Making Saigon Terrazzo Shine Again

The value of traditional materials in modern designs.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, it was easy to find different types of colourful stone staircases in houses. Terrazzo is the result of a blending and polishing technique done manually. Having survived over the years, this product continues to appear in modern design.

Terrazzo tiles are poured into place or prefabricated in moulds, and are often used for floors, stairs, or decorative walls. Common types of terrazzo materials are marble, quartz, granite, glass or other stone debris, that are poured with a cement mix. After casting, terrazzo will be watered, ground and polished. There are two types of terrazzo, monochrome and multicolour. The monochrome is a single colour such as gray, red, yellow, and green. The multicoloured type contains various tones in different parts of the stone surface and is more expensive. Terrazzo has many diverse patterns. The most popular ones are fan-shaped, god’s eyes, and deer’s eyes. You can also opt for a smooth surface with no pattern, to achieve a modern look.

Terrazzo is highly durable. Sometimes, you will encounter it in small alleys, or old apartment buildings. Even though the colour has faded, it is powerfully attractive. In the blazing sunshine of Saigon, the luster of each small stone glows. Sadly, this art is gradually being replaced by granite or artificial stones, because of their convenience and reasonable price. Grinding stone artisans have gradually been forgotten. In my design ideas, I always want to retain valuable, traditional art forms. The most difficult thing is how to combine them with modern design trends, convince customers of the value of this seemingly old-fashioned material.

In a recent townhouse project, I used terrazzo in combination with the minimalist trend where the focus is on the construction materials and architectural shapes, rather than furniture and decorations. The most challenging part was to find artisans who grind stones. Most of them are old and extremely hard-working. They are meticulous and diligent, focusing on each surface, edge, thickness and evenness of the stone so that they produce the most complete product.

Project:  Bold Contrast Minimalist  (Lake View City, District 2, East Saigon )
Designed by KW Creative Co.
Main design concept:
Bringing traditional craftsmanship and materials into modern minimalist design.
Focus point:
Transparent illusion effect achieved by custom cable stair rails allows natural light to flow through. Handmade terrazzo stairs finished by experienced local artisans. Sliding glass partition provides both a private and open atmosphere when needed, maximizing the living space.

By: Wistley Nguyen

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