/ Story: Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Paul Phan /
Overcrowding conditions in Ho Chi Minh City have given rise to both challenges and opportunities for the design team at MA Architects, a homegrown architectural practice in Vietnam. Back in the day, their office was on rental property with little to no room for flexibility. Albeit equipped with air conditioning and modern conveniences, the small workspace was lacking fresh air and ventilation, a far cry from the environment conducive to a relaxed atmosphere and creativity.
Because of that, they decided to break out of the confined space into a home of their own. The new office stands sandwiched between two properties, a tall building on one side and a vacant lot on the other. Its front yard landscape is infused with green foliage.
Thoughtfully devised, the design atelier with an awesome cool gray façade is open to plenty of sunlight and fresh outdoor air plus trees and shrubbery. And the result of all this: a workplace ambience free from disturbance, one that’s good for staff’s ability to create and stay focused on their tasks.
The small, 100-square-meter office space is nestled in a peaceful city neighborhood. It occupies the full extent of a rectangular shaped lot measuring 5 by 20 meters.
The building has a narrow frontage to the street. Its external envelope is built of brick masonry plastered to form a smooth hard surface. In front of it, a small earthen terrace hemmed in by lush greenery provides a neat appearance.
Downstairs, a spacious workplace lies connected to a woodworking shop in the back of the building. The meeting room is upstairs that’s open to allow plenty of natural daylight and cool breezes into the interior.
Overhead, the trusses that support the roof are made entirely of timber covered by transparent corrugated roofing materials for best indoor lighting. Where appropriate, sections of the roof are protected by dry coconut fiber coverings for insulation from the sun’s harsh glare.
Because when it rains it pours in the Tropics, it makes perfect sense to plaster the entire building envelope. The hard and smooth surface goes to work protecting the building from extreme heat and wet weather all year round.
Although relatively small in size, the office interior crafted of wood is impressive thanks to an open-concept, well-ventilated layout. While dry coconut fiber coverings over the roof make the interior feel cool and dry, the uncovered part works like a skylight turning indoors into a well-lighted place.
Besides light and wind, the architect also integrated other elements of nature in the design, among them earthen floors that cover parts of the ground level. Only the workspace and kitchen floors are made of concrete slabs for ease of use and safety.
Nearby, earthen floors add a warm, natural feel to the interior with plenty of room for growing plants in-ground. As the architect puts it, being in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city, anything that brings a touch of nature, however small, is priceless.
A building material of choice, earthen flooring makes it possible to fill the interior with healthy green foliage along the entire wall. Earth and sand absorb and release some moisture, which contributes to a relaxed indoor ambience.
At the same time, vegetation in the front yard and decorative indoor plants both in ground and in containers go to work in tandem keeping the new office building cool and cozy just like home.
/ 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
/ Story: Wuthikorn Sut / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Hiroyuki Oki /
Here’s a beautiful good-sized home with exposed brick walls in subdued orange. It sits peacefully nestled among lush greenery in Nha Be, a suburban district of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. By design, it’s the perfect home size for four sisters who recently decided to come home to care for their aging Mom. A nice place for their family reunion, the brick home is filled with real warmth and memories growing up together back in the day.
Connecting Home and Garden
Designed to fit a long piece of property, the rectangular house plan holds five bedrooms plus a roomy communal space that’s the heart of family life. The architect puts the face of the building closer to the road which passes in front of the house leaving just enough room for a small front yard.
Like so, it allows a huge space for the backyard garden devoted to trees and shrubs and an outdoor sitting room.
Inside, the spacious room shared by all family members lies front and center on the house plan. To bring fresh air into the home, all the rooms are connected to the outdoor spaces in front and back of the building.
Overall, it’s a design that lets the earthy, woody scents of nature permeate the air. Up front, healthy green foliage transforms the communal area into a calm, pleasant place enlivened by plenty of natural light streaming in through generous openings in the walls.
