Without sounding too cliche its like stumbling into a Brothers Grimm fairy tale house and garden. It has obvious echoes of Antoni Gaudi, but only echoes, the credit for this house and garden is definitely Mrs Dang Viet Nga whose imagination is responsible for designing this weird little place. Mrs Dang Viet Nga or simply Hang Nga as the locals call her has designed a number of other building in Dalat, none of which bear any resemblance to the Crazy House. Hang Nga who is an architect by trade and who study at the Moscow School of Architecture stated that she wanted “to lead men back to nature, to keep close touch with nature and not use it and destroy it all” has indeed created in my opinion a space that will certainly leave you thinking about nature, probably and perhaps intentionally in a strange way.
It’s unassuming entrance with only a sign and the skull of a buffalo above the gate denote your arrival at the Crazy House; but this does not prepare you for when you walk in and are confronted by a structure that resembles what can only be described as giant tree engulfing what appears to be a asian pagoda. With branches as walk ways that wrap themselves around, through and over the structure, you would be forgiven for thinking you had walked into a surrealist painting something by Dali perphaps. The site is a big tourist attraction and therefore I must mention that the building is not pristine in appearance but this should not detracted you from the clever use of space, form, balance and unity throughout the site.
It’s organic appearance is further accentuated by twisting trees that have been build around and swallowed up by the building and the garden. All around are irregular shaped windows and aviaries that house doves and minor birds, ponds with koi carp and frogs, waterfalls, under paving rills curving, sweeping and cutting their way around the house, all of which is dressed with ferns and exotics of all colours and shapes. The planting creeps and mingles with the man made structure, but it’s works, they fit nicely and complement one another.
Dotted throughout the garden (which is by no means big) are hidden structures like the tree house and the huge spider web the hangs between the tower and the wall, look closely and you’ll spot animals, people and faces that all appear to be getting assimilated with the building.
The oddities continue throughout the house which is growing and morphing with the years. The build first began in 1990 but the building is still growing in fact a whole new wing is currently under development with completion not expected till 2014. Each of the rooms, at present there are nine, are named after animals or plants; like the bear room with its built-in cabin beds and its imposing bear statue that looks almost intimidating. Some rooms take the weirdness a step further by having animals with red glowing eyes – which I’m sure must really help aid a good nights sleep! The ‘living room’ complete with sofas, record player side board and china is just there to further confuse the mind I’m sure.
The highlight of the house for me was the reception not because it had any architectural or horticulturally significant about it but because it housed the original designs and concepts that Hang Nga had drawn. Designs to me are like windows into the mind of the designer, they allow you me to see and understand the thought process of the designer, it gave me the opportunity to really understand how spectacular the use of space is and how clever and inspiring Mrs Dang Viet Nga truly is. The organic lines and free form shapes look so natural and unrestricted this is certainly something that I will try to incorporate into future designs, maybe not to the extremities of this site (unless of course a client comes forward that wants a space like this) but certainly to some degree at least. If you cannot wait for my photos I would urge you to google it.
My next instalment will see me dusting off my Indiana Jones hat and whip to head into the jungle in search of the worlds largest flower the Rafflesia sp. and who knows I might even find a few orang-utans as well as some other horticulturally gems along the way.