanks to a rooftop skylight illuminating the stairs connected to a foot bridge over the nearby inner courtyard. There is no need to turn on electric lights during the daytime, which translates into big savings.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
Illuminated by a rooftop skylight, the staircase and foot bridge spanning the void over the inner courtyard make traffic flow easy and convenient.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
A well-lit foot bridge crafted of reclaimed timber connects the major living spaces in the home.

Climb a flight of stairs to the second floor, and surprise! It’s divided into two separate parts, the front room and the back room linked by a foot bridge that spans the void above the inner courtyard. The same space planning applies to the third floor, except for one thing. The next staircase leading to the fourth floor is positioned further toward the back of the building. The front part holds a bedroom with a balcony decorated with lush greenery.


Cross over the foot bridge, and you come to the back room containing a workspace and sitting room. The fourth floor contains a quiet, more secluded reading room with a bright and breezy small garden for relaxation. It’s a comfortable living space and the light is more diffuse under the canopy of trees.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
Plants growing luxuriantly make the house façade green and lively.

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home

THE HIÊN HOUSE concrete home
Local builders skilled in traditional carpentry reinforce wood beams and pillars for increased load capacities.

In conclusion, the wood and concrete home called “The Hiên House” lives up to its name. All the elements of good judgement in design go to work turning it into an oasis of calm. Everything works out as it should, from a well-lit, well-aired inner courtyard to the plants, trees and small gardens thriving luxuriantly on the balconies and terraces. Perhaps, one word describes it all, salubrious!

Architects: WINHOUSE Architecture

Structural Engineers: Bim City

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Urban Farming Office: VTN Architects’ Office Gives Back Lush Greenery

Urban Farming Office: VTN Architects’ Office Gives Back Lush Greenery

/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam /

/ Story: Phattaraphon / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Hiroyuki Oki /

The design studio of VTN Architects (Vo Trong Nghia Architects) sits comfortably ensconced in a plant-covered six-story building in Ho Chi Minh City. The 1,300-square-meter office block is adorned with balconies containing lush green gardens that combine to create a vibrant building shell. It’s a design based on an understanding of the challenges facing big cities and the importance of environmental conservation.

VTN Architects

Far and wide a lack of recreation areas and green spaces, coupled with rapidly worsening air pollution, is causing serious health problems for people in urban areas. It’s for this reason that living trees and shrubs are integrated into the ‘ building’s external envelope.

The result is a green office block that brings fresh air to the design. Here, easy-care trees cool the air, provide shade, and filter out dangerous, fine particulate matter. It transforms ideas into solutions as Vietnam, a developing country, joins a global network of advanced manufacturing hubs.

Precisely, it’s a design rooted in good environmental management practice that aims to minimize human impacts on surrounding ecosystems – a fact that’s easy to overlook when planning a building. Also known as the Urban Farming Office, it communicates a message that failure to do so will have unpredictable and often undesirable consequences.

VTN Architects

VTN Architects

VTN Architects

The Urban Farming Office isn’t just home to a design studio. It’s also a perfect example of innovative companies driven by a desire to go green in the workplace.

Plus, it gives back healthy lush foliage and a breath of fresh air to the city. That’s not all though. It draws attention to many possibilities of vertical gardening – techniques to grow more in less space.

From the outside looking in, the building façade looks like a botanical laboratory lined with decorative concrete containers where trees and plants grow. They are mostly easy-to-care-for native plants that thrive in local ecosystems. Where appropriate, seasonal vegetables, herbs and spices are grown organically to meet family needs. It’s a way to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

And it’s safe, eco-friendly, and even energy efficient.

VTN Architects

VTN Architects

VTN Architects

From a distance, thriving vegetation turns the bland building shell into a lushly planted living façade. Overall it’s a straightforward concrete construction with outdoor platforms attached to the side of the building.

These balconies are filled with modular concrete planters designed to be moved easily depending on the height and growth of trees. This ensures that each particular species gets sufficient amounts of sun to grow.