On one side of the floor plan, a flight of stairs connects to the second floor and continues to the room just below the roof that acts as a buffer against the sun and heat. The absence of vertical risers between the treads of the staircase creates visual and spatial continuity, plus good air flow in the interior.
Overhead, a shaft of sunlight streams through the rooftop skylight making the home feel bright and airy all day.
Brick the Material of Choice
The two-and-a-half-story brick home, including the room under the roof, is built almost entirely of bricks for the best indoor climate. Needless to say it’s designed for healthy living.
The first floor is a perfect example of communal space with plenty of room for a generous sitting area, dining room and kitchen. It speaks volumes for a culture of caring and sharing that’s the essence of humanity.
For practical reason, Mom’s open-concept bedroom is on the first floor. It’s protected from the sun’s harmful rays by perforated brick walls that form the outer shell. The inside is clear of anything that might be a tripping hazard.
Meanwhile, the four sisters each have their own bedrooms on the second floor. They are equal-sized rooms connected by a balcony overlooking the communal space on the first floor. At the very top, the space under the roof becomes a devotional room for traditional veneration of the family’s ancestors. It has a quiet sitting area with a view of the surrounding landscape.
Taken as a whole, the natural environment is pristine thanks to an irrigation canal that runs past the back of the property. Both sides of the waterway are covered in greenery growing luxuriantly in the wild. It’s easy to get why the architect puts in a backyard garden here, a clever hack that blends perfectly into the lush landscape.
The house is built strong using concrete frame and concrete floor slab construction, while the external envelop is made of bricks in assorted orange hues fired the old-fashioned way. Perforated brick facades enable interior spaces to benefit from natural daylight. Gaps between bricks in the house’s exterior walls admit light and fresh outdoor air into the home.
A material of choice, the vintage style bricks can absorb humidity from the nearby water body, which translates into interior thermal comfort all year round. Plus, they effectively filter out dust and pollution in the air.
Apart from protecting against heat and glare, brick walls add a touch of timeless elegance to the home. Perforated facades double as privacy screens that prevent people from looking in and keep the home cool without air conditioning.
The light that shines through is more diffuse, while holes in the brick walls act as engine that drives natural ventilation. Plus, brick walls require little to no maintenance, and they look like new after many years later.
Backyard Garden Made for Relaxation
One of the house’s outstanding features is the backyard garden with an outdoor circular bench capable of seating several people. Built of bricks in subdued shades of orange, it’s the family’s favorite meeting place in the morning and evening.
Because it’s round, it creates more space for family members to come together face-to-face, talk together, walk together strengthening the bonds of sisterhood and relationships made in heaven.
/ Story: Phattaraphon / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Duy Nhat, Le Ba Loc /
Here’s Sep’on Heartfulness Center, a small-capacity boutique hotel built on an elongated rectangle in Nha Trang, a coastal town in the South of Vietnam. Even with a narrow frontage to the street, it offers 600 sq. m. of accommodation spaces with views of the city landscape. The design-driven wholesome destination conveys a great deal about truth-to-materials architecture, which holds that everything is used in its natural form — unadorned, unpainted, neither polished nor hidden.
Named “Sep’on Heartfulness Center,“ the boutique hotel project is the brainchild of 324PRAXIS, an architectural practice based in Ho Chi Minh City. Their main mission: overcome every challenge on the project site and come up with a small stylish hotel, one that’s full of character and suitable for an urban environment.
The result is a five-story building that’s graceful and chic in appearance. Its front façade is made attractive by small balconies accessible from guest rooms on the upper floors. Enclosed by twisted wrought iron balustrades, they give good views of the cityscape, admit fresh air and add natural light to the interior.
Such is the elegance of design that’s also found in several places throughout the five-story concrete building. The ground floor contains a semi-outdoor sitting room and coffee bar decorated with greenery that has become a popular meeting place among locals and tourists.
Hotel rooms on the upper floors are accessible via metal staircases attached to the rear of the building. They are built outdoors to give the appearance of a more open engineering structure, thereby showcasing the true nature of building materials.
