The breathtaking landscapes of Vietnam’s northernmost province of Ha Giang are rich in culture and beauty, but its remote location leaves locals in poverty with difficult access to infrastructure and education. Switzerland NGO Caritas teamed up with Hanoi-based firm 1+1>2 Architects to create a low-cost and environmentally friendly homestay and community house to support eco-tourism in the area known as the country’s “last frontier.” The building uses traditional materials, such as rammed earth and timber, with modern construction techniques to maximize energy efficiency and comfort.
Located in the Nam Dam minority village of Quan Ba District, the Swallow Homestay and Community House is surrounded by views of karst mountains, terraced fields, and pine forests. The new building serves as a village landmark that keeps local identity alive and develops tourism with community meeting spaces and use of locally sourced materials and labor. The beveled folding roof even draws inspiration from the wing of a swallow, a bird believed to bring good luck. “The model has helped foster the village’s economy, preserved the culture and hopefully strengthens the bond among residents, adapts to the area’s development in the future,” write the architects.
Set atop a foundation made from local natural stone, the two-story building houses five bedroom, meeting spaces, and a small museum. Eighty-centimeter-thick rammed earth walls were chosen for the first floor to help prevent erosion, moderate daily temperature variations, and reduce the need for cooling and heating. The second floor features a timber frame with reinforced concrete beams and columns. Timber is also used for the floor panels, walls, and trusses. The asymmetric timber roof built with double-layered tiles is elevated and punctuated by a skylight to allow for natural ventilation and lighting. Rainwater is collected from the roof, stored in an underground water tank, and reused in the bathroom.
Images by Vu Xuan Son