PROJECT: THE COCOA PROJECT
CLIENT: Grand Place Holding
MAIN CONTRACTOR: P.I Architects
SCENOGRAPHY: Patrick WONG MUI – CENT DEGREE Vietnam
LIGHTING DESIGN: Steven BAETEMAN
LANDSCAPE: Anthony DESGRE
PHOTOGRAPHER: Hiroyuki OKI
Original Building: Modernist Villa from the 50’s + Extensions
PUBLICATION: ARCHDAILY – DESIGN VERSE
T3 ARCHITECTS designed the first ” THE COCA PROJECT” in Saigon, a friendly and airy space bringing together sustainable architecture and sustainably sourced cacaotrace chocolate.
The main design intention of T3 Team was to recover the existing modernist Villa from the 50’s and give it a second life dedicated to the Cocoa & Pastry. A place for Vietnamese, to reconnect with their heritage and to realize the quality of their cocoa produced in Mekong Delta. This elegant villa was totally invisible when we started the design, as decades of ugly industrial finishing materials were covering all walls, ceiling, Facades. The place was totally dark and sad… T3 decided to remove a part of the roof and to break some concrete slabs to create a tropical garden, to bring natural light in all the building, and to highlight the architectural elements typical from this period. It is more an “archeological” mission than an architecture and interior design mission. The beauty was there. T3 and the Cocoa Project Team and all partners involved in the project gave all their effort to rediscover and create a peaceful place in the hearth of Saigon…
When T3 Team first visited the place, we saw a nice staircase in terrazzo, as well as some cornices on the ceiling, both typical from the modernist period. That’s why we recommended to select this location to the client to create their first Cocoa Project place, as the architectural heritage was in line with the authenticity we were all looking for. We proceeded step by step, removing layer after layer, discovering old handrails, vertical concrete louvers, old layers of lime painting. And we decided to preserve all to suggest the past and the history of Saigon.
T3 did the choice to preserve a part of the existing street Facade, after removing all finishing, to create a kind of acoustic protection and offer a quiet garden and coffee shop, insulated from the street’s noise. The tropical garden was inspired by the plantations of the farmers of Ben Tre producing cocoa pods. We specified some typical palm trees from Mekong Delta as well as a very nice and productive Cocoa Tree, as a symbol. Some additional plants will cover the walls soon and bring freshness, without requiring any important maintenance; as T3 always consider to reduce water consumption. By creating a new garden, T3 idea was to bring back the natural and permeable soil to allow rainwater to go through it and minimize flooding. It was also a very good opportunity to bring natural light at both levels of the coffee shop, and a way to highlight the elegant modernist facade.
More generally, T3 intention was to make this project as sustainable as possible, first by preserving the main structure of the existing buildings (always better than demolishing and rebuild). Then, we have reduced the number of new materials as much as possible. All of them are sourced and produced in Vietnam, to avoid unnecessary transportation costs and pollution. Finally, T3 specified natural or low carbon materials as much as possible to ensure a proper air quality (zero chemical): non cooked local cement tiles, solid wood for all furniture, knowing that a large part are antic furniture, lime painting, etc. The bar counter and mirror frames have been tailor-made by T3, using materials composed by recycled tetra packs & plastic produced by our friends from Plastic People.
The Cocoa Project is really a manifesto of the Vietnamese Heritage regeneration, following an happy & creative frugal approach.
Energy efficiency strategy
To reduce energy consumption, T3 install the glass windows far enough from the garden facade, to create a nice covered terrace at Ground Floor and a large covered balcony at First floor. It is a manner to ensure that the glass windows are well protected from the sun exposure to avoid overheating as well as from the heavy tropical rain to avoid water leaking issue. Theoretically, we can ventilate the building naturally (if we decide), by keeping the main doors opened. The hot air will be attracted by convection by the existing “ventilation chimney” located in the production area on the back of the building. Ceiling fans create a good air flow which allow to reduce the consumption of the AC and bringing the tropical vibes.