House for Trees VTN concrete

A formerly empty courtyard in Hi Chi Minh City, Vietnam is now filled with five oversized rectangular pots planted with trees that stretch up high above the rooftops of the surrounding buildings. Those ribbed concrete ‘pots’ are actually architectural volumes making up ‘House for Trees,’ a two-bedroom residence for a family of three.

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House for Trees VTN
House for Trees VTN looking up

The separate spaces each have their own function. The smallest is an altar room, while the other four have communal areas on the ground floor and private rooms on top. The kitchen is in one volume, the library in a second, a dining room in the third; the fourth has bathrooms on both levels.

House for Trees VTN courtyard

This creates an open plan that requires residents to venture outside to get from one section of the home to another, encouraging an open-air lifestyle that follows the local tradition. Metal bridges connect the top levels of some of the structures, which have few windows on the exterior to preserve privacy, opening instead onto a small, sheltered outdoor space.

House for Trees VTN interior
House for Trees VTN looking out

Vo Trong Nghia Architects chose banyan trees, which have shallow aerial roots, for the roofs of each ‘pot.’ The concrete structures had to be reinforced to support the weight of nearly 5 feet of soil, the storm water that it collects and the trees themselves.

“Under rapid urbanization, cities in Vietnam have diverged far from their origins as sprawling tropical forests. In Ho Chi Minh City, for example, only 0.25% area of the entire city is covered with greenery. An over-abundance of motorbikes causes daily traffic congestion as well as serious air pollution. As a result, new generations in urban areas are losing their connection with nature.”

House for Trees VTN at night

“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.”