The Chapel

  • A/ID Firm: a21studio

  • Project: The Chapel,
    Vietnam

  • Information & Images:
    Courtesy - a21studio

  • Content Curator:
    Team India Art n Design

  • Introduction

    A dash of colour amid a wash of white adds a burst of life and a signature look that no other colour scheme or design style can. An apt and well-executed example of this minimal style is The Chapel, a communal centre in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Designed by Vietnam-based a21 Studio, the space cleverly employs a range of primary colours against a stark white background.

  • The Chapel was built to host a variety of community events in an urban district on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City that has suffered from a lack of sufficient public spaces due to a recent real estate crisis. The main purpose of this centre is to serve as a meeting point for the youth to enjoy a coffee or snack at the café and at the same time to allow for activities like conferences, weddings and exhibitions. The Chapel was recently awarded "Building of the Year" for 2014 at the seventh annual World Architecture Festival (WAF).

  • A Calming Effect

    The community centre, located on a 10 x 20m plot of land, is encased in a simple shell of metal sheets painted entirely in white that lends the structure its chapel-like appearance (giving it its name) and soothing ethos. The all-white shell encloses a single, large and airy community space that is conceptualized for multiple usages viz., for weddings, parties, conferences, workshops, community gatherings, bonding over coffee.

  • A Symbol of Growth

    The earthy and neutral white setting with its wooden flooring is ingeniously anointed with a centrally placed, symbolic tree-shaped steel column with 90 x 90 steel bars painted in white - the only visible supporting structure that appears inside the Chapel. The architectural and design plan made provision for this structure that holds up the corrugated steel roof because the available steel columns and beams were not strong enough to stabilise the entire building. Moreover, the all-white tree lends a definitive aesthetic to the community centre besides saving space and adding a versatile element for a host of activities to be conducted on the ground.

  • Sustainability

    By taking advantage of the materials used in the previous owner’s establishment, including steel frames and corrugated metal sheets, a21studio has effectively fostered a sustainable approach. Steel has been widely used throughout the structure, making the foundation lighter, besides allowing the team to adopt a cost-saving approach to reduce the construction period. Dual 40 x 80 steel columns with 40 x 40 steel braces are attached to the all-white metal sheets, forming the portal framework.

  • Bursts of Colour

    Complementing this all-white wash, dashes of colour in the form of multi-layered coloured curtains constitute a striking element, draped and secured in an orderly fashion in those spaces, where light seeps in through various openings in the building. The curtains not only induce an understated vibrancy in the atmosphere, clearly indicating the utility of the space; but also break through the starkness of the white metal sheets, softening the architectural vocabulary.

    Warm tones like orange and yellow, and cooler shades in blue and green have the curtains fluttering in the winds, offering shade from the direct sunlight, and producing a warm, invigorating and comforting rainbow-like glow inside.

  • Energising ambience

    The skylight that occupies a section of the ceiling could well have turned The Chapel into a full-blown sunlit space. Instead, the design team uses a string of suspended curtains in the same bright colours employed throughout the communal space to partially shield the light from entering. A natural, rustic touch is also thrown in for good measure; thanks to the use of untreated wood for the flooring and furniture.

  • A minimalist material palette and a minimalist overall approach has produced a maximised effect, while successfully staying true to desirable design approaches like sustainability and recycling. The epitome of youthful energy and contemporary design, it is indeed apt that The Chapel serves as a communal space perfect to nurture one’s creativity, enjoy hobbies and host special moments.