M VILLA: A Tropical Vietnamese Duplex by D1 Architects
There’s a lot to love in Hoi An, one of Vietnam’s most beautiful traditional towns. For starters, there are its glorious white sand beaches dotted with tropical palm trees. Then there’s the ancient trading port of Old Town Hoi An, which dates back to the 15th century. Even better, this area’s historic architecture is among some of the best-preserved in the entire nation.
Showing influences from countries all around it, including China and Japan, the Old Town is often packed with tourists coming to admire its many charms and multitude of canals. Outside the town, much of the land is still wild and minimally developed.
But to really enjoy Hoi An, you have to be prepared for a bit of extreme weather. The dry season runs from May through September, with temperatures commonly hitting 100°F. The rest of the year is wet, with torrential rains frequently causing floods. So when architecture firm D1 was commissioned to create a duplex villa along the Hoi An River, they knew they’d have to place a high priority on working with the regional climate.
The Vietnam-based studio founded in 2017 by architect Tan Nguyen has quickly gained a reputation for blending modern elements with the local vernacular, employing plenty of organic materials in the process. They believe in creating “responsibly-designed buildings” that are custom-tailored to each site. The key to injecting “soul” into each structure lies in taking cues from the things the surrounding buildings are made from — and of course, from paying local artisans to do much of the work.
M VILLA is the latest hospitality project from the firm to be made with materials like coconut leaves and local stone, wood, and bamboo, taking advantage of the skills and craftsmanship associated with each of those items in the area. But because the duplex is set along the river, it’s especially prone to storms and floods, so it needed a little extra creative thinking to ensure its full protection.
D1 created a large overhanging roof made of layered and overlapped coconut leaves to create a sort of tent over the living areas, simultaneously cooling them and giving them additional protection from the rain. These common spaces are also set along the exterior of each unit to take advantage of the surrounding views, natural daylight, and fresh air. Private spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms are set into the core of the structure, and are decidedly more “reserved for resting.”
The architects add: “At the same time, both spaces are seamlessly connected to the surrounding nature. To effectively take advantage of the beautiful surrounding landscape, the design minimizes walls to the max in order to maximize wide angles. All functions are arranged vertically, leaving the ground floor open, flexible, and easy to move in case [the] water level rises during [the] heavy rainy season.”
“Local materials and skilled craftsmanship are greatly employed [in this project]. This helps create a harmonic integration between the project and its surrounding scenes and landscape. More importantly, this allows for the preservation and promotion of traditional crafting villages amid today’s mass production age in Vietnam.”
A lush “coconut forest” of palm trees along the edge of the river acts as a transitional zone, helping to further alleviate flooding concerns. Elsewhere, high stone walls topped with wooden privacy panels help create backyard oases despite the two tenants living so close to one another. The back side of the duplex meets the street, too, ensuring that the lot is primarily used for respite and recreation.