Text description provided by the architects. T3 Architects designed the first “The Cocoa Project” in Saigon, a friendly and airy space bringing together sustainable architecture and sustainably sourced cacao trace chocolate. The main design intention of T3 Team was to recover the existing modernist Villa from the 50s 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 the Mekong Delta. This elegant villa was totally invisible when we started the design, as decades of ugly industrial finishing materials were covering all walls, ceilings, and facades.
The place was totally dark and sad… T3 decided to remove a part of the roof and break some concrete slabs to create a tropical garden, to bring natural light to all the buildings, and highlight the architectural elements typical of this period. It is more of 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 heart of Saigon.
When T3 Team first visited the place, we saw a nice staircase in the terrazzo, as well as some cornices on the ceiling, both typical of the modernist period. We proceeded step by step, removing layer after layer, and discovering old handrails, vertical concrete louvers, and old layers of lime paint. 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 for the coffee shop, insulated from the street’s noise. The tropical garden was inspired by the plantations of the farmers of the Mekong Delta. We specified some typical palm trees from South Vietnam 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 considers reducing water consumption.
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 rebuilding). 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 proper air quality (zero chemical): non-cooked local cement tiles, solid wood for all furniture, knowing that a large part is an antique furniture, lime painting, etc. The bar counter and mirror frames have been tailor-made by T3, using materials composed of recycled tetra packs & plastic produced by our friends from Plastic People. The Cocoa Project is really a manifesto of the Vietnamese Heritage regeneration, following a happy & creative frugal approach.