AR House 2015 Finalist: Inspired by termite mounds, the Termitary House in Vietnam is designed to buffer winds from seasonal storms
An old residential building in the coastal city of Da Nang, central Vietnam, became the Termitary House when local studio Tropical Space enclosed the remaining concrete slab structure in a perforated grille of brickwork, creating a new home for a family of three. Although the only opening in the primary facade is a large wooden door, from the street at night the scheme resembles a giant radiating lantern, suggesting that the intriguing subtleties of this beautifully crafted scheme are to be found on the inside.
‘The scheme is inspired by the collective living of termites and the spatial configuration of their mounds’
Inspired by the collective living of termites and the spatial configuration of their mounds, the large communal area at the heart of the house accommodates a kitchen counter, dining table and entertainment corner around which ancillary programmes branch off. Additional spaces on the ground floor include the living room and main bedroom. Narrow and symmetrical staircases on either side of the main space go up to the first floor, where the second bedroom, altar room and small library surround the large central atrium. A ladder leads up to the roof terrace accommodating a small leafy garden of vines.
The project’s extensive use of brick pays tribute to the heritage of local Champa baked-brick towers, constructed in the area between the fourth and the late 15th century, and the design is a direct response to the region’s tropical monsoon climate, which translates as six months of typhoons and wet season, alternating with six months of hot and dry weather.
‘The simplicity of the interiors is animated by plays of light and shadows filtering through the brickwork’
The smaller chambers of the house are pushed to the outer perimeter of the scheme, effectively becoming a thick buffer zone protecting the central core: not only do they block the strong winds of the stormy season, but they also efficiently redirect them straight towards and through the gaps in the roof.
This double-skin construction method and the high ceilings of the communal area enable air to circulate and light to permeate the interior throughout while the brick itself helps maintain a cool internal temperature and lower humidity levels. At both front and rear of the parcel, slender gravel patios also contribute to the natural cross ventilation of the project and additional glazing set behind the perforated walls protects the home from wind, rain and mosquitoes, ensuring the dwelling remains comfortable throughout the extreme fluctuating climate.
Inside, all the furniture was made with the original roof’s timber, helping to reduce total construction costs, and sits delightfully against the sober background. The warmth of the timber together with that of the brick contrasts with the bareness of the exposed concrete ceilings and dark shade of terrazzo flooring. The simplicity of these modest interiors is animated by the daily plays of light and patterned shadows filtering through the openings in the brickwork.
The three skylights punctuating the house as well as the openings above the perimeter walls allow additional daylight to enter the interior while in turn opening up views to the blue skies and starry nights. The light channelled in connects the different levels of the house and brings the house volumes together as one, heightening the sense of close communal living inherent in the nest. The small scale of the project and the simplicity of the interior layout contribute to a minimal need for partitions. Rather, it is the varying combinations of solid and perforated brickwork that generate different degrees of intimacy while enabling the various family members to communicate and catch glimpses of each other throughout the house.
Profoundly anchored in the local roots of its context, Termitary House aims to be a model of housing for the area, while being easily adaptable to other locations around the world facing similar climates.