Kontum Indochine Cafe is Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia’s latest exploration of indigenous bamboo as building material. Yvonne Xu has the story.
23 July, 2013
By now, architect Vo Trong Nghia is well known for his distinctive bamboo buildings that are shaping the emergent architectural landscape of modern Vietnam. Following the two World Architecture Festival awards bagged last year (see our interview with the architect), Vo and his team have not stopped exploring the potential of the tubular, hollow-stemmed plant as a building material. One of the projects completed this year is the Kontum Indochine Cafe that provides a cafe experience similar to being a cool bamboo forest. We ask the team what is special this time.
“Our previous bamboo buildings are composed of two-dimensional unit frames,” the architect’s team says. “Kontum Indochine Cafe is composed of three-dimensional space units – strong against vertical force as well as against horizontal force, that is the wind’s force.”
Located on a corner plot of a hotel complex in Kontum City, Middle Vietnam, the cafe has 15 inverse-cone-shaped bamboo columns, which hold up a roof of fibre-reinforced plastic panels and thatch. Set bundled together, the bamboo stems bend into an elegant fan on top – a form that locals would recognise as a traditional fishing basket. Enlarged to architectural scale, these open structures let wind flow into the building in summer, while resisting harsh storms during the windy season. In the roof, translucent synthetic panels are partly exposed to let natural light reach the deep centre of the space, creating the effect of sunshine filtering through a canopy.
With all elevations open to the environment, and passing breeze that get cooled by surrounding ponds, the shaded cafe needs no air-conditioning for guests to enjoy the panoramic view of the nearby mountains and Dakbla River – a view framed by the bamboo arches no less.
A banquet hall (a pure prism covered by stone louvres) and an annex kitchen made of concrete frames and stones adjoin the cafe, both featuring natural materials to create an “environment close to the nature”. The architects say the challenge was to stay sensitive and respectful of the character of these organic materials. As with all their other buildings, the team had bamboo treated in Vietnamese tradition (soaking them in mud and then smoking them out) and had structures constructed using bamboo nails and rattan ties. The architects pointed out that these low-tech strategies are in fact most effective for bamboo buildings – “using steel joints kill the cost benefit of bamboo structures. Steel pin joints also generate too much local load [and] is not appropriate for bamboo, which tends to be subject to buckling.”
Vo Trong Nghia
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