VTN Architecture’s Binh House: Sight lines of sustainability…

Randomly coming across Binh House inspired the thought, “Why are we not building houses like this in Queensland / Australia when global warming and sustainability are arguably the planet’s most pressing issues and for a great part of the year we suffer temperatures in the mid to high thirties?”  Binh house is a summary of quality ideas that address living in the hot, densely populated and polluted city of Ho Chi Minh in the 21st century.

“Under  the  rapid  urbanization,  cities  in  Vietnam  have  diverged  far  from their origins as low density tropical green space. Newly developed urban areas are losing their connection with nature.”  https://goo.gl/3GiVq8

Reading about the effects of climate change on world populations is at once heart wrenching and frustrating.  It was a joy to hear that Binh house is part of a larger project to introduce greenery into densely populated areas; a prototype in the “House for Trees” series. http://votrongnghia.com/

Architecture Daily elaborates, “House for Trees, a prototypical house within a tight budget of 156,000 USD, is an effort to change this situation. The aim of the project is to bring green space back into the city, accommodating high-density dwelling with big tropical trees. Five concrete boxes are designed as “pots” to plant trees on their tops. With thick soil layer, these pots also function as storm-water basins for detention and retention, therefore contribute to reduce the risk of flooding in the city when the idea is multiplied to a large number of houses in the future.” https://goo.gl/t7nqSs

True to this explanation, Binh House pops up like an oasis in the steaming hot metropolis.  It offers immediate benefits to individuals living in the house.  Aspects of sustainability are seen in the open thoroughfares, open wall spaces and concrete block stacking designed to manipulate air flow, in addition to substantial and variant planting.  The architect’s claim the design and flow of space means the air-conditioner is almost never on, while utility spaces are placed on the west side of the home to ensure a buffer zone between the direction of the afternoon sun and the living areas.  Energy costs are significantly reduced because of this.  Concrete is a natural choice for sustainable outcomes, it is non-combustible, has a slower rate of heat transfer, does not emit toxic fumes, is a natural insulator and is fully recyclable. https://goo.gl/1vFL69

Interior space is elegant and inviting because of the prolific Treeboxes, high ceilings, large openings and the expansive spaces.  An additional element that may or may not be intentional, is that of aesthetic collateral.  Noticeable in a few images, as the sun moves from east to west, scintillating patterns appear as the sun’s rays fall across the various cuts, openings and walls; trees, leaf patterns and shrubs would at times be silhouetted against surfaces creating distinct and visually dynamic effects. Continuing with this idea, visually creative tableaus would emerge as cross sections of the house appear in sight lines as inhabitants move through the spaces.

While undoubtedly having three generations in one location could have its own set of problems, the clear vision of the architects ensured that potential issues were addressed from the outset.  It is nice to see family members even when you are not interacting; a child doing homework in one area but able to see their Mother through glass or an opening in another area feels comforted by her presence because of her proximity. “The architecture is not only to meet the functional and aesthetic concerns, but also as a means to connect people to people and people to nature. ”http://votrongnghia.com/

Moreover, the footprint and greenery are contributing positively to the general alleviation of pollution, the cutting of energy costs and emissions and the simple provision of shelter.  The benefits of the rooftop garden are myriad.  Growing vegetables on the roof is just one of the benefits contributing to partial self-sufficiency, not to mention health benefits.  It is not hard to understand Binh House being proclaimed “the best house in the world” at the Festival of Architecture in the Phillipines in 2017.  The environmental potential of Binh House is mind boggling if you imagine this idea multiplied on a large scale in all cities of high density. Planting trees means cleaner cooler air and planting trees close to where people live means cleaning the immediate environment more quickly given bespoke and assiduous environmental planning.  The benefits of wholesale tree planting in large urban centres has been much discussed, more recently in relation to London. https://goo.gl/VUMJQJ

The is-what-it-is architecture of Binh house is a recognition by the architects that a home must impart a sense of spiritual equanimity – a value derived from focusing on the big picture in terms of personal and communal living; a value ground in placing people at the centre of a larger holistic process in which the environment, sustainability and people work symbiotically, as much as they can within a bigger community.

Imagine walking into Binh House after being in traffic, or arriving after both a long flight and drive from the airport, the woes and stresses would begin to fall away upon drawing near.  While body heat will disperse as you enter, the design of this house means that heat is never trapped inside, it dissipates through space as it rises.  Living close to nature is a boon to the soul and a stress reliever; a cool and calming environment due to the presence of those three key aspects; concrete, leafy shrubs and trees and wide open interiors.  Walking into Binh House would be like walking into a cool faint shower; synaesthetically it would smell cool and clean because of the interior gardens.

VTN’s multi-faceted vision and prototype need to be promoted as one solution to many of the 21st century’s problems. Binh House demonstrates that a beautiful house is much more than trappings and decoration, it has a soul and a strong sense of protecting the inhabitants from what lies beyond the perimeter, while manifesting the beauty of the big ideas behind it.   Perhaps expectations of wealth and acquisition across the globe need lowering, so the world has some chance of recovering from the impact of man on our natural resources.  Binh House sends a strong message that sustainability is everyone’s responsibility and that all communities can do their bit in relatively humble ways.  VTN recognises and demonstrates how many familial, civic and global issues can be addressed within a single quality project.

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