Vo Trong Nghia and Son La Restaurant in Vietnam

Vo Trong Nghia,

Hiroyuki Oki,


Restaurants, Landscape,



Vo Trong Nghia interprets traditional Vietnamese building materials in Son La Restaurant, using stone and bamboo to create a contemporary habitat.

Vo Trong Nghia and Son La Restaurant in Vietnam

Son La Restaurant is an interesting new project by Vo Trong Nghia, in the city of the same name in North Vietnam. Known for his poetics with deep local roots, expressed in both form and use of materials, Vo Trong Nghia addresses the theme of commercial spaces once again, using a vocabulary that contemplates and respects the site of the construction but without falling into the trap of mere reiteration of traditional models. 
Son La is located in a mountainous region in North Vietnam where luxuriant vegetation creates landscapes that have been only minimally contaminated by the human presence: the key attraction in the country’s emerging tourism industry. Son La Restaurant is part of the first hotel complex to be courageously built in the area, on a site not far from the city centre. The fact that the distance from Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam and the only city from which the area can be reached, is measured in terms of hours rather than kilometres (7 hours on narrow, winding roads) clearly reveals the difficulty of linking the city with other strategic sites, a key element in the choice of building materials made by the architects. The unavailability of many materials results in a view of architecture as an expression of the site’s potential, from labour to materials, such as stone and bamboo, keeping overall costs down.

Son La Restaurant is made up of two structurally distinct elements, eight stone towers arranged around a courtyard which is used as the main hall and a roof of straw and reeds (known as a “vot”) supported by bamboo beams and columns, which rises well above the height of the towers to top the entire complex. The façades are therefore the product of a composition of solids and hollows, in which the solids are the walls made of bricks of stone in a great variety of hues, massive and closed in on themselves, while the hollows are the spaces between the volumes and the roof and the open spaces created by the slender columns. Made out of a particular species of bamboo, Luong bamboo, which grows to a height of 8 metres, the

The structure supporting the roof is a grid of beams made up of five reeds and pillars made of four reeds tied in a square, reinforced at the joints and assembled with blocks and cords.
As in the House for Trees in Ho Chi Min, at the Son La Restaurant Vo Trong Nghia critically interprets the dichotomy between inside and outside, placing the restaurant hall in the central courtyard, which is covered but open on the sides, bounded solely by the ideal perimeter formed by the towers built around it. Hundreds of peach trees planted outside it are matched by hanging gardens on the inside, as if to return to nature a part of the land occupied by the building’s footprint. In the absence of outer walls, air enters the restaurant by natural circulation, is warmed up and rises to exit through the openings under the roof.

Mara Corradi

Architect Firm: Vo Trong Nghia Architects
Principal architects: Vo Trong Nghia
Associate architect: Vu Van Hai
Architects: Ngo Thuy Duong, Tran Mai Phuong
Client: Tien Doan Co., Ltd
Contractor: Suoi Hen JSC, Wind and Water House JSC
Completion: 2014
Location: Son La, Vietnam
Site area: 2,200 m2
GFA: 1,984 m2
Photographs: Hiroyuki Oki