The same open-concept design applies to the roofed platforms and passages along the outside of the building. They are suited to serve several purposes, from outdoor sitting rooms and cityscape viewing spots to yoga workout class and room to practice meditation. It’s a calm and peaceful place to take a breath of fresh air and enjoy views of the city.
Even with its small capacity, the hotel is able to provide a variety of accommodations ranging from suites to deluxe rooms and duplexes consisting of two apartments. They share one thing in common — a design that faithfully represents the principle of truth-to-materials architecture.
This holds that any building material is used in a way that’s the most appropriate, while the method of construction is unhidden. Besides taking in views of the cityscape, it’s about bringing the outdoors into the room, thereby creating a comfortable ambience filled with fresh air and natural light.
Plus, furniture is kept to a minimum to ensure the room is uncluttered, safe and right for simple living.
Taking everything into account, Sep’on Heartfulness Center is a boutique hotel beautifully made to fit the circumstances that form the setting of the coastal city neighborhood. Despite the challenges and limitations, the design team at 324PRAXIS is able to create a place for board and lodging that’s stylishly chic. It’s a charming place to be next time you sojourn in this part of Vietnam.
Here’s a home designed to create a good first impression. Named “the House in Chau Doc,” its external envelope is made of galvanized steel sheeting, ironwood (Xylia xylocarpa), wire meshes and right-angle steel bars — ordinary materials often associated with run-of-the-mill places of abode. For architect Shunri Nishizawa, there is opportunity in every crisis. Despite many limitations, he is able to put them to good use in creating a living space well suited to the surrounding circumstances, the environment and weather conditions characteristic of the area.
Situated in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region where the mighty river passes and empties into the sea through various distributaries, Chau Doc is no stranger to flooding.
It’s a problem that runs like clockwork to the extent that the annual inundation of the Mekong River Delta is regarded as normal. That’s the circumstances that form the setting in which this house is located.
Designed to perform in the event of a flood, it has a set of stairs especially built to link up with the second floor when water overflows beyond its normal confines.
House in Chau Doc is a home built on a budget by choosing the building materials that are right for the circumstances. At the same time, it presents the opportunity of experimenting with materials and design techniques that can answer the lifestyle needs similar to those provided modern urban homes.
For this reason, the new home at Chau Doc comes complete with tranquil spaces that help people feel calm and relaxed. It doubles as a design laboratory, in which the building materials of choice are assessed for their looks and ability to perform in real life.
Despite the key elements of visual design evocative of modern urban homes, it’s the natural atmosphere that makes this countryside house feel calm, fresh, and welcoming.
This is achieved by bringing the great outdoors into practically every part of the home. Meantime, an open plan layout affords ample semi-outdoor family room and cozy sitting area.
What makes House in Chau Doc interesting is the open walls design that visually connects with nature and doubles as passive ventilation systems. This makes the interior living spaces feel comfortable without being affected by galvanized steel sheeting that forms the outer shell.
Plus, the house façade and rear walls are fitted with large windows protected by overhanging eaves. Together, they go to work allowing just enough fresh, outdoor air and natural light into the home, thereby preventing it from getting too warm or too uncomfortable during daytime hours.
Taking everything into account, it’s a thought-provoking design that challenges us to explore deeper and wider to overcome limitations in a bid to create comfortable living spaces. With the power of the imagination, a home that inspires happiness and well-being is perfectly doable as this architect has shown.
Even better if the beauty of a locality is incorporated in the design.
Find out more about architectural design in sync with nature, as well as ideas for a possible course of action within the context of nature, climate and culture from Shunri Nishizawa, architect and founder of NISHIZAWAARCHITECTS, Vietnam, at the upcoming the “room X Living ASEAN Design Talk 2023.”
