31 March 2012

Welcome to the Crazy House

When an individual has a vision then often the only way to get any peace of mind is to go for it – no matter what anyone else might think.  So it was with Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga (pictured left). Her dream was to create a house like no other in the world.

Against all the odds, she succeeded.

The Crazy House as it was soon known is in fact called the Hang Nga guesthouse. Situated in the city of Da Lat in the Lam Dong Province of Vietnam, the house began life as a personal project, something which simply had to be done. It was not intended for life as a hotel or a tourist destination in its own right.

Once complete its true potential became evident. The city itself was built as a tourist spa in the 1890s.  Now it had a unique guest house of its own too. Of course, it had cost a lot of money to create and it was the financial burden of building and keeping up the house that persuaded its creator to open it to the public.

As well as more often than not being referred to as crazy, the house takes much of its inspiration from fairy tales.  It looks like a giant tree – somewhere in-between of Tolkien and Disney with more than a dash of Gaudi and Dali thrown in for good measure.

Natural forms abound through the house – more often than not in the form of animals, such as the giraffe and the bear.  Spider webs and cobwebs compete for space in this organic complex. The opposite of rectilinear, the guest house has a bewilderingly maze like feel to it.  If Uncle Walt had taken LSD then he may well have come up with something like this.

Although the creator of the house, Dang Viet Nga trained as an architect she created her final, ultimate fantasy without the aid of any regular architectural strategy (such as blueprints!). Rather she produced painting which reproduced his vision of the place. Then she hired local artisans and crafts people to make her mind’s images come to life.

The ‘tree’ at the center of it all is inspired by the local banyan, a fig tree which grows upon a host, enveloping it slowly but surely with its roots.  To mirror the chaos of nature, the windows too are uneven and there are few if any right angles to be found in the structure.

It is not an easy place to describe. The local People’s Committee, rather nonplused by the building, refers to it as expressionist in their literature.  The local government was against the building for many years, worried about the safety of its structure, not to mention the aesthetics. Da Lat is renowned for its elegant French style villas and boulevards. The Crazy House didn’t quite fit in to their idea of what buildings should look like in this attractive town.

Yet Nga succeeded and eventually the authorities let her have her way. Somewhat Tardis-like, the guest house contains no less than ten themed apartments with each having an animal for its subject. There is a room devoted to the tiger, one for the kangaroo and another for the eagle to name but a few.  Nga, the architect, envisioned them as an homage to the various nationalities that stay there.

For example, the eagle room (above) represents Americans – people Nga describes as big and strong (and who pay around thirty US dollars per person per night to stay here).  On the other hand, there is an ant room for Nga’s own nationality, the Vietnamese and this portrays their hard working characteristics. Nga was often called the mad woman of Da Lat, an appellation to go hand in hand with her crazy house. Perhaps she was not so crazy after all.

First Image - Flickr User Hope Tom