Each country has its own architectural beauty with temples and buildings, but houses will arouse the most interest from anyone who travels to a new culture as they reflect perfectly the locals’ lifestyle. Vietnam can be a great example of tube houses which deserve being the special highlight of your trips. Let’s discover this noted kind of architect and find an answer to the interesting question: “Why Vietnamese houses are long and narrow?”
If you spend quality time wandering around Ho Chi Minh City on a motorbike, by taxi or even just walking from crowded wards to small alleys, then it will be totally easy for you to figure out what Vietnamese tube houses are and what they actually look like. The name of the tube house definitely somehow triggers your imagination in the right way and that may tell everything. It is a sort of house with a narrow-shaped facade and a great length as well.
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Tube houses these days are seen with 1, 2, 3, 4 floors stacked, and it is the reason why you can find on streets such high houses that stand closely next to each other. In addition, Vietnamese tube houses which are considered to be built with the traditional structures are now particularly popular in Vietnam cities when residents take maximum advantage of the land source.
When getting around Ho Chi Minh City or other cities, you must wonder why Vietnamese apply this architecture to their houses’ designs. Getting back to the time of French colonialism in Vietnam, it is rumored that housing taxes were calculated based on the facade’s area. Then narrowing the facade turned out to be a good solution to cutting down on the taxes, and that explains this kind of traditional architecture. However, Vietnamese tube houses are still in use today because of people’s practical needs.
In the modern era when cities are highly dense and the land prices keep experiencing a non-stop increase, finding enough space for a large number of people really matters. Hence, piled-up floors of tube houses can be a preferred option to provide rooms for many people. Also, the problem related to land may be easily seen where many households grow vegetables, flowers on the terrace and where the houses are next to one another without any remarkable separation.
You can have a look at extended families living under one roof to understand why tube houses are that popular. Tube houses are clearly divided into separated floors with rooms for different purposes like the bedroom, altar room, and terrace. This design guarantees privacy but also brings the close-knit Vietnamese families together.
The contrast between the city's slums and the traditional tube houses
Moreover, Vietnamese know perfectly well how to make full use of the tube houses for the sake of business. The tradition of small retails of households is another answer to the question of why how tube houses came into existence, and the houses in Hoi An Ancient Town which are still standing on the old streets with aestheticism are the solid proof of this explanation. The whole house can be used as a restaurant, a small souvenir shop, or just the first floor is for private retail business. Other tube houses with beautiful scenes may be rented out as inns or lovely coffee shops.
The characteristics of Vietnamese tube houses represent the Vietnamese insight and flexibility where they know how to make good use of the land source. Even though the structure of tube houses is not something so extraordinary, what makes them special is that they become a typical architecture that has existed since the old times, reflecting the Vietnamese lifestyle from then till now.
A typical design of the tube house is 2.5m to 5m wide, the length which you can also regard as the depth of the house is 5 to 8 times as big as the width. The area of a normal tube house is often around 25 square meters. A closer look at the interior structure reveals that floors are for different spaces so if people would like to have more, they can stack more floors. The ground floor can be for a garage, rented office or living room but there is always a space for families member. In the middle of the house lies an air well ventilating the rooms, which you can observe easily on looking at the house’s design.
In addition, Vietnamese tube houses now may either have a tiled roof or a concrete one. Vietnamese also make use of the flat concrete roof to create a little terrace garden of vegetables or flowers there. And to create more space and posh design inside the house, mezzanines are also applied. Mezzanines are like middle floors which are inserted in floors with high ceilings.
Moreover, Vietnamese also take stairs into careful consideration when having their tube houses built. Not only are stairs regarded as the house’s backbone but they also play a crucial part in assuring the families’ safety, especially ones with kids. Because of the small space, stairs in tube houses usually have many turns.
In Vietnamese superstitions, stairs are also arranged by Feng Shui as there is the belief that they are bridges leading the spiritual air upwards and downwards. There should be no gap between steps as they can put children at risk as well as disperse the good air. Also, in Feng Shui, the numbers of steps are important to create a good structure for the house because it is believed that each step parallels with each stage in the life cycle “Birth, Aging, Sickness, and Death”. The stairs would be best to stop at the “Birth’’ step, and it is better to avoid being in “Death” on the last step which can affect family members spiritually.
Tube houses in Vietnam have been transformed to help people adapt to modern times, so it is undeniable they didn’t retain the entire old version. Nevertheless, the exceptional architecture did inherit the typical structure of the houses in the past. And housing architecture can be said to be a pride of Vietnamese as they reflect well somehow the lifestyle of people and Vietnamese culture. Anyone who loves culture and architecture should take time to discover these beautiful things of tube houses just to see how special they are and admire the smart design they have.