Meet up with a panel of experts comprising four distinguished architects from three countries. This year’s conversation event is on the theme of “URBAN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs”. The Talk is scheduled for Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside Baan Lae Suan Fair Midyear 2023, BITEC Bang Na, Bangkok. It’s an opportunity not to be missed. Mark your calendar!
/ Story: Monosoda, Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Quang Dam /
Major renovations have given a drafty old shophouse a new lease on life. Thanks to great remodeling ideas, the tired-looking two-unit shophouse on Su Van Hanh Street, Ho Chi Minh City, transformed into a beautiful place that struck the right balance between a business and a private residence. Designed by the architecture firm H.a + NQN, the completely refurbished premises are home to a private enterprise named Bao Long Office.
As is often the case with shophouses in Vietnam, each of the two units has a frontage of 3 meters. It’s in the shape of an elongated rectangle with a whopping 20-meter length sandwiched between adjacent units.
To create ample, well-ventilated interior space, the wall separating the two units was torn down and replaced with a newer, more modern version.
Bao Long Office’s plan was redesigned to accommodate new business concepts as well as residential and lifestyle needs. To protect the building’s structural integrity, the internal framework remained intact.
The same applied to the ground floor that housed a business selling stainless steel products. For a neat appearance, the entire front façade was glazed in, giving it charms and good looks that set it apart from others in the neighborhood. By night the face of the building is aglow under the lights.
Located in a commercial zone, the store at ground level is understandably busy and the crowded street bustling with activity.
Climb a flight of stairs to the second floor, and you come to an impressive office space. The area on this level of Bao Long Office is divided into two parts. There’s a warm and welcoming workspace at the office on one side that’s clearly separated from private living quarters on the other.
Both parts are conveniently accessible via the balcony connected to the front façade. The second-floor outdoor platform is decorated with an oasis of calm that’s very pleasant to look at.
The office consists of a workroom and meeting room with simple interior décor. The walls are painted white symbolizing a new beginning and the floors covered in terrazzo.
There’s a custom work table with drafting stools that runs parallel to the wall and stretches the entire length of the room.
The atmosphere is strikingly different from the calming space of nearby private living quarters. To create a homely atmosphere, the living room has a small beverage bar with pantries customized to the homeowner’s hosting style.
At the farthest end lies a peaceful sitting area decorated with deep colors that match the dark surfaces of terrazzo floors, concrete walls, and rustic walnut furniture.
Softened by the dim light, it’s a relaxation technique to create warmth and reduce stress in the home.
At the same time, a section of the upper floor was taken out to make room for an entrance hall with double-height ceiling design. Not far away, a set of stairs was installed to connect to the homeowner’s secluded living quarters on the top floor.
The private residential zone comes complete with a bedroom with en suite bath, sitting room, and dressing room.
Painted a shade of orange color, the steel staircase leads from the ground level, where the retail store is located, all the way to the private residential zone on the top floor of Bao Long Office. Its playful design is intended to express pleasure and joy in everyday life.
You got that right! It’s part of a home improvement project designed to make life more fun. It serves the primary purpose of getting house occupants from one floor to the next, and it’s done in a unique, stylish way.
The article is an excerpt from “Home Office / Home Studio,” a book that compiles ideas on integrating “home” with “workspace” to create a comfortable and suitable environment for small companies, startups, and creative individuals.
You can find it at leading bookstores throughout Thailand or order it through various online channels.
/ Story: Wuthikorn Sut / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Triệu Chiến /
Though we cannot count on the weather to be calm and delightful at all times, it is quite possible to bring physical ease, well-being and relaxation into the workplace, even without air conditioning. And this brick office named “Premier Office” has proved to be the case, thanks to clever passive cooling techniques and greenery giving off friendly vibes.
Handsomely nestled within a calm Ho Chi Minh City neighborhood, the building offering rental office spaces boasts the timeless beauty of brickwork in masonry construction.
Not only do bricks blend nicely into the surrounding landscape, but they also provide interior thermal comfort by absorbing moisture to some degree.
