Project: Termitary House, Vietnam
Architects: Tropical Space Co. Ltd., Vietnam
Inspiration: As builders in nature, termites do not have many tools at their disposal—just their bodies, soil, and saliva. For guidance, they have nothing to go on save variations in wind speed and direction, and the fluctuations in temperature as the sun rises and sets. Similarly, the Termitary House was built in a tropical country in which the weather is extremely different during sunny season and a rainy one. The climate is also influenced by a lot of tropical storms every year.
Structure and Solution for Stormy Season
The structure of the house includes many layers of brick walls with holes arranged randomly like a termitary, along with a large inter-floor space. These holes can be considered as vents that help the wind rotate inside the house and allows breeze and light to get to all corners of the building, creating a refreshing living environment. The special constructing technique of “double skins” with two layers—one brick wall covering outside and one slide-glass inside— creates a space within a wall, which functions as a buffer layer at both gables. During stormy season, the second layer helps to block the strong wind and rain. Also, the buffer layer creates a fluctuation in pressure, pushing the wind to go straight towards the gap.
The stairs, warehouse and toilet have been allocated on both the east and west sides, a buffer space has been created to prevent direct sunlight and the structure of the house has been made steady to outstand typhoons. The house is with a large sharing space in the centre, which has a cooking counter, a dining table and an entertainment corner. This ‘lobby’ then leads to different functional areas within the house, such as the rest room, the living room, and the bedrooms. The mezzanine is where another bedroom, an altar room and a small library are located. In the sharing areas of the house, the space is not limited by the wall; the family members can still see and chat to each other through the walls with holes. It helps bring the family closer together in this modern busy life.
During the day, the natural light shines through the holes in the wall to cast patterned shadows across the interior walls. Slender skylights offer light and ventilation, providing each room with a view of the sky and the lush green roof. They also serve as outlets for hot air, so that the indoors remain cooler. The variety in the light intensity getting through the holes at different times of the day, make the colour of the brick wall change, creating various emotions of colours on the surface of the brick. In the very simple design language. The architects also minimised several unnecessary elements for the house, from removing the finish layer, to reducing unrequired walls and doors in the house. Mechanical and electrical utilities were calculated carefully and used reasonably to save cost as well.
The most important thing was that before making any crucial decision to add something to the design, the team always questioned if they could eliminate them out and if that would influence the function of the space or not. In doing so, they made the right decisions for the house and saved the cost too. The tight budget was a challenge for the design team, but it also helped to recognise the fact that to make good buildings, you don’t have to make expensive buildings.
The use of materials
The baked-brick is a popular local building material that brings to mind the mysterious temples in this enchanting country, which were built of bricks hundreds of years ago. Under the tropical sun, the changing colours of the bricks invoke different feelings at different time. Using bricks and keeping the old garden intact made the owner feel familiar with this new house.
The brick is a sustainable material and available at a cheap price. It has an absorptive capacity that helps to regulate the humidity of the house. This is a really important factor to consider while building a house in tropical countries. For many years, the brick and other raw materials were always hidden under a lot of finish layers. In choosing to use brick for the house, the team also wanted to prove the natural and rustic beauty of the material under sunlight, which could be an endless source of inspiration for architects.
The idea is that if every house is designed like a termitary, which can naturally ventilate and can be bathed in sunlight, it will create a city area full of wind and sunlight going through every single street. As the result, it can help to save energy consumption and contribute to decreasing the negative impact to global warming.
The design team wanted to bring a different perspective to the process of organizing living spaces in the present and the future. The Termitary House can truly self-breathe due to self-ventilation and natural lighting. And most importantly, the cost of construction generates maximum saving. This model can be applied to build houses for families with average income living in the suburban areas of tropical countries. The team feels that an ideal house for tropical climate is a house that can breathe. Currently, this model is being replicated for other buildings such as houses, spas, hotels and clinics.
Photo credit: Oki Hiroyuki
Architect In Charge: Nguyen Hai Long, Tran Thi Ngu Ngon Design team: Phan Quang Vinh, Trinh Thanh Tu
Site area: 190 sq m
Building area: 140 sq m
Level: 2 (1 ground floor, 1 mezzanine)
Materials used: Baked Brick, Concrete, Terrazzo, Wood Total cost: USD 27,000 (construction cost: USD 22,000; interior decoration cost: USD 5,000)
Year of completion: 2014