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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 /

/ 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)


Inside RedQ / AirAsia’s New Home

Inside RedQ / AirAsia’s New Home

Having a good personality is vital. That’s what AirAsia is made of. Its new headquarters building sheds light on its fun and vibrant personality – attractive, full of life and enthusiasm.

/// Malaysia ///

Story: LivingASEAN /// Photography: AirAsia



AirAsia’s new head office is located next to KLIA2, an acronym for the low-cost carrier terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The airport itself is in Sepang District, some 45 km south of Kuala Lumpur city. The brand new HQ building provides over 18,000 square meters of office and utility spaces. While the six-story building was under construction, AirAsia’s employees were invited to participate in a naming contest. And the winning name was “RedQ,” which stood for Red Quarters. The choice was obviously inspired by the airline’s vibrant corporate color.

RedQ now serves as global headquarters for both AirAsia and AirAsia X. The first three floors are reserved for car parks and storage facilities. The rest are offices manned by an energetic staff of more than 1,400.






The office space boasts an exuberant industrial look designed to evoke images of vibrant tech companies in the Silicon Valley. There is a common area with green patches and beanbag chairs for the staff to use during breaks. Each office level is assigned a different theme color to highlight a fun and energetic personality, while the meeting rooms feature distinct design. Some of them are designed to appear as if they were hovering in midair, resembling the air traffic control.

After photographs of the RedQ interior had gone viral on the Internet, compliments and good wishes came flooding in on social media. Many were sent in by those aspiring to be a part of the AirAsia workforce. That is understandable. Who doesn’t want to work with one of the hippest airlines in the ASEAN?


Reuse, Repair, Upcycle

Reuse, Repair, Upcycle

As a child he liked designs connecting old traditions with environmental awareness. This found expression in this straw-covered cubical building reminiscent of a farmer’s paddy hut.

/// Thailand ///

Story: Nutt /// Photography: Chaiyaphon Sodabanlu

Design: Ronachai  Khanbanya, Mae Khaning Creative Co., Ltd

A single large pane is expensive, so smaller ones are set into a metal frame, economical and also tasteful, reflecting the framework of the building.

Ronachai “Art” Khanbanya, architect from Mae Khaning Creative Co., Ltd, has redesigned a lot of old offices and developed a preference expressed in the slogan “reuse, repair, recycle.”

Reuse” is putting things that are still usable back to work again.

Repair” is fixing broken or abandoned things and making them useful once more.

Upcycle” is designing discarded materials for new use.

“Our old office near the city moat was small and inconvenient. We relocated here for the pleasant atmosphere. Having to rent, we designed a structure we could easily dismantle and reassemble. Budget was important in choosing building materials.”



The structure is tent-like: a frame of 6-meter-long box steel beams supports a high gabled structure. The entrance gable has glass panes set in a metal framework. Outside walls are thatched with cogon grass, effective heat insulation that helps save energy and is also excellent soundproofing. Sheet metal lines the inner walls.

An old door panel transformed into a sliding counter for a multipurpose table: adaptable to work desk, dining table, or for kitchen use.

“Easy-to-use materials like cogon grass are locally available, and give the building a distinctive look. I wanted to show that cheap materials could be not only effective, but also beautiful. We’ve had pretty good success without having to use expensive imports. The new generation of designers should get aware of what’s here already.”

Metal wall, second floor heat insulation, creating intra-wall space for good air circulation. /// Cogon grass roofing, effective use of local materials for good heat insulation and soundproofing.

Furniture and décor here is quite simple, as seen in the particleboard shelving and the use of an old door to create a sliding counter. Art was aiming for a universal space, with furniture adaptable for work, eating, or food preparation.

The tabletop is made from an old unused pane of glass attached to make a new table using shims and pegs.

“I’m thinking a completely new lifestyle, not like old office designs, more an arrangement of work tables in a relaxing environment, like working at home or chilling at a café. We find comfortable work environments work for other sides of life, too.”

A shelf is crafted of simple materials such as unpainted particleboard. /// A stepladder: When not in use, it can be used as shelving.

The garden outside is a comfortable space where you can drink coffee at a table made from a cable spool. Landscaping features fountain grass, which doesn’t require a lot of care and fits in with the “paddy hut” theme. The walkway curves around before shortcutting into the building, evoking the image of paddy dikes. “Everyone wants to live in the country. In Chiangmai these days you see only buildings, not many plants. The plants here make it fun to come to work.”

The outside area in front of the building is used as a living and relaxation space for drinking coffee. A cable spool is used for a table. Landscaping is fountain grass, easy to care for and evoking thoughts of a life in the fields.

This office is comfortable. It has complete functionality, and saves on materials, construction, and energy. Good for the environment, good for the folks working there. “The more you think, the more you save” should be the credo of a good designer. The evidence is here: as Art says, it’s a great place to work.