When wet, they dry out by evaporation thereby keeping the ambient temperature pleasant during the daytime.
The seven-story building with a parking garage below ground level offers vacant office spaces for lease that let tenants do their own setup and decorating.
Unlike the usual design offering the same old same old typical of everyday commercial real estate, the rental business spaces at Premier Office are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and configurations, each of which is unique in its own special way.
As the architect intended, the new office block centers around the concept of climate-responsive design whereby forms, functions and nature blend together into one perfectly coordinated business property.
There is a courtyard-like open area at the center that affords an airy and bright atmosphere on every floor. It’s an architectural feature that goes together well with building facades made of ventilation blocks.
By design, the breathable envelope doubles as a passive cooling system that draws fresh outdoor air into this brick office and dissipates excess heat into the sky by rooftop ventilation.
For the health benefits of natural light, the building envelope is constructed with spaces in between bricks. These little openings in the wall work in tandem with the skylight over the courtyard-like area at the center.
Together they create interior thermal comfort by admitting a defused light to illuminate the room, meantime protecting it from the sun’s harsh glare.
It’s a clever hack to promote well-being, by which only the indirect light filtered by brick walls and surrounding trees is allowed.
The architect believed that by integrating physical comfort in the design of this brick office, it would double as second home for many tenants working here.
To avoid invading people’s privacy, the business space for each and every tenant is easily identifiable and clearly defined by a brick masonry wall.
Even with that, all the rental spaces appear bright and airy, no doubt, a nature-inspired place in which to conduct business.
/ Story: Nantagan / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Rungkit Charoenwat /
All he ever wanted was a place out in the country. Dechophon “Teng” Rattanasatchatham, the architect at Yangnar Studio, built his humble abode amid the rice fields in bucolic Chiang Mai’s Sankamphaeng District. Carefully thought out from work experience, it has come to redefine the meaning of rural home life from the perspectives of both the architect who designed it, and his family living in it. Like so, a calm and beautiful piece of vernacular architecture was created, one that came complete with all the requirements for good living. Plus, it’s aptly named “Tita House,” which is Thai for a bright and friendly rural appeal.
Sharing his piece of paradise, Teng said: “To start with, because I was going to live here, I wanted to draw on all my experience in vernacular architecture, design, ideas, and results of the experiments I had done in the past and put them to good use.
“I envisaged building a home that would be best suited to me and my family, one that kept within the budget and was built out of reclaimed timber that I had at the time.”
Viewed in its essential qualities, the house plan was adapted from vernacular architecture, which has been the signature of the atelier Yangnar Studio from the start.
It was built the old-fashioned way of Northen Thailand vernacular architecture by carpenters from within the locality. Clever building hacks utilizing a mix of modern tools and time-honored traditional techniques resulted in the superb vernacular carpentry of a true-to-nature wooden home.
From the look of things, the inconspicuous earth-oriented ebony building appeared unpretentious and capable of merging with the surrounding landscape.
Tita House represents a marriage of the modern and the traditional. It’s rich in architectural features indigenous to the Northern Region.
They include, among other things, stilt house design that integrates lower and higher elevation floors to form a coherent whole. Essentially it’s about making appropriate adaptations of tranditional vernacular architecture that are convenient for and acceptable to family lifestyle needs.
As the architect put it, “The idea of integrating a lower elevation floor (the smaller building) in the design was adopted because there was a need for easily accessible under-floor space.
“Plus, it provided storage room for agricultural tools, food raw materials and articles for household use. Nearby, a higher elevation floor (the main building) offered plenty of ample under-floor space for woodworking, a casual relaxed sitting room and areas for the children to run and play.”
Under-floor space offers many benefits. Aside from creating multifunctional room, it doubles as a passive cooling system that drives natural air circulation.
This helps prevent high humidity levels in the home and keeps the interior cool in summer. It’s a more effective way to cool a home than building a wooden floor on the ground, which is prone to moisture damage, Teng explained.
