Inspiration can come from anywhere, even from termites. In the case of Termitary House in Vietnam, it was the insect’s elaborate mounds that lead local architecture firm Tropical Space to think about porous facades as an effective way to build a house. Similar to a termite nest’s intricate maze of tunnels and conduits, Termitary uses offset baked bricks to create permeable walls that allow for ample light and air circulation to flow through the interior.
Yet, because the coastal region of Da Nang, where weather patterns shift from dry periods of intense heat to tropical monsoons, a second skin was need. So, the firm inserted a glass aluminum frame, which slides closed during the wet season and directs air up and out. It also creates a barrier against natural pests, while deftly moderating thick heat and humidity. The 140-square-metre interior is mostly free of room-dividing walls, and on the main floor, space is given over to cooking, dining and entertaining, while more intimate quarters, including a bedroom, a small library and an altar room, fill the mezzanine.
Termitary’s strength is in its simplicity – its rectangular form, its minimal palette of natural textures, and those bricks, which are readily available locally and affordably, allowing the architects to construct the house on a budget of just $US22,000. What impressed the jury most was how such an ancient building material could project a fresh and contemporary look.
From within, the porous walls transform light throughout the day, shifting from saturated orangey reds to deep purple shadows. At night, the house glows like a lantern, twinkling in the dark. Not only a gem for the neighbourhood, Termitary champions local building practices and materials, providing a global model for breathable construction in tropical climates.
About the firm: Based in Ho Chi Minh City, Tropical Space was launched by Nguyen Hai Long and Tran Thi Ngu Ngon in 2011. The studio is committed to environmentally friendly building practices and the use of materials that are a part of Vietnam’s rich architectural culture.
What the jury said: “There is such elegance to the brick. You can stare at it for the longest time, observing the transparency. It’s a simple move but perfectly calibrated.” – Thomas Woltz
Location: Da Nang, Vietnam
Firm: Tropical Space, Ho Chi Minh City
Team: Nguyen Hai Long and Tran Thi Ngu Ngon, with Trinh Thanh Tu and Phan Quang Vinh