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Stacking Green House by Vo Trong Nghia, Daisuke Sanuki and Shunri Nishizawa, Saigon, Vietnam

[COMMENDATION AR HOUSE 2011] In designing this narrow three-storey house, the architects took their cue from balcony planters. Photography by Hiroyuki Oki

An exceptional one-off house might appear to call for the prerequisite of an exceptional site. But the Stacking Green House confounds such a perception. Located in the dense urban grid that characterises much of Saigon, this family dwelling occupies a typical Vietnamese ‘tube plot’, measuring 4m wide and 20m deep.

In designing the tall, narrow three-storey house, the architects took their cue from the local preoccupation with balcony planters. This habit of filling every nook and cranny with innumerable varieties of tropical flowers and plants means that many of Saigon’s most densely populated streets are among the city’s greenest roads.

Inspired by such an informal and effective means of greening facades, the house’s front and back walls are entirely built from stacked horizontal layers of concrete planters. The distance between the planters ranges from 250mm to 400mm in order to accommodate different plant heights. As well as giving the house its distinctive character, the green facades also regulate the internal climate and atmosphere, acting as a natural cooling brise soleil in the intense heat of a Vietnamese summer.

The jury concluded that the project was a sensitive and inventive translation of a generic urban condition into a unique and thoughtful one-off house.

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