Right Building Orientation Improves Comfort
Tita House comprises two buildings that blend like cuts from the same cloth and are connected by a wooden deck that’s roofed over to protect from the elements. The smaller of the two buildings is used for open-flame cooking and eating, while the bigger building houses main living quarters.
As is often the case with vernacular architecture, it’s built on a split-level home plan. Cooking and eating spaces lie at the lower end, while the front deck and main living quarters are positioned slightly higher.
The area for eating and entertaining house guests lies to the north of the main building. It’s pleasantly cool and bright under the shade of trees that are the vital part of a wild yard landscape.
Winds blowing into it from underneath the nearby smaller building keep the area nice and comfortable all day. The main building that houses family living quarters affords a fine mountain view easily seen from the front deck connecting to two bedrooms at the far end.
“The reception area is positioned to the north of the main building for it gets beautiful morning sunshine.” Teng explained.
“As time passes and the sun moves across the sky, the nearby smaller building provides protection from afternoon heat. This way it’s nice and cool in the shade for much of the day.”
There’s a living room that forms part of the suite in the private house. It’s designed to conveniently connect to a workspace lying between two bedrooms.
The workspace itself is on the east side of the house plan with bay windows projecting outward from the wall of the building. Elsewhere, transom windows are fitted with weather-resistant insect screens instead of glass, thereby allowing fresh outdoor air to enter and circulate inside.
Meanwhile, long eaves that overhang the walls of the building protect the interior from the elements. The under-floor space beneath it is kept cool by design, thanks to the house floor that extends outward to form the upper covering that keeps it in shade for much of the day.
A Product of Intermixing and Experimenting with Ideas
Tita House is the brainchild of the homeowner and architect who created it. To him, it’s a living experiment of current time vernacular architecture. It contains architectural features, building techniques and qualities that he has never tested before elsewhere.
“I had the opportunity of visiting a village in the North of Vietnam and Kengtung (a township in Myanmar’s Shan State) and came away impressed by the method of building houses there,” said Teng.
“It was very interesting. They started out by making flat component pieces in the shop or on-site. Then people in the village joined together to assemble them step-by-step to form a unified whole. In no time, a complete home was erected simply by connecting prefab paneling together.
“It gave me the inspiration to adapt and try it myself.”
Apart from trying out new methods for structural frames making, Teng also put other creative ideas to the test.
This new house of his was the outcome of those experiments. In a nutshell, it was about making appropriate adaptations that best fit the circumstances.
In the case of Tita House, the integration of a low elevation floor in stilt house design was something not seen very often in the North of Thailand’s vernacular architecture. In most cases, different elevation floors, if any, were kept apart in two separate buildings.
Besides architecture, there are several internal fitments that are worthy of note. They include wash basin design ideas for preparing vegetables, washing dishes, and watering plants in the yard.
Here, pieces of kitchen equipment are beautifully organized. They are connected to the backyard garden below by a line of bamboo poles that carries water supply to a glove of banana trees.
For a neat appearance, the wash basin is crafted of teakwood paneling put in place parallel to the edge of a balcony.
Teng said: “From experience, I have done an experiment on teakwood wash basins for customers only to discover that most of the time they were too small for their needs.
“So I came up with a bigger size, put it to the test right here at home. Apparently it worked out very well. The large teakwood basin dried fast and required little to no maintenance.”
An Unpretentious Home Made Attractive by True-to-Nature Materials
The two buildings were made almost entirely of reclaimed timber. Cut into desired lengths and sizes, the pieces were put together using mortise and tenon joinery to create individual component parts.
The next step was to assemble the pieces of the jigsaw to form a unified whole on-site. The materials of choice were wood and brick. To bring out the color and texture that’s true to nature, brickwork was not plastered in a cement mixture to create smooth hard surfaces, which translated into big savings.
According to Teng, “Most of the wood reused here came from old homes that were torn down at various places. For durability, they were given a coat of protective wood stains on site. For the most part they were weathered almost black and differed greatly in terms of the appearance or texture, a quality that gave the home its vintage vernacular appeal.”
