News Home & Design Airy Family Home in Vietnam Rises in Slender Urban Lot A spacious family home stacks up in a dense urban neighborhood in Hanoi. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Updated January 5, 2022 05:25PM EST Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Hoang Le News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive In implementing major socio-economic reforms, rapidly developing nations will often see a massive movement of job-seeking rural populations into cities, resulting in a haphazard pattern of urban densification as local authorities and slow-changing policies struggle to keep up with rising demands for modernized infrastructure and services. Vietnam's second-largest city, Hanoi, is one prime example of this unprecedented growth, where these new pressures can present new, unexpected challenges to citizens, urban planners, and architects alike. In response to these pressures, Vietnamese and Czech firm ODDO Architects have constructed a naturally illuminated, well-ventilated home for a family of four on a narrow lot, located in one of Hanoi's densely populated residential neighborhoods. Hoang Le Dubbed the TH House, the 1334-square-foot (124-square-meter) dwelling is split over five stories and is surrounded on three sides by adjacent buildings. The lot itself measures a mere 13 by 19 feet (4 by 6 meters), with the front entrance having access to a narrow alley measuring 4 feet (1.2 meters) wide. These are tight quarters, yet with the careful use of overlapping volumes and strategically placed skylights and windows, the architects have managed to create a home that feels much more open than these cramped dimensions might suggest. Hoang Le As the designers explain, these design decisions reflect the family's desire to stay connected with each other, and with the community at large: "The concept of a narrow five-storey house is to maximize access of the daylight and natural ventilation, planting greenery and spatial interconnection of all floors so that members of the family could communicate visually between floors. Family traditional ties in Hanoi and Vietnam in general are extremely important, this aspect is reflected in the design of the house. Open living spaces and a glass façade, with the possibility of shielding in order to create privacy, simplify socialization among the family members as well as with the neighbors." One enters the house via the northern facade through sliding glass doors that fold up to take up less space, thus coming directly into the kitchen. Hoang Le In this way, the small footprint of the home can "borrow" some extra floor space from the alley, while also allowing fresh air to flow in. While entering a house through the kitchen may seem odd in a North American context, in Vietnam, this is actually quite common, the designers explain: "The front part of the kitchen is also the main entrance into the house from a public street, which is often the local custom." Hoang Le Going up a winding staircase off to the side, we come up into the parents' bedroom on the second level. They have their own bathroom with toilet and shower, with more privacy and noise-dampening afforded here with the use of a layer of plants over the north facade. Hoang Le On the next level up on the third floor, we have the living room, which is relatively open on the northern facade side. After ascending the white metal mesh staircase, one steps up into a transitional space, where on the right is the living room, and on the other side is an immense glass facade that overlooks the northern side of the home. Hoang Le These operable glass windows not only let light in but can connect the space visually with the neighbors, though privacy can be augmented by drawing down the blinds. Hoang Le Rising up another level, we come to the children's room on the fourth floor, which has two bunk beds, a wardrobe, and its own small bathroom. This space can be closed off with a series of folding doors that slide into place. Hoang Le Finally, at the topmost fifth level of the home, we have an altar room for praying, a common feature in traditional Asian cultures, as well as an adjacent laundry room, and access to a small outdoor terrace with views looking out over the city. The wall overlooking the skylit-staircase is made with bricks, which have been staggered to let more light in. Hoang Le Throughout the house, there are pockets of greenery and freestanding plants to soften up the minimalist interior. As the architects explain, these verdant interventions are an effort to balance out the local environmental effects of Hanoi's rapid urbanization: "The city of Hanoi is facing a significant lack of greenery in public space. Greenery within the local subtropical climate serves as a functional element that can provide street shading and reduce the temperature in the city. It is also important to focus on the microclimate of the housing itself within the dense development. Greenery within the interiors and outdoor overhanging gardens improve the quality of life in the buildings. The arrangement and type of plants are chosen according to lighting conditions and spatial possibilities. Large planting pots are connected to automatic irrigation, which helps for the maintenance." Hoang Le Even in the midst of a densely packed and quickly growing city like Hanoi, a calm and green-filled home is possible. To see more, visit ODDO Architects and on Facebook. View Article Sources "Urban Development." The World Bank.