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The Lab Saigon adds "an expressive looping staircase" to courtyard of mixed-use space in Vietnam

Vietnam Architecture News - Mar 14, 2023 - 16:30   2028 views

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Vietnamese architecture practice The Lab Saigon has added "an expressive looping staircase" to the courtyard of a mixed-use space in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Called De La Sól / Shadow, the 1,500-square-metre building consists of the renovation of an old, historical villa as a new mixed-use building by preserving the main layers of the house.

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A looping staircase that mirrors its surrounding marks a bold statement in the project, while the staircase bravely defines public spaces around it.

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The two-storey building, mainly made of steel and glass, creates a fluid intersection of exhibition halls, cafe lounge, retail displays, and client experience center of Sun Life Insurance - who is also the primary investor of the project. 

The Lab Saigon was tasked to design a workplace which can also serve for an exhibition space as well as additional spaces that could be used for different activities. 

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The studio took inspiration from "the idea of growth" - both a reference to Sun Life’s brand promise and the flourishing Ho Chi Minh City — to design different volumes in the space.

Although the project seems complex from the street level, it is actually drawn with a clear logic, plan and layout. The design prioritizes the use of old layers with new elements in the project. The combination of old and new can highly be perceived as overlapping approaches. 

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While the studio maintains the historical villa's facade untouched, the new 2-storey structure, built from steel and glass, and old structures are connected by an expressive loop staircase. 

The team creates bespoke rotating kinetic sculptures marking the outdoors, which also act as a shading solution and a landmark — and a visual metaphor for growth.

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"A captivating discovery during the design process was the old villa's structure itself," said the studio.

"After removing multiple paint-plaster layers outside, arch gates from the past, various brick types used in each renovation, and the building's century-old history, were all revealed." 

"The building's history is etched into every brick, a testament to the city's cultural heritage," the team added.

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Inside, the presence of brick walls are kept and they are enriched with new materials and furnitures, which create a sharp contrast. 

Material selection is informed by the old villa's presence, according to the architects. 

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With the aim of keeping the original brickwork and wooden beams, the studio chose stainless steel for visual contrast and durability throughout Vietnam’s rainy season.

The outdoor deck, framed by the loop staircase, provides a focal point for gatherings, providing a multi-use lobby for the various programs at De La Sol. 

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The staircase, in turn, becomes a viewing deck for the different activities happening below and around it.

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Concept diagram

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Concept diagram

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Ground floor plan

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First floor plan

Project facts

Project name: De La Sól / Shadow

Architects: The Lab Saigon

Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Completion date: 2022

Creative Director: Tuan Le

Lead Spatial Designers: Hung Le, Tram Dang

Spatial Design Support: Hiep Tran

Lead Strategic Partnership: Anh Nguyen

Strategic Partnership Support: Phuong Anh Nguyen, Gia Minh

Documentation: Xuan Phan, Chuong Pham

Documentation Support: Trang Nguyen, Thien Tuong

Contractor: DB Plus

R&D Consultant: Vietnam Project Architecture Interior, The Lab’s RaD team

Metal Artist: Zachary Buehner

All images © Chimnon Studio.

All drawings © The Lab Saigon.

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stainless steel staircase The Lab Saigon