When a young architecture start-up in Vietnam went looking for office space, the Farming Architects team, led by founder An Viet Dung, looked to the local vernacular for inspiration. The result is the Urban Eco Balcony, a 376-square-foot office designed to showcase how it’s possible to bring new life to the empty and unused balconies found throughout Hanoi. The interior space is comprised of a unique steel grid system, which was installed with an aquaponic system to breathe new life and green space into the office.

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exterior of building with plant-covered balcony

According to Farming Architects founder An Viet Dung, when the budding design practice decided to open its first office in Hanoi, the team realized that the city’s ubiquitous balconies were largely unused, most likely because of urban pollution, noise and even security issues.

Related: New library in Hanoi aims to show young children the benefits of aquaponics in an urban setting

room with steel-grid on ceiling holding many plants

Using this urban challenge as inspiration, the firm decided to rent a downtown office that would focus on the importance of giving purpose to these “dead spaces.” By using a number of architectural solutions, Farming Architects created an open and vibrant working space, referred to as the Urban Eco Balcony, with various multi-functional features.

cubic steel grid system with hanging plants

First, the architects installed a steel girder-tree system that helps create a strong connection between the interior and the balcony areas. Large floor-to-ceiling glass doors lead to the outdoor spaces and welcome natural light inside. The steel grid formations also provide protection from harsh sun rays and help block the rain from coming into the office.

a large hanging structure made up of steel grids above an office desk

Additionally, the steel frames are modular, meaning they can be rearranged depending on necessity. This feature adds a lot of functionality to the office, as the structures can be used as storage, book cases, mounts for additional lighting and more.

office with hanging plants and cube shelves

Perhaps the steel grid system’s best use, however, is to support the office’s aquaponic system, which fills the balcony. Filling the “dead spaces” with plants would be an obvious choice to liven up the work space, but the architects wanted to take it a bit further by creating a system of aquaculture with plants grown hydroponically. This system requires little-to-no maintenance and creates a fresh, healthy atmosphere for the working space.

+ Farming Architects

Photography by Thai Thach and Viet Dung An via Farming Architects