Combine biodiversity in the balcony and rooftop gardening with the surrounding landscape, and you get an expansive urban forest that amounts to 190 percent of the total project area. As the architect puts it, this translates into 1.1 tons of vegetation including native edible plants, vegetables, herbs and fruit trees carefully chosen as being the best and most suitable.

Also, it’s organic farming and the quality of being diverse that give the office building a cheerful and positive personality.

VTN Architects

VTN Architects

VTN Architects

Walk past the front façade, and you come before an inviting first impression. The window, doorframe and exterior wall are glazed entirely with glass to protect interior rooms from the elements.

On the outside, lush green vegetation doubles as a building envelope that filters out harsh sunlight while allowing plenty of fresh, outdoor air to pass into the interior workspaces. Plant watering is done using rainwater stored in catch basins strategically placed around the building.

The irrigation method that sprays water droplets overhead with sprinklers also keeps the ambient temperature cool, thereby saving money on air conditioning costs.

On every level, the open floor plan boasts clean lines that make the interior workspace look more spacious and well-ventilated all day long. All told, it’s the ingenious double wall design that makes living a whole lot easier and less stressful.

VTN Architects

VTN Architects

To give a brief summary, green architecture isn’t the only feature that makes this office building stand out from the rest. Rather, it’s also the image of organizational culture that speaks volumes for the determination of the architects who live and work here.

VTN Architects have demonstrated that humans and the environment can coexist symbiotically. This is achievable by letting nature permeate and be a crucial part of the city and any office design. It’s the way forward in creating a more equitable, sustainable future.

VTN Architects

Owner/Architect: VTN Architects (Vo Trong Nghia Architects)


7-Story Ivy-Covered Home with a Green Façade

7-Story Ivy-Covered Home with a Green Façade

/ Bangkok, Thailand /
/ Story: Ath Prapunwattana / Photograph: Rithirong Chanthongsuk /

This 7-storey concrete house, blanketed with a refreshing green façade, has angles everywhere, with one especially remarkable section dominated by slanting red posts and beams.


Chatrawichai Phromthattawethi, interior decorator and owner of the company “Pro Space,” lived in a two-storey building for 15 years before finding it too small and building a new place on a nearby property. On that limited space he built upwards rather than out, in fact seven storeys up.

“Designing, we weren’t thinking primarily about style, but utility. The space was narrow, so we built tall.

“Then with a 4-storey townhouse next door we figured an ordinary building would seem too cramped, so we made the building structure visible: posts, beams and deep spaces into open walls creating dimensions of light and shade, adding panache with one section of oddly slanting posts painted red, set off with flowers here and there.”

Angular concrete building animated by the refreshing green of a quick-growing ivy.
Spiral stair where people can come into the office on business without entering the house.
Roof deck: garden spot with swimming pool, an outdoor living room.

Even closed in next to a small street, Chatrawichai’s design still provides nearly 1,000 square meters of usable space.

“Depending on use, each floor has a different height.

“The ground floor, with garage and kitchen, is moderately tall. The second floor is an office, and the third holds the butler & maid’s room, all normal height. We use the fourth floor for entertaining, so it’s spacious, with a higher ceiling than the others.

“The fifth floor has a guest bedroom and storage space, the sixth is my bedroom, and the seventh floor holds a living room and dining room set at different levels according to usage; the living room has a higher ceiling. On the roof is a deck, swimming pool, and garden.”

Chatrawichai agrees that this is an unusual design for him, with its red exterior posts at odd angles and interior ceilings displaying working utility systems, plus use of unusual materials such as metallic structural highlights in certain spots, creating a much different residential feeling than before and incidentally requiring a lot of detailed work during construction.

For the interior, furniture and décor mostly come from the old house, a mix of many styles – modern, classic, and antique – matched with exceptional taste because the colors were chosen in advance, primarily framed in a context of gray and black.

Colorful ornaments such as cloth or bright pictures hung on the wall add vitality.

“Coming from a two-storey house, at first living here took some getting used to. It was a tall building with the green façade, but definitely no condo; how to live in such a place? In the end, though, we found it wasn’t all that different,” Chatrawichai adds.

