Standing in a serene corner of Phnom Penh’s lively Bassac neighbourhood, this four-floor family residence achieves the delicate balance of opposing design elements demanded by city residents – privacy against views, natural light against cool temperatures. A tropical hideout in an urban hub, the structure is a bioclimatic exercise in openness and transparency. We were inspired by both Cambodian architectural traditions and eco-friendly modernist principles. Creating a sense of awe upon arrival is the singular, open-air staircase on the building’s south side, which immerses visitors in spectacular hanging vegetation and becomes the border between a rejuvenating green world and a congested concrete city. As a translation of traditional Khmer housing, the ground floor is raised, allowing the empty space underneath to become a flexible place for parking and other activities. This flow of greenery, aided by curved balconies on each floor, continues as residents pass upwards through the empty space created by the staircase, shielded by a wall of breezeblocks to the south which protects against the sun while allowing plenty of light and air through. Maximising natural light in the interior space is achieved in part through impressive glass windows, which offer residents pleasant views of the surrounding neighbourhood from the comfort of their own little sanctuary. In keeping with vernacular tradition, temperatures are kept down through cross ventilation and double facades. A departure from typical shophouses, the residence is organised by a distinct day zone and night zone to ensure privacy and separate public from private. Each floor has a balcony, while the open-air third floor and terrace rooftop become multi-use spaces for socialising or cultivating a garden – a kind of miniature urban farm – with added space for a solar panel. Completing the home are a double-height living room, dining area, spacious kitchen, four bedrooms and other smaller functions.