Living in the United States from the age of 17, author, poet and journalist Nguyen Qui Duc has been most of his life far, far away from Vietnam. In 2006, at the age of 50, he decides to finally return home, the place where he left his pre-war childhood memories.
After a two hours drive north from Hanoi (where he owns a really exiting literary café, the “Tadioto”) and a thousand meters up through the jungle, I arrived at Tam Dao, a small hill town where Duc has built his house.

The project is a blend of a New-Yorkese style loft with several architectural contaminations, resulting from his many journeys in north Africa, Europe, Asia. Despite the Japanese style garden, the Moroccan roof-balcony, and the typical African fire pit, the house is incredibly authentic within this landscape.
A construction of clear stone and glass, realized by local craftsmen using local building materials, has created many paradoxes in the project of this eclectic author: complexity through simplicity, presence by absence, warmth by cold minimalism.
The main entrance on the roof is a glass pyramid that slides on metal rails and opens on a staircase. To enter the house you walk down the stairs. This gives you the feeling to literally walk right into the jungle following the natural ridge of the mountain. The four meter high front wall that is completely made out of glass, the sky reflecting in the hanging swimming pool, everything in and outside seems to belong to a single artistic installation. The idea of the whole project is to never loose sight of the valley.
In the centre there is a big loft that you access by a small turquoise green wooden staircase, where the only piece of furniture is a futon. Sleeping in front of the big glass wall, waking up in the morning is completely in tune with the rhythms of the forest. The pleasant area under the loft has been increased in height lowering the floor level, and there sitting on a soft white couch, you can read one of the many books that spread all over the house. In this spot of the house there is a unique, oblique and distant light fall.
The fireplace next to the dining table warms up the winter days when the fog of the jungle covers everything but Tam Dao. (Tam Dao means “three islands”, the three mountain peaks that rise out from the fog)

Behind the loft through an arched Moroccan style door you enter a very intimate garden which is surrounded by tall stone walls; in the middle there is a fire pit and in a corner a small natural spring waterfall coming out of the rocks that feeds a rectangular cement tub stretching from one side of the garden all way into the house, containing pacific Koi gold fish. This way there is only a thin almost unnoticeable barrier between the in and outside of the house; and when the glass windows in the front part of the house are open, it fades away entirely. The inclination of the mountain passes almost naturally from above the house down to the stone garden in the back. This together with the small stream that takes you inside, and the great opening towards the horizon, makes the house blend in with its surrounding nature, as if the house does not even exist.
The bathtub is outside, made of bricks and is surrounded by the swimming pool water. A warm bath at dusk under a pink sky is one of the many unique emotions that Duc’s house can offer.
Many of Duc’s friends meet here and speaking in several languages, they discuss about poetry, travelling, literature, food and music. Often someone stays in the house while Duc returns to the city and at times it becomes the shelter of a colleague author.

Drinking a beer with Duc on the roof while watching the sunset is a magical moment, a turnaround of the time, a moment that stimulates thoughts. The fog in the jungle turns into water drops that drip down from the bamboo and pine trees, it flows down into the valley, into the Red River, past Hanoi and out to the sea and once again evaporated it will return to the jungle. In one of his poems, “Language” (where Duc explains that in Vietnamese “nuoc” means both water and nation) he wrote that he is waiting for some future that parts of himself will turn back to him, to be able to put them back together. I think that this future has already started with his arrival in Tam Dao.


Leonardo Mariani


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