Design: Pro Space Co.,Ltd. by Chatvichai Phromthattadhevi

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Modern Tropical House in Ho Chi Minh City


Well-Made Home on a Narrow Lot



A Modern Breeze Blocks Tropical House in Ho Chi Minh City

A Modern Breeze Blocks Tropical House in Ho Chi Minh City

      / Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam /

/ Story: Wuthikorn Suthiapa/ English version: Peter Montalbano /

/ Photographs: Tanakitt Khum-on /

 The architecture of this modern breeze blocks tropical house in Ho Chi Minh City is perfectly suited to the hot, humid climate, with an imaginative counterpoint of plants, greenery, and airy openings keeping it shady and pleasant inside and out.

Sun diversion screens: the design comes from the hollow brick concept, but uses larger units, so the breeze enters more deeply and freely while keeping intense sun and rain from indoor areas.
A spiral staircase rises to the second floor.
The Nishizawa Architects office area

Shunri Nishizawa, architect and owner of this 5-story row house, designed the Nishizawa Architects office into the basement. Floors 1-3 are rented to a Vietnamese family with bedroom and dining room on the first floor, living room on the second, and more bedrooms on floor three. The Nishizawa family itself has its living room on the fourth floor and bedrooms on the fifth.

Levels from basement up to the fifth floor alternate between open and closed design, according to their use. Catching sunshine and natural breezes, the second- and fourth-story balconies are edged with small gardens.

This makes the tall building less constricted while allowing for easy air circulation from the front through to the back. Alternating levels extend out from the building’s frame, floors above shading the ones below.


The small gardens also make residents feel relaxed, filter out intense light, and cool the breezes blowing through. Floors two and four feature concrete ceilings sculpted with curves rather than the harsh lines often found in concrete buildings, softening reflected light and creating the sensation of being in natural stone caves.

Shunri says, “This house shows a true combination of ‘tropical’ and ‘modern’ architectural design coming from understanding traditional living patterns in this hot, humid Vietnamese climate as well as how to set things up perfectly for contemporary life.

“It’s safe and secure living with modern comforts such as air conditioning, yet still answers our need to be close to nature, with sunlight, breezes, and open spaces connecting to garden and plants right here in the house.”

For versatility in design, Shunri draws on his experience growing up with multipurpose spaces common in Japanese homes. Areas such as the living room are strategically partitioned to block direct light and view, simultaneously giving privacy and an open feeling.

Hollow blocks, a popular Vietnamese building material, inspired the design of larger outside openings for efficient sun and rainstorm protection.

More than just comfortable living, this house offers a charming blend of nature and architecture, snuggled up to natural phenomena right in the middle of  Ho Chi Minh City.

This breeze blocks tropical house is actually much better described as a “house and garden” than simply a “building.”


Architect: Nishizawa Architects

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Stacking Green: How To Create Natural Design in Your Row House

Stacking Green: How To Create Natural Design in Your Row House

/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam /

/ Story: Ekkarach Laksanasamrith / English version: Peter Montalbano /

/ Photographs: Soopakon Srisakul /

This house, named ‘Stacking Green’, is located in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a residential row house with an interesting form and exterior that has drawn to see with our own eyes.

row house
The stairwell reaches the top floor of the house, where there is a guest bedroom and a section with the roof deck.
Since the house shape is long and narrow, bringing sunlight into the space is a very good choice.

This building received the 2012 World Architecture Festival Award in Singapore. The award was presented to outstanding designers and architectural works around the globe.

“Stacking Green’s” citation for architectural excellence in the residential building category was not surprising at all, as its ways of dealing with complex problems in a simple way yielded a truly interesting outcome.

row house

The townhouse with four stories is 4 meters wide and 20 meters deep, for a total of 250 square meters of usable space. This was designed especially for the three who would live there.

One of them was an old person, hence the bedroom was placed on the lowest floor so no stairs would have to be climbed.

The second floor consists of the dining room, kitchen, and living room. On the third floor is the master bedroom with the open floor plan bathroom. The guest bedroom is located on the fourth floor.

row house
This row house may not have any eye-catching features from the outside.  But this half-open and half-opaque design allows natural light to enter through the roof.

Houses in Vietnam are often compactly built in townhouse form to use as little property space as possible, often resulting in cramped residences and unattractive-looking building fronts.

