Nam Dam (NậmĐăm) is a minority village in Quan Ba District, Ha Giang – Vietnam’s northernmost province. Locating on top of the mountain and covering with pristine forests and picturesque terrace fields, this area is known for its rich cultural characters: traditional costume, festivals, brocade, cuisines, herbal bath, and buildings in rammed earth. Nevertheless, Nam Dam is isolated by mountains, lack of connection with other areas and sufficient infrastructure, resulting in locals’ poor living standard and difficult children’s accessibility to education. There is only one crop harvest throughout the year due to the limited agricultural land and harsh weather. The houses and cattle barns are too close to each other, causing environmental pollution and diseases. The community, hence, has decided to save themselves by relocating the village to the foot of the mountain with the support by architects and Switzerland NGO Caritas. This has also been an opportunity to improve locals’ life quality, develop tourism as well as preserve the region’s identity.
The new village is the combination of focus groups with 5-7 households each. This group division could benefit the community well-being directly: household unit can collaborate to facilitate better tourist experience, on each unit area lie a large common pond storing water for daily uses and a biogas tank.Since 2002, 50 buildings have gradually erected using local construction methods and materials.
30 Farmhouses:specializing in agriculture and tourist services: traditional herbal bath, tourist guide, bicycle renting… The rammed earth and wood structure in these buildings is weather-resistant: cool during blazing summer and warm in freezing winter.
18 Homestays – 12 small and 6 big: built based on 2 models and later upgraded: their roofs can be lifted vertically, transforming old storages into rooms for visitors. These 2-storey modules can also be combined and expanded to create large house for tourist groups. 1 Kindergarten: Locals voluntarily donated materials as well as their own work for the construction of this building.
The Swallow Community House and Homestay: The iconic building of the village, showing innovation spirit while keeping local identity. This two-floor house with 80-cm-thick rammed earth wall functions as the space for meetings, local & tourist activities with a small museum and 5 bedrooms. Verandas, voids and beveled folding roof resembling the Swallows’ wing – the bird believed to bring luck - make the inner space full of natural light.
The model has helped foster the village’s economy, preserved the culture andhopefully strengthensthe bond among residents, adapts to the area’s development in the future.