A community house in Vietnam’s western Son La Province has been completed using local labour and craft building techniques. Designed by Hanoi-based 1+1>2 Architects, the bamboo framework and thatched roof set over a concrete amphitheatre to provide a central location in the mountainous region.

Located in the southern part of the province 50 miles west of Hanoi, the Chieng Yen Community House is surrounded by dense, ancient forest. Despite its relatively secluded location, the building is accessible from nearby villages, serving as an information hub and meeting place.

The building’s design merges two themes - the shape of an ethnic headdress worn by the local population, and the vernacular of the area’s typical houses. Natural materials and local construction has helped further embed the structure within the region. Adobe bricks establish a base, with a bamboo lattice holding up a roof made from palm leaves and wooden beams.


Local labour was employed to help with the preparation and building work. Over a construction period of 120 days, a total of 20 people contributed to the project, including 16 from the local area. Workers completed a number of tasks relating to the different components of the project:

  • Earth: excavation of earth to allow for foundations; compression of blocks to make bricks, usually from sand, jute and bamboo; construction of walls.
  • Bamboo: Harvesting bamboo; Bending and shaping bamboo using heat and nail; Treatment of bamboo by soaking in mud; Constructing of frame by binding bamboo, with iron bars used to extend or strengthen a joint.
  • Thatching: Constructing a waterproof roofing with two layers of durable Gleicheniaceae, a thatching which provides a 15-year lifetime
  • Tiling: bamboo floor

Brick walls contain an open-air space within the community centre, with a reading room, kitchen, single office and toilets catering to a range of needs. Roofing was designed to fundamentally provide shelter, which also ensuring efficient light and ventilation for all levels.

These material and dynamic systems help to provide passive ventilation, supporting the centre’s environmental credentials. A nearby stream has been connected to provide sufficient hydroelectric power, meanwhile rainwater is collected and filtered for later use.

For more information on 1+2>2 Architects, visit 112.com.vn. Header photo by Do Minh Duc.