Blog : ho chi minh city

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

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

/ Ho Chi Minh City /

/ Story: Phattaraphon / Photograph: 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)


303 House: A Modern Narrow Townhouse on a Narrow Lot

303 House: A Modern Narrow Townhouse on a Narrow Lot

/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam /

/ Story: Nawapat Dusdul / Photograph: Quang Tran ( /

The homegrown architecture firm SAWADEESIGN applied innovative aircraft cabin ideas to give this narrow townhouse a complete makeover. The small family home sits sandwiched between two low-rise buildings in the heart of Tan Binh District. They named the project “303 House.”

Modern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh City

Narrrow townhouse is a typical housing type omnipresent throughout urban Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. By law, places of residence with a frontage smaller than 3.0 meters are not permitted to have more than one floor.

So the only way to build is arrange all the usable spaces and functions on the same horizontal plane. The result is a renovation done right in every sense of the word.

Modern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh City

From the outside looking in, the entire width of the house is only 2.9 meters. With the exterior walls installed, the inside space comes to just 2.7 meters wide.

Interestingly enough, well thought-out design turns an awkward narrow plot into a single-story home that’s simple with all useable spaces giving off good vibes. The bright and airy home occupies less than 90 square meters of land.

Modern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh City

The design duo, Doan Si Nguyen and Vo Thanh Phat, decided against the most commonly used construction process. They proposed an alternative method aimed at reducing the amount of concrete used, an option that risked being rejected by investors from the get-go.

The house ceiling is made of rockwool tole about 150 mm thick. The coated tinplate is widely used in the storage industry and large warehouses for its excellent thermal insulation. Here, it’s used to make the interior living spaces comfortable day and night.

Modern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh City

The contemporary home interior features mixed materials. Among them, grey plaster on the wall proves a perfect complement to gray epoxy paint on the floor.

Together, they provide desirable elements for a calm, peaceful home. Everywhere, furniture made of plywood is a great way to bring a natural look to the interior.

Modern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh City

According to the architects, the secret to creating a healthy home lies in putting multiple layers of functional spaces in neat order to shield the interior from the busy street.

This is especially true in HCMC, where many homes are prone to suffer from the negative effects of outside noise and unrestricted growth of housing areas and commercial development.

Fascinatingly, aircraft cabin ideas came in handy for the townhouse built on an extremely long and narrow plot of land. It’s reminiscent to walking along an aisle between rows of seats on an aircraft.

Modern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh CityModern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh City Modern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh City

There’s a paved outdoor area in front of the narrow townhouse entrance that provides a place to socialize. Step inside, and you come into a corridor connecting to a living area, kitchen, and laundry room. Wall-mounted storage cabinets line one side of the aisle and beautifully organized functional spaces on the other.

Two bedrooms with a bathroom attached are tucked away further inside, plus a third at the rear of the house accessible by a small corridor with relaxing area.

Where appropriate, clear roofing panels provide natural light for indoor plants, while openings in the wall keep the interior airy and comfortable without air conditioning.

Modern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh CityModern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh City Modern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh CityModern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh City

Not only is the house plan tailored to the specific needs of a family of three. It’s also a great way to live a green life in the midst of the city. Here, in many instances homeowners rent the space in front of their houses to small retailers and businesses. But the residents at 303 House don’t need that kind of income.

They prefer to keep the door closed and enjoy privacy in the comfort of their home. All things considered, it’s mission accomplished.

Modern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh CityModern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh City Modern House / Modern Skinny House on a Narrow Lot in Ho Chi Minh City

Lead Architects: Doan Si Nguyen and Vo Thanh Phat

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 / 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-storey 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-storey 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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Brick house For a Tropical Climate
Beautifully Designed Brick House
A Rectangular Brick Home For a Tropical Climate

A Rectangular Brick Home For a Tropical Climate

/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam /
/ Story: Wuthikorn Suthiapa / Photographs: Tanakitt Khum-on /

This rectangular brick home in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City is designed for “hot and humid,” open to natural light and cool from air currents constantly streaming in and out through the bricks.

Brick doesn’t retain heat, but insulates against it, and its porosity helps retain early morning moisture which evaporates to cool at midday.
Work corner next to the food preparation section is screened off for privacy.

