The Myst Emerges in Vietnam
27 December 2019
QUO Vietnam’s Country Manager, Ly Bao Yen, interviews the husband-and-wife team behind one of Saigon’s newest and most evocative landmark hotels.
Those frequenting Saigon’s trung tâm, or centre, would have noticed a new outline in their midst last year. Featuring walls that look half-finished with trees jutting out, The Myst Dong Khoi is one of the city’s next generation of boutique hotels, challenging the landscape and offering something to appeal to The New Collective, younger domestic travellers as well as those from across Asia and Europe.
The design makes reference to the forest and nature’s eventual triumph over created landscapes, but the spirit of the hotel takes inspiration from the alley, or hẻm, one of Saigon’s distinctive features. The Myst’s customers love more than the out-there aesthetic of the new hotel, which is tucked down a quiet alley but steps away from the city’s buzz. They enjoy experiencing Saigon’s hẻm in all its street-food-laden, shopping and local-café glory, a place where they can watch authentic city life unfold around them.
The hotel was founded by Vũ Hồng Nam and Nguyễn Thị Phúc, the husband-and-wife team behind Silverland Hotels & Spas, who wanted to offer something new to the landscape. Instead of opening another Silverland, they decided to take a risk—creating something that could propel them far into the future.
“I needed to build a brand to meet a new set of expectations, a place to make a different kind of memory, and tell a fresh brand story,” said Nam.
The story of local culture, deep comfort and contemporary design was told in conjunction with award-winning Vietnamese architect Nguyễn Hoà Hiệp–all without a blueprint in sight. Nam set his sights on Hoà Hiệp, with his reputation for wild creations and rebellion, after other architects called the concept for The Myst too bold.
Hoà Hiệp, of a21studĩo, accepted a meeting but said he’d only take the gig if he felt the two had a connection and shared similar ideas. He’d never designed a hotel before, instead making his name with community spaces and large-scale art installations that blend indoor and outdoor spaces in unusual ways.
“At that meeting,” said Nam, “we chose each other. And it was our ‘lương duyên’, a Vietnamese word for fate, that we would work together.”
A few weeks later, they met again, Nam expecting to see Hoà Hiệp’s blueprints.
“Instead, he pulled out a blank sheet of paper and coloured it green, leaving a white square in the centre.” The architect noted that all the buildings in the neighbourhood were glass and concrete and he wanted to create something different, something closer to a forest in the city.
Hoà Hiệp continued on the project with no formal plans or drawings, instead explaining his ideas to construction companies that, unsurprisingly, turned him down.
Though Hoà Hiệp lacked hotel experience, Nam believes it actually worked to the pair’s advantage, allowing them to completely step out of traditional hotel design thinking.
He likened the process to, at times, being lost in a forest, but in the end finding the light through the extraordinary design of The Myst. The new hotel quickly received acclaim and began turning a profit.
When asked about The Myst, Nam likes to say, “I did it all for money!” but that’s only partially a joke, he says, clarifying, “All that we did would be useless if people didn’t find it valuable enough to book it and enjoy it.”