While it can be gratifying to build something new, sometimes the greenest building is one that is already standing. That's especially true in old cities where much of the existing architecture carries with it a sense of history and culture that might not necessarily be translatable into a new form. Vietnamese firm a21 Studio renovated this narrow sliver of old Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City) into a vibrant, multigenerational home, boasting a central courtyard and new net bridge where kids can play, and the family can gather.
Like their previous project we featured, the existing structure is a narrow townhouse that was once home to an antiques museum called Van Duong Palace, built by a Saigonese named Vuong Hong Sen. It had since fallen into disrepair and was eventually abandoned. The current owners and clients wanted to restore the building into a place where their grandchildren would play, while retaining the historical character of the place. The architects say preservation of this history was their aim:
Saigon has altered beyond recognition, for us, it is hard to call a development, it is, actually, a sequence of destructions: a destruction of culture, architecture values… and especially, our beautiful memories of Saigon. [..]
The Saigon House, moreover, is [a tribute to] our love of Saigon’s alleys, which are romantic with its rain and sunshine.
The core of the space is an open courtyard, populated by small trees and a suspended net that bridges one end to the other. Parts of the building have been repainted in bright colours to bring more life into the space.
The densely packed spaces overlap each other, giving interesting visual paths, and lots of little, old-world balconies and alcoves perfect for hiding and kids' play -- almost like a city within a city. Yet, thanks to the open central space, there is still a feeling of light, fresh air and spaciousness -- alluding to that "rain and sunshine" the designers nostalgically speak about.
On the outside, an extra screen provides places for greenery to climb on, providing more privacy and shade.
This is a real gem, its cultural heritage restored in a city full of stories that lay in its walls, waiting to be told. More over at a21 Studio.