Here, the architects have incorporated privacy into the design, so as not to allow anyone to look in from outside and provide the owner peace and contentment. This also helps reduce pollution from the street.

As the trees reach their full size, the level of privacy correspondingly increases.

Additionally, both in front and back of the house feature rows of horizontal planter boxes which screen the view inwards and create attractive façades.

The house also features open ports which run up and down through all the floors. This allows for hot air from below to rise and vent out the top of the building, and by the same token, for cooler air to blow down inside and keep the heat down even at high noon.

row house
Sunlight through a glass skylight in the roof shines down into the dining room on the second floor.


There are spaces between the boxes to allow the plants to grow. Inside the row house, there are hardly any walls separating the rooms, except for bathrooms. This is done for efficient ventilation throughout the house, at the same time giving the house an open, uncluttered feel.

Those open spaces between planter boxes were determined by the types of vegetation planted. The full height of a plant was used to fix the spacing between planters on each floor.

Besides the planter boxes and plants giving privacy and cooling shade to the house, they also act as a safety feature.

row house

Concrete planter boxes holding plants in front and back of the house have the added convenience of an automatic watering system.

In this way, when plants reached their full height and became the outer surface of the building, they would serve to filter the sunlight, while the breezes could still flow through.

The architects picked trees or plants with fine and delicate foliage so as not to block the wind, and for ease of use, they installed pipes for an automatic watering system.

Architect: Vo Trong Nghia Architects

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House with Excellent Rooftop Design in Singapore

House with Excellent Rooftop Design in Singapore

/ Singapore /

/ Story: Ronnapa Nit / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Sitthisak Namkham /

In Singapore, people look for creative ways to maximize limited living space, and that includes the rooftop. In doing so, the design team at Formwerkz Architects recently came up with a multiple-floor interior design. They succeeded in creating a special rooftop space for the homeowner. From the outside, the place looks similar to other two-story houses in the neighborhood. Thoughtfully designed, the rooftop deck blends harmoniously with the context that forms the setting of the location.

The rooftop deck is a vista point to capture amazing panoramic views.

Designing the house, they started out on a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and moved on to the upper floor, where a sitting room, a multi-purpose area, and a rooftop deck are located.

All areas are easy to access and connected. The interior space is lit by outside light shining through fixed windows at the top edge and sidewalls.

Natural is more than enough for a living. No electric light is needed during the day, electricity costs are saved, and the temperature is also lowered.

[left] The pantry is open and connects with the dining room, making the area neat and uncluttered. The scarlet wall contrasts with modern furniture. [right] U-shaped streamlined furniture is built against the wall to maximize the space.
Earth-tone color adds a touch of warmth to the living space on the second floor.

The interior is a combination of simple modern architecture and graphic design creation.

Art Deco style meets modern materials, such as mosaic tiles, terrazzo walls, glass panels on wood, and metal frames.

[left] A work corner in the son’s bedroom. Wooden louver windows and glass panels are used to aid air circulation. [right] The front facade is bedecked with a vertical garden that serves as the natural sunscreens for the master bedroom.
Skylights are installed to let the sunlight reaches the lower floors.
[left] A transparent bathroom painted in white can be seen from the stairway leading to the top deck. Designed to be airy and well-ventilated. [right] The bathroom in white comes with a wall-mounted countertop. A round mirror creates special effects with pinkish lights that make the countertop appears lightweight.
The rooftop deck is equipped with a ramp and a stairway.

The most eye-catching feature is the rooftop deck area. The roof is extended harmoniously from the penthouse roof, like a continuing section from the indoor space.

The alfresco area is a perfect place to relax and unwind on a lazy afternoon or to host an outdoor party.

From the outside, the place is similar to other two-storey houses, its rooftop deck design humbly blends together with the neighborhood.

It is a place built to live in harmony with others.

[left] View From The Rooftop. [right] A skylight on the rooftop deck allows plenty of sunshine to reach all the way to the lower floor.
The four-story house is the height as two-story homes in the area.

Owner: Dr Kelvin Lee

Architect: Formwerkz Architects (

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