All things considered, it’s an unpretentious abode that speaks volumes for what the architect and homeowner is about. Every little thing has a story to tell, whether it is about the ways of the community, the materials, or the architectural features integrated in the design.
It’s a home that conveys a great deal about a desire to reconnect with nature through sustainable living. And Tita House is doing exactly that.
Here’s a home with a Modern space designed for a big family in Singapore. Its generous interior provides great sensory pleasure with fresh air and plenty of room where plants grow luxuriantly. Unique and neatly planned, it redefines the meaning of Tropical design, which in this instance is manifested in an intriguing combination that makes the home feel more comfortable.
Because Singapore is an island, every square inch counts and it doesn’t come cheap.
To build a good home, one must ponder the question of what functions and useable spaces it offers, plus all the modern conveniences.
At the same time, it’s nice to bring nature inside to create powerful psychological effects. And from this point of view, this beautiful oasis with in the city is truly a gem.
The multigenerational household comprises three families. Naturally, it makes sense to accommodate the needs of every age group without sacrificing the common area that’s available to everyone.
Done right, it allows interactions to take place in the family. To facilitate the socialization processes, greenery space is added to the mix to let house occupants reconnect with nature wherever they may be.
The well-planned common area gives the gift of healing and the human touch that everyone craves coming home at the end of the day.
Taking everything into account, the contemporary cube-shaped house is in a league of its own. It celebrates the simplicity of open living spaces conceived and developed by the Singapore-based architectural practice ASOLIDPLAN.
Among other things, what makes it unique is the use of rectangular openings in various dimensions to make the building façade aesthetically pleasing. Done right, the openings in the walls and rooftop admit light and air and allow people to see out.
In this particular case, the building sits facing west, so every precaution is taken to protect the interior from the sun’s harsh glare keeping it nice and cool all day.
The answer lies in a complete rethink of the building shell design, hence the name “Envelope House.”
Step inside, and you come to a gorgeous center courtyard with triple-height ceilings and skylights on the rooftop. It’s a clever hack to reconnect with nature by bringing the outdoors into every nook and cranny of the interior.
Houseplants perfect for miniature landscaping thrive everywhere, even under the staircase. Nearby, young trees with healthy lush foliage stand front and center next to a garden water feature with stepping stones that decorates and refreshes the room.
Looking for a quiet place to lean back and chill? There’s a nice sitting room with a garden view by the window.
The second floor contains living quarters for elderly parents, while the third affords plenty of private residential spaces for grownup children and their families.
Here, fresh greenery is never out of style. It’s an awesomely cool Modern space, where the beauty of plants is present everywhere, whether it’s on the staircase or along the corridors.
The entire interior is so well-lit by skylights that there’s no need for electric lights anywhere in the daytime. And the house plants benefit from it, too, no doubt.
Speaking of design, there’s a special feature that makes the house with a Modern space feel more comfortable. Its thermal envelope is made of energy-saver double-layer walls that form the first line of defense against heat and the elements.
Where possible, landscaping plants thrive in between the two layers to protect the interior from the sun’s harsh UV rays. That’s not all. There’s also a rooftop deck with green grass lawns for outdoor relaxation in the cool of the evening.
In the fewest possible words, it’s a perfect example of homes well suited to a Tropical climate — a complete rethink of strategies that doesn’t rely on adding or extending a roof overhang to protect from inclement weather.
Plus, double-layer wall construction makes this piece of architecture original and unique in itself simply by bringing the outdoors inside.
By integrating a green oasis into the design of the house’s Modern space, it succeeds in dealing with limitations that come with overcrowded urban spaces.
