The streets of Vietnam are lined with tall, narrow ‘tube houses’ that can be less than 6 feet wide and up to 12 floors tall —

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the question: Why the houses in Vietnam are narrow, long and high. Well, this article will answer your questions and shed more light on this unique and colorful architecture… Have a look at theses Tube Houses … a great article of Amanda Goh, for Insider.com … Must See In Vietnam Editor

Narrow residential houses known as “nha ong” line the streets of Hanoi. MANAN VATSYAYANA/Getty Images

• The streets of Hanoi, Vietnam, are lined with narrow “tube houses” known as nhà ống.

• The average width of the house is around three to four meters (10 to 13 feet).

• Multiple families can live together under the same roof.

Tube houses found at Hanoi Old Quarter.
Victor Fraile Rodriguez/Getty Images

The streets of Hanoi, Vietnam, are lined with a distinctive home style that’s often called a tube house. These tall, colorful houses can be as narrow as two meters wide (six-and-a-half feet).

Known as nhà ống, which means “tube house,” these homes are among the most popular types of buildings in Vietnam, Dinh Quoc Phuong, a course director at the Interior Architecture Program at Swinburne University of Technology, told Insider.

“Older tube houses, like those built before 1954, are usually two levels each, long in plan with narrow frontage between two to five meters,” he said.

“New tube houses are usually higher — up to 12 levels — on the same building footprints as the old tube houses,” he added.

Old two-storey shophouses along Hang Dao or Silk Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi (1926).
Pictures From History/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Traditionally, tube houses are commonly associated with Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

Hanoi’s Old Quarter neighborhood used to be a trade and commerce hub. Each street is named after the respective wares that used to be sold along it, such as Hàng Bạc (Silver Street) and Hàng Gai (Silk Street).

Unlike newer tube houses, which are purely residential, many of these older homes in the Old Quarter continue to serve a commercial function.

The tube houses have narrow widths. Linh Pham/Getty Images

Older tube houses tend to have a storefront on the ground floor, with residential space for families upstairs.

With multiple levels of living space available, these residences can house multiple generations under the same roof.

“The traditional tube houses used to be a shared house between many families,” Mai Hung Trung, an architect who launched Hanoi Ad Hoc, a study of Hanoi’s urban landscape, told Insider.

“It could be up to five, six families living together. And until now, in the Old Quarter, you can still see different families cohabiting in one house,” he said.

That includes families who are not related to each other, he added.

Floors plan of different tube houses. Some can go up to 100 meters in depth. Courtesy of Hanoi Ad Hoc

But what these older tube houses lack in width, they make up for in depth: The houses can reach up to 100 meters (328 feet) in depth.

There are numerous theories regarding the origin of the tube house design, Mai said. For one, the architectural style could have evolved due to expensive land prices.

As the city grew denser, the government imposed tax on the frontage lining the street, leading people to try to reduce the size of the front. But as their families grew, they still needed space — which led them to build inwards and upwards instead, Mai said.

“In the inner city, land is actually gold,” Mai said. “As an indicator of price, the street front is considered as important as land size,” he added.

Courtyard of a tube house.
Courtesy of Hanoi Ad Hoc

The older homes tend to have a courtyard to allow for natural light and ventilation.

The courtyard also functions as a communal living space where family members can gather.

“The courtyards can sometimes fit a small tree, with some seats for sitting down and drinking tea,” Nguyen Dzung Do, the cofounder & CEO of enCity, told Insider.

Occasionally, there might even be a small well in the courtyard, Nguyen added.

“It’s closed off from noise and public life outside, so it can be a very peaceful place in the middle of the house,” he said.

Aerial view of a tube house.
MANAN VATSYAYANA/Getty Images

In recent years, newer tube houses have seen a revival of French-style architecture.

This colonial style has been adapted in various different ways, Dinh said.

“Some have used facade details, such as cast iron balustrades and louvered windows from French villas in the designs of their new houses,” he said.

“Others have adapted the vaulted roof of colonial public buildings, such as Hanoi’s Opera House, for their tall tube houses,” Dinh added.

Aerial view of the ‘tube houses’ of Vietnam.
MANAN VATSYAYANA/Getty Images

Regardless of their origins, these tube houses are a defining feature of Vietnam’s streets that have shaped the country’s urban landscape.

“The tube house and the motorcycle are one of the most remarkable features in the urban landscape of Vietnam,” Mai said.

“They have been associated for many years, and one of the reasons is that the small motorcycle fits perfectly into the narrow tube house. And with the motorcycle, you can actually navigate to any corner of the narrow lane ways in the cities,” he added.

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