Strong, cheap, flexible and sustainable, the material is a natural choice for architects across the continent
Hidden down an alleyway in Ho Chi Minh City is a slender, five-storey house. Outside, on the traffic-choked main road, thousands of motorcycles snake in a chaotic stream around cars, street hawkers and terrified-looking tourists.
Away from the noise the house offers rare peace. Bamboo stalks sprout from every balcony, creating a lush vertical garden and a rush of green in an otherwise dusty grey landscape.
Vo Trong Nghia, the Vietnamese architect behind the private residence, has pledged to bring nature back into the urban environment through innovative design.
“It’s a concrete jungle here,” says Vo, 39, waving his pen furiously at the street below his office in Ho Chi Minh. Just 0.25 per cent of the city, a mass of cramped high-rise blocks, is covered by parkland — about 5.35 sq km. Standstill traffic combined with air pollution and rapid urbanisation leaves scant relief for the 9m inhabitants.
As such, Vo’s mission is to link young Vietnamese back to their heritage and to the natural world. Crucial, he insists, is “greening the cities. We do every project — house, university, hotel — like a mini-park.”
Examples include House for Trees, which Vo designed in Ho Chi Minh City in 2014 for a friend who had “become sick from pressure and pollution”, he says. Inspired by tropical rainforests, the home, costing just over $155,000 to build, features five concrete boxy buildings that surround a secluded inner courtyard; floor-to-ceiling glass doors open up to the outside space. […]