A Vietnamese Abode Draws In Light With a Glass Atrium

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By Michele Koh Morollo
Traditional and modern elements merge to striking effect in this renovated home north of Hanoi.

Named for the tapering roof structure that funnels sunlight into a small garden atrium, Hopper House in the Quảng An region of Vietnam pays homage to the architectural traditions of the northern part of the country while featuring a modern layout and streamlined interiors.

A 13-foot, cantilevered balcony extends from a second-floor bedroom; a third-floor balcony also enjoys a concrete balcony.

A 13-foot, cantilevered balcony extends from a second-floor bedroom; a third-floor balcony also enjoys a concrete balcony.

All the decade-old trees within and around the existing house were retained. 

All the decade-old trees within and around the existing house were retained. 

The concrete, wood, steel, and slate home resides in a dense neighborhood. In the renovation of the 2,583-square-foot residence, Hanoi studio AHL Architects wove in design elements from traditional, Northern Vietnamese architecture—such as incorporating a gabled, village-style wooden "house" in the interior, and wooden screen doors—to create an efficient, contemporary residence. 

On the ground floor of the three-level house is a front yard and parking area with a few tall trees. 

On the ground floor of the three-level house is a front yard and parking area with a few tall trees. 

At the back of the living area is a volume shaped like a wooden house, which contains the kitchen, storage space, and a bedroom. 

At the back of the living area is a volume shaped like a wooden house, which contains the kitchen, storage space, and a bedroom. 

Hung Dao, founder of AHL, designed the patios, thresholds, inner yards, and roofs with proportions that echo those of traditional Northern Vietnamese dwellings, but updated them to improve functionality.

Hung Dao, founder of AHL, designed the patios, thresholds, inner yards, and roofs with proportions that echo those of traditional Northern Vietnamese dwellings, but updated them to improve functionality.

"We did not simply copy traditional elements for Hopper House, but used them as input to analyze, arrange, and create the program for the new house," says Hung.

"We did not simply copy traditional elements for Hopper House, but used them as input to analyze, arrange, and create the program for the new house," says Hung.

The clean white walls, grey cement floors, and a simple, neutral color scheme imbues the interiors with a modern, minimalist feel.  

Passing through a patio and entranceway, one enters an open-plan living and dining area with ceilings that dip towards the four glass walls of the small interior garden.

Passing through a patio and entranceway, one enters an open-plan living and dining area with ceilings that dip towards the four glass walls of the small interior garden.

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From the living area, floating stairs lead up to the second and third floor, which were designed as two compact levels stacked above the "wooden house" volume on the ground floor.  

From the living area, floating stairs lead up to the second and third floor, which were designed as two compact levels stacked above the "wooden house" volume on the ground floor.  

"From the outside we wanted to convey a very familiar feeling," says Hung. "But after passing through the front door, the viewer should be amazed at the creative variations despite the familiarity of the structures."

A facade of slate stone and warm wood gives the house a rustic, Southeast Asian character, while high, arched ceilings, and clean lines open up the interior spaces.

A facade of slate stone and warm wood gives the house a rustic, Southeast Asian character, while high, arched ceilings, and clean lines open up the interior spaces.

From these two balconies, one can look down at the top of the tree in the middle of the enclosed garden.

From these two balconies, one can look down at the top of the tree in the middle of the enclosed garden.

The hopper motif is repeated in interior details such as door handles, wall tiles, and sinks.

The hopper motif is repeated in interior details such as door handles, wall tiles, and sinks.

Sectional drawing

Sectional drawing

Project Credits

 Architect, builder, landscape and interior design: AHL Architects

 Structural engineering: Vu Van Cuong 

Lighting deisgn: AHL Architects and AIF Lighting