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Modern Tropical House in Ho Chi Minh City

Modern Tropical House in Ho Chi Minh City

       The architecture of this modern 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.

/// Vietnam ///
Story: Wuthikorn Suthiapa /// Photography: Tanakitt Khum-on

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

Mr. 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 row house is actually much better described as a “house and garden” than simply a “building.”

 

 

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The Café Apartment, a Super-hip Building in Ho Chi Minh City

The Café Apartment, a Super-hip Building in Ho Chi Minh City

A cutting-edge idea: turn an old apartment building into cafés, restaurants, and co-working spaces. The Café Apartment, 42 Nguyen Hue Street (Walking Street) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a must-see.

/// Vietnam ///

It’s all the rage in Ho Chi Minh City! We’re referring to the coolest imaginable conversion of this 9-storey former apartment building into a fantastic collection of restaurants, coffee shops, beauty parlors, fashion boutiques, co-working spaces, and a great bookshop. Here nearly 30 shops have remodeled and redecorated what were once living units to adapt to new functionalities, many removing inside walls and extending onto outside balconies.

The Café Apartment retains its mid-20th-century form: viewed from outside, it might remind you of a chocolate box. In early days it housed government workers and military personnel, later the general public. All rooms face southwest, with balconies looking out on Walking Street, the city, and the Saigon river. A stair leads up to each floor, but there’s also elevator service for 3000 Vietnamese dong (VND) – don’t worry, this isn’t anywhere near as much as it sounds – which is reimbursed when paying the bill at any café. Normal opening hours for cafés are the same as for the building itself: 8AM to 10PM. Drinks and snacks are reasonably priced, but you couldn’t call them cheap. There’s visitor parking nearby at Lucky Plaza for 5,000 dong.

You can easily spend the whole day here soaking in the history and enjoying the atmosphere. The Café Apartment has brought back the vibrant flavor of old Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City: fresh, contemporary, bustling, here is a truly hip spot where travelers from far-off lands checking into the scene can mix with a new generation of Vietnamese. You won’t find this sort of renovation everywhere: in some countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, legal building restrictions are too stringent, which makes this cool spot even more unique.

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