In the heart of Ho Chi Minh City’s concrete jungle, a compact family home has been infused with greenery thanks to the work of Vietnamese architecture firm Vo Trong Nghia Architects. Dubbed the Breathing House, the property is located in an extremely dense neighborhood on a plot measuring just 12.8 feet in width and 58.4 feet in length. To provide a connection to nature despite the constrained urban conditions, the architects wrapped three sides of the home in a “green veil” made of creeper plants that grow on steel mesh.
Edged in by buildings and accessible only via a tiny alleyway, the Breathing House makes the most of its small footprint with a staggered floor plan arranged around light wells that let natural light and ventilation deep inside the home. To open three sides of the house to the outdoors without compromising privacy, the architects wrapped the facade in a vertical green screen that not only protects against prying views, but also helps mitigate solar heat gain and improve air quality. This “green veil” was constructed using a modularized galvanized steel mesh and planter boxes installed at every floor.
“Inside the ‘green veil’, the building consists of five tower-like volumes that are staggered and connected to each other, arranged in between the two boundary walls,” the architects said of the interior layout. “The external spaces created by the staggered arrangement of the volumes, which we call ‘micro voids’, play a role in providing myriad indirect lighting and ventilation routes throughout the building. In the narrow and deep plot shuttered by neighbors on both sides, it is more environmentally effective to promote ventilation for each corner of the house, by multiple ‘micro voids’, rather than having a singular large courtyard.”
The “porous” arrangement of spaces helps create a sense of spaciousness in the home while reducing dependence on air conditioning. The “green veil”, which is visible to passersby, continues up to the roof terrace, creating what the architects said is a much-needed green space in a city that’s been losing green spaces at an alarming rate.
Images by Hiroyuki Oki via Vo Trong Nghia Architects