The Kaleidoscope is the living and working building located at a factory site in central Vietnam. The surrounding region is known for its severe climate: a hot wind blows throughout the dry season and typhoons and floods during the rainy season. The building is placed between the hill and the sea, and frames a series of diverse—kaleidoscopic—views in directions and times. The project aims at creating a protected space from the harsh tropical climate, and enhancing the user’s contact with nature through various architectural devices.
Resembling a “nón lá”, a traditional farmer’s hat of Vietnam, a large conical roof casts shadows on the entire building. The ventilated cavity between the double layered roof functions as a natural heat insulator against the sunlight, while the deep eaves enable the central space’s windows to remain open even during the rains. The main function of the building is placed at the center of a floating slab, which keeps the space protected from the ground moisture.
Allowing for natural ventilation throughout the building and framing the surrounding scenery, solid walls are arranged perpendicularly to the roof periphery. These form a series of V-shapes to cut out triangular private rooms open towards the outside while defining a large in-between space that is used for the central office and other gathering functions. The cavernous quality of the central office allows for constantly changing natural light conditions.
Perforated ventilation blocks are common building elements in tropical regions, not only to moderate environmental factors but also casting impressive light patterns. Custom precast ventilation blocks compose the outer surfaces of the triangular volumes to provide privacy to the inner rooms. These fiber-reinforced concrete blocks have larger dimensions than usual, and match the grand scale of the surrounding backdrop.
Located in a remote area, the building provides both living and working spaces for the users. Under a single roof, various functions of the building are organized by seven triangular volumes that defines private and common spaces. The inside of the volumes accommodates closed functions such as bedrooms and private offices, while the space between the volumes holds gathering functions such as the central office and parlors.
Following the transition from day to night, the main program of the building turns from the working to living. The lighting design of this remote building is restrained in order to avoid contaminating the surrounding natural landscape, smoothly bridging day and night. As the day ebbs, the building starts to look like a “big house” filled with mild and warm illumination taking the place of the daytime play of sunlight and shadow.
The Kaleidoscope was realized after a 5-year long process in an outlying region of Vietnam. The construction was carried out by a mixed team of experienced builders from Saigon, the largest city in Vietnam, and local “barely experienced” farmer-builders. The process was characterized by numerous moments of deliberate procedures and impromptu solutions. Not only does the project symbolize the client’s initiative, but it contributes to the evolution of the local workmanship and offering a window into the potential of rural construction.