Mr. Tung Do and Mrs. Lien Dinh, the owners here, are newlyweds who wanted a small house with a straightforward design for pleasant living. They had seen Tropical Space’s “Termitary House,” which won, among others, a 2016 Brick Award, and admired its form and design so much that – even with their limited budget – they engaged the Company to design and build their own home.

Ms. Tran Thi Ngu Ngon and Mr. Nguyen Hai Long of Tropical Space said, “we want to build living spaces that connect people with nature, natural spaces that are easy to understand. The beauty of nature can reach deep into a person’s spirit to improve life in ways they would not have imagined before.”

Mr. Nguyen tells us he grew up in a house of brick and never forgot his childhood vision of sunbeams flowing through open spaces between bricks to throw patterns of light and shadow on the light dust in the air, and how beautiful it was. Little phenomena such as this connect people with their surroundings, and support the choice of brick as a building material.

The brick wall both gives privacy and provides channels for air and light to pass through.

Stair frame of rebar saves space and adds structural definition.

Most of Tropical Space’s design work makes use of brick, partly because the form has a certain beauty, but deeper than that, brick is an inherently Vietnamese material, indigenous to the area. The designer pays attention to its true characteristics and searches out new ways of using and arranging it, creating channels for wind and light and taking advantage of its moisture-retaining quality.

Seen from outside, the home is a rectangular block that itself resembles one humongous brick. It faces north because of sun, wind, and rain directions, and without being too hot it gets good light all day long. The ground floor living room features a wall of bricks alternating with open spaces, lighting and cooling at the same time during the day.

Outside, a little distance from the house to the east and west are walls that keep sunlight from directly hitting it, instead reflecting light through the perforated brick wall and into every inside area. These outside walls also create channels that guide the wind in and out. Trees are planted there, too, which cool the house with their shade.

The house may look a bit severe, but in this tropical climate its architecture aligns beautifully with nature to provide an amazingly comfortable residence built on a moderate budget.

Openings above and on the sides for natural light to enter during the day.


Architect: Tropical Space by Ms.Tran Thi Ngu Ngon and Mr.Nguyen Hai Long

3 x 9 House: A Compact Renovated Row House in HCMC

3 x 9 House: A Compact Renovated Row House in HCMC

/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam /

/ Story: Ekkarach Laksanasamrith / English version: Bob Pitakwong / Photographs: Soopakorn Srisakul /

A lot of work and research was invested in this renovated row house project. The big question is: how to make the compact house looks wider? Like most residential buildings in Vietnam, “3 x 9 House” was renovated from an old shophouse. The old place had only a few windows and solid brick walls, which made the building look dim. A bold move was needed to change both the building and lift up the mood of the residents.

Home renovation: The project is accomplished without any concrete construction. The new second floor rests on cylindrical steel posts instead of big cement pillars.


The 3×9 meters house has become a point of interest by integrating natural features.

As land prices in Vietnam continue to rise up every year, finding a new home may seem like a formidable task. So the owner thinks it wise to invest in renovating his existing home.

He reaches out to A21 Studio, for their reputation including turning small homes into nice, uncluttered, and environment-friendly living spaces.


Clay tiles are placed inversely on the entire interior walls to create a stripe pattern and unique touch.

The first thing that catches our eyes is a tree that grows up through an opening and greets visitors from the entryway.

Also, there is a skylight roof that illuminates the interior spaces and enables light to reach the tree.

Breezy wind is able to flow through the front door and flow throughout the house, including the rear section, the second floor and the translucent sliding panel on the rooftop. Flanked by three-story houses on both sides, the house is exposed to sunlight only during mid-day.

So, no air-conditioning machine is needed.


The steel structure’s roof is equipped with a sliding skylight. This effectively illuminates interior spaces and allows the tree to keep on thriving.
A skylight illuminates the bedroom space. Giving it a neat, organic appearance.
The bedroom has a low-rise platform and a mattress. The absence of room dividers gives the area an open, airy, and uncluttered appearance.
An open kitchen is designed to eliminate smoke and unpleasant smell via the window on the top.

The interior avoids the use of a divider, the only exception is a bathroom. The ground floor comprises a sitting area, a dining area and a kitchen; all connected.

A bedroom and a leisure area are rested upstairs. Since the owner lives alone, room dividers are of no use.

Thus, the main idea of this renovated row house is to focus on openings and improving its ventilation system instead.


A colorful mix of tiles are reminiscent of vernacular architecture.


Architect: A21 Studio (