The space between two towering buildings on a Vietnam street becomes one big inhabitable plant trellis thanks to an unusual arrangement of space devised by local firm Block Architects. Looking up from the sidewalk, the new volume appears to have been inserted into an alleyway, occupying an interstitial space in a way that encourages the transmission of sunlight all the way from the neighboring rooflines to the ground level.
In fact, the architects took a structure that already existed and knocked out unnecessary walls and floors to create a series of voids divided by white grids that almost seem intangible at first glance, like a graphic overlay on top of a photograph. The clients wanted both a private residence and an office space for their business producing handcrafted leather fashion accessories, and in this, the architects found inspiration, mimicking the way thread connects separate pieces of textiles.
“Like meticulous craftsmen, we carefully joined up every part of the house: old ones and new ones, separate ones and shared ones, together with wood, brick, concrete, metal, and trees,” they explain. “The house appears as if it were ‘sewed’ with thin, pure white thread, which fills us with excitement. Unnecessary walls and floors were removed to make space, exposing a large structure which was ‘sewed’ on walls alongside big frames at the front and the back of the house.”
The resulting frames are made of thin white metal rods arranged in a grids, alternately forming vertical, two-dimensional railings, symmetrical patterns, and irregular stepped arrangements. These grids form trellises, privacy screens, room dividers, base structures for staircases, and even climbable structures. Their permeable nature contrasts with the solidity of the brick on either side of the space, puncturing the walls to transition from outside to in.
From the street-facing ground level, you enter the home through a sliding door covered in wooden slats into a private open-air space. A series of sliding glass panels offer entrance to the narrow yet spacious-feeling interiors, which are broken up by split-level platforms leading from one level to the next. The architects removed an old concrete staircase to create a giant light well passing from the lowest level to the highest.
On the ground floor, a long, curvilinear kitchen counter snakes its way along the right wall. Openings in the platform above allow the branches of a live tree to spread out within the space, visible from the next floor up. The ground floor contains the living room, dining area, restroom, reading area, workspace, garden, and atrium, while the second floor contains a crafting room, bedrooms, pergola, and terrace. From the upper-level terraces, the uppermost part of the white grid visible from the street can be accessed and climbed.
If this whole space were filled in like its more conventional neighbors, it’s easy to imagine the interiors feeling dark and closed off. With this creative orientation of indoor and outdoor spaces within the vertical space available, the inhabitants feel more connected to the outdoors, fresh air, and the city itself.