Bamboo Talk

August, 2013


The unique structural design of Kontum Indochine CafT in Vietnam gets its distinct edge from the skilful use of bamboo in its construction.

Towering inverted bamboo cones, a stylised representation of rainforest canopies, are the focal feature of the design for Kontum Indochine CafT in Kontum City, Middle Vietnam. The CafT, designed by the local Vo Trong Nghia Architects, is a part of a hotel complex along Dakbla River. The open, spacious cafeteria is adjacent to Dakbla Bridge and serves as an ideal venue for breakfast, dinner and tea for hotel guests. It also functions as a semi-outdoor banquet hall for wedding ceremonies. What attracts people to this restaurant is not just its food, but also its well-thought-out design.

Cooling indoors
Located on a corner plot, the cafT is composed of two major elements: a main building with a big horizontal roof made of bamboo and an annex kitchen made of concrete frames and stones. The main building has a rectangular plan surrounded by a shallow artificial lake.

All elevations are open: the south fatade faces the main street along Dakbla River, the east to the service street, the west to a restaurant and banquet building belonging to the hotel complex, and the north to the annex kitchen which serves the cafT.

The design provides soothing shade under the bamboo roof and maximises the cool air flowing in from the surface of the lake. Thus, the open-air indoor space successfully operates without using air conditioning even in a tropical climate. The roof is covered with fibre-reinforced plastic panels and thatch. The translucent synthetic panels in the ceilings are partly exposed to bring natural light into the central space directly under the roof.

Art and arches
The roof of the main building is supported by 15 artistic cone-shaped bamboo structures. The form of these columns was inspired by traditional Vietnamese fishing baskets that gradually narrow from the top toward the base. This open structure maximises the wind flow into the building during the summer, while resisting harsh storms during the windy season.

The bamboo arches formed by the columns act as a frame for the panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and the river, while the bamboo columns create a visual continuity with the mountains. The total effect is a delightful sense of being in a bamboo forest.

Bamboo benefits
The main challenge of this project was to highlight the property of bamboo as a material and to create a distinctive space that owed its uniqueness to bamboo. The material characteristics of bamboo are different from that of timber or steel; the advantages of bamboo could be impaired if the principles and construction methods of timber or steel structures were applied to bamboo structures. For instance, using steel joints kills the cost benefit of bamboo structures. Steel pin joints generate too much local load, which is not appropriate for bamboo since bamboo tends to buckle under weight.

Taking this into account, the architects used traditional bamboo treatment methods such as soaking in mud and smoking out. They also used low-tech joint details (rattan-tying and bamboo nails), both of which are well-suited for bamboo structures. The columns at Kontum City were prefabricated before their erection to achieve the appropriate quality and accuracy.

Thus overcoming technical challenges, the architects have come up with a contemporary design that maximises the utility and beauty of bamboo. The unique structural design and repetition of inverted cone pillars gives the restaurant a distinct appeal. The brilliance of the design lies in the thoughtful and ornate design created by using a versatile, yet seldom used construction material like bamboo.

Total Area: 551 sq m
Architect firm: Vo Trong Nghia Architects
Principal architects: Vo Trong Nghia
Contractor: Wind and Water House JSC, Truong Long JSC
photos: Hiroyuki Oki
CONTACT Vo Trong Nghia Architects
Tel: +84-8-3 8297763