Saigon House

a21 Studio

Design team: a21studio.
Location: Hồ Chí Minh city, Vietnam.
Client: Family with 7 kids.
Area: 3x15m.
Materials: Concrete, reclaimed materials.
Photographs: Quang Tran, Hiroyuki Oki.

Located in a small path of Saigon center, where new and old houses are sitting next to each other, Saigon house, inspired by Southern Vietnam living spaces and using old materials, is blended into surrounding. It could be said that the new house even looks like being here longer than the rest. The building not distinguished itself in appearance but is still attracted by its friendly and beloved.

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Saigon house gets inspiration from Van Duong Phu, a typical Southern Vietnamese house, built by Vuong Hong Sen. He was a cultural authority, an academic, and a famous collector of antiquities. He was considered deeply knowledgeable of southern Vietnam and greatly respected in the field of history and archaeology in Vietnam. Moreover, he also had a deep knowledge of southern Vietnam and wrote many books about Saigon. Before dying, he donated his house and entire antiquity collection with the hope of building a museum in his name and preserving the objects.

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At the end of his life, he would like to dedicate his house as a museum in order to prevent the antiques from stolen and introduce Saigon culture to visitors.

However, his hope has never come true. Many objects are stolen; the house has been in a very bad condition for more than 18 years. Moreover, it is now treated as a small street restaurant which is noisy every day.

We not only regret of missing a master piece of architecture, but also, feel sorrow that Saigon culture is now fallen in oblivion. Our generation and Youngers have to spend our childhood in western liked houses, unemotionally similar streets and deeply sunk into a culture of consumption. This is partly resulted from lacking of education of love for the place where we were born and raised.

Thus, we would like to make a house, inspired by Saigon characteristics and pass our love of the place to next generations so that they cherish their childhood memories.

We’ve recognized that although being respected and successful in his works, he failed in passing his love to his family. Therefore, they do not respect their childhood.

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The owner of Saigon house is the one who loves Saigon and she hates living in a Western liked houses, which become popular in our city. She wants the house is a gathering place for her brothers and sisters those who used to live in the same roof and a meeting place for grandparents and their kids.

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Our generation is now familiar with hot and cramped spaces putting man quality down the line. As the result, they are more selfish and ready to scramble for every living space. Then, our challenge is making a house, that comfortable and inspired by Saigon characteristics into a popular site, 3x15m, in the city center. Moreover, the house is not only a beloved space for the kids but also a living space that recalls adults, sons of Saigon, to their childhood memories, because they are the ones who pass their love of Saigon, of the house to their children.

Therefore, the kids are the main factors that we aimed to, we would like to make a strong Saigon characteristic place so that they can be familiar with this place and the adult, as the activator, throughout the stories, to help raising the love in kids.

Saigon is used to be familiar with slope roofs, courtyards and flowering balconies. Moreover, it is also well known with alleys that is full with coloring blocks in rich materials. This is not only the place for communication but also a playground for kids. These are chaotic but deep in culture.

Saigon house is also appeared with coloring blocks floating in common area and all are covered by steel frame that later grown by plants. Especially, the spaces are small enough for them to do their private activities, otherwise, they easily get attracted by the sounds, images from outside and get out, connect to others.

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And the common area is working as an alley, where family members are interacting and building their relationships, where all they can experience the changing in a days, changing in seasons. Those are very rare in the modern society, which is lack of love, communication and nature.

Furthermore, the house is taken shaped by the furniture, stuffs collected by the architect and owner. Most of them are from demolished houses in Saigon.

Besides the beauty of old things, we also found the spirits of the second hand stuffs, those which have their own stories and reasons to reborn in the places where they need them most. And these are being carried to the kids throughout the stories, activities in the house to know house to cherish their house more.

The lost of Van Duong Phu is not the only lost of Saigon. It can happened to anyone, anywhere and at anytime, the lost of old good things that we tried to save for our children. As designers, we would like to use our architecture, the house in this case, that material and spirit value can be maintained by loves of the ones who live in it.

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By merging typical natures of Saigon such as stacking roof layers, rooms opened to courtyard with balcony full of flowers. Especially, alleys, which are one of the most remarkable features in Saigon, appear with colorful clutter house block and rich materials. This is also a playground where young children love to play and adults interact with each other positively and respectfully. Moreover, most of materials used are collected from destructed Saigon houses. Not only interested in the distinctive of old beauties, but we also feel there is a connection, a story about Saigon lives in abandon things, now coming back to life.

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