/ Story: Samutcha Viraporn / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Soopakorn Srisakul /
Working from home has become one of the various alternative methods of doing business in the aftermath of a Coronavirus pandemic that took the world by surprise in 2019. Adapting to change, the architecture firm Essential Design Integrated (EDI) interestingly transformed its office in Petaling Jaya into a multi-use space that blended with its downtown business communities. The updated package put a home office and living quarters on the upper floors, while the floor at ground level was rented out to a business selling soy milk pudding.
A Renovation Improves Light and Ventilation
Facing the New Normal, the property owner thought it was time to renovate to serve a new purpose. To begin with, there were two main problems in the original design that had to be resolved – light and ventilation.
The single-unit home plan was an elongated rectangle set along the east-west axis. It was 21 meters long with the usual narrow frontage to the street. As to be expected, the interior living spaces were dimly lit during daylight hours and ventilation was poor.
So, to create a bright and airy open-concept house plan, most of the room dividers had to be torn down. In no time, a restoration of the shop house that was part of a 40-year-old traditional building block was completed in a way that fitted beautifully into the bustling commercial neighborhood.
An Open Glass Façade Decorated with Plants
Chan Mun Inn and Wong Pei San, the two architects who designed it, said that initially the renovation project was completed a few months prior to the outbreak of Covid-19. At the time the interior was decorated with the lush greenery of a vertical garden on every floor.
Suddenly the Coronavirus disease came and social distancing became the norm. Everyone was keeping to himself. Soon the gorgeous gardens withered away and died due to lack of care.
The job of remodeling the home had to be done again differently. In so doing, the green spaces were revived to create positive energy and relaxation. This is evident in beautiful balcony garden ideas both in front and at the rear, plus the redesigned open glass façade that takes in natural daylight, fresh outdoor air and views of the city landscape.
Urban balcony gardens serve multiple purposes. Besides taking in the view, they double as privacy screens, filter out the sun’s harsh glare, admit natural daylight into the home and control ventilation, to name but a few.
To capitalize on vertical space, climbers and hanging plants are grown alongside an array of foliage plants that thrive in containers. Not long ago herbs, including mint and basil, were added to the mix.
The path along the front staircase is marked with container gardens at intervals. There are openings in the wall to let natural daylight shine through. To create a positive atmosphere, the entrance hall is illuminated by a moon-shaped chandelier, which can be seen from the outside.
Serving a Dual Purpose as a Home and an Office
Mimicking an open-concept home plan, the third floor comprises a sitting room, eating room and kitchen arranged in a way that improves traffic flows. Its space within a space design allows each area to easily change to respond to altered circumstances.
Take for example, the sitting room can transform into a workspace with coffee readily available. The meeting room can change into an eating room when not in use.
Across from the extra-long conference table there are storage shelves that double as stadium seating for fun team meeting ideas. There’s a floor-to-ceiling foldable partition that separates and protect the conference room from noises when a meeting is in progress.
The fully functional kitchen that lies at the farthest end can change into a venue for social gathering or a workspace if need be. The kitchen island is also good for work or spend time solo.
On the layout of the third floor, Chan Mun Inn said:
“The chief architect likes it here better than other places because it’s a flexible workspace. Come by and settle into a quiet corner, bring out a notebook and enjoy the peace and quiet.
“If there’s a meeting going on, simply escape to the nearby coffee shop. People can work at any place and from anywhere.”
For the sake of convenience, there is another set of stairs at the rear that connects to lavatories on every floor. The second, third and fourth floors contain workspaces dedicated to teams of architects and interior designers, while the ground floor is rented out to a business selling soy milk pudding.
All things considered, it’s a renovation carefully planned to blend seamlessly into the surrounding downtown business landscape. The architecture firm that starts from the second floor is easily accessible via the front staircase.
Architect Wong Pei San wrapped it up nicely. He said that essentially the renovation package was about “bringing home to the office”.
It represented a complete rethink of the firm’s strategies to do what was right and appropriate under the present circumstances. The results were gratifying, which earned the architecture firm a Gold Medal award from the Malaysian Institute of Interior Designers in 2021. Congratulations on a job well done!
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