Image of the exterior of a brick building at dusk

Vietnam’s Cuckoo House Reinvents the Shophouse Typology

Designed by Ho Chi Minh City-based architecture firm, Tropical Space, the 3,000-square-foot mixed-use building is designed to keep residents outdoors.

Situated steps from a river in Da Nang, Vietnam, Cuckoo House by local architecture firm Tropical Space, inspires visual pleasure from the delightful sculptural features that shape up this modernized version of the Southeast Asian shophouse. The mixed-use project combines a ground-floor coffee shop and courtyard with a cantilevered home for a family of four. With over 3,000-square-feet of space, the structure is designed to keep its residents outdoors. 

True to the firm’s name, Tropical Space’s mission is to create harmony between architecture and the tropical environment. Founded in Ho Chi Minh City by Nguyen Hai Long and Tran Thi Ngu Ngon in 2011, the firm not only designs for tropical climates but considers climate change and resilience with every project. 

image of the exterior of a brick building during the day
photograph of. the interior courtyard of a brick building with large archways

Cuckoo House, made from local clay bricks, features a myriad of structural ornamentation, such as semi-circle elliptical windows, wood shuttered double doors (evoking the imagery of a Cuckoo Clock, one of the inspirations behind the home), and lattice brickwork which allows for the home to “breathe,” circumventing the need for thick walls and air conditioning. A breeze comes through a wide corridor on the ground floor and balconies that extend into the structure’s indoor spaces offer natural ventilation and daylight, which helps form lively patterns of light and shadow on the brick walls and concrete floor.

The design of various corridors and passageways provides both tension and unity to the ground floor’s communal space and the upper-level home. Ground floor amenities feature an enclosed garden framed by seating. Adjacent to the family-run café is a walled enclosure with archways that form a sporadic pattern of variously shaped windows on the building’s facade. This open seating arrangement allows café guests to feel as though they are being welcomed into someone’s home.

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photograph of the interior of an open-air brick building

Overlooking the communal space, the three two-story blocks that make up the home are connected through materiality. Connected by an outdoor staircase, Block A accommodates a master bedroom, Block B hosts children’s bedrooms and a living room, and Block C houses a dining room and kitchen. Open to the elements, the passageways between them act as buffer spaces that encourage one to go outside, leaving the boundaries between indoor and outdoor, public and private, completely fluid. Evolving beyond typical definitions of a home or commercial space, the Cuckoo House blends a regional icon with answers to global ecological problems beautifully.

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