Six Senses Con Dao Resort

by AW²
Six Senses Con Dao Resort AW²

The Six Senses Con Dao site is an amazing setting and certainly one of the most beautiful places on Con Dao Island. The beach, a one kilometre long strip of white sand with its dunes and turquoise sea, is surrounded by dark rocks, most prominent of which the Elephant Head Mountain, gliding into the sea, making it a most dramatic setting.
At the back of the site, the experience is completely different. Behind the sand dunes a river runs along close and shaded lush tropical vegetation, a mangrove, like an oasis between white sand and dark forest.
These natural settings give an extraordinary sense of nature a feeling of remoteness, of a secluded and private site, unique with its preserved natural landscape. It is a place to escape, to relax and to live close to the natural elements.
Our main concern at the start of the project was how to deal with these wonderful pre-existing conditions without destroying the essence of the site and give a real identity to the resort?
This implied that ecology and sustainability issues were foremost in our design inception: for the guests resort experience we had to preserve this feel of nature and for us, the architects, we had to commit to respect the site with an appropriate design. This meant that our design would imply for us to be very sensitive about every environmental aspect of the project: impact on site and nature, water, energy…
The concept of the Six Senses Con Dao is to enhance the natural local setting with its main features, to design all buildings and circulations in term of scale and texture to fit within the existing environment and to provide beautiful views and a permanent discovery of the landscape.
We want the resort to achieve a feel of luxury at ‘the end of the world’, where both exclusivity and environment are joined into one unforgettable guest experience.
The main arrival is located at high level and over the river. It takes you into a series of timber frame buildings organised in three public areas: the market area, the restaurant area, the swimming pool and its bar organised on terraces over the beach and the river leading to the main wooden bridge into the rolling sand dunes with the villas and to the mangrove spa.
Pedestrian bridges are linking all the areas with each other. Guests take the bridge above the river bed which flows down from the mountain to the sea, to go to the restaurant or to come back to their villa.
This is one of the major features of the resort, as it creates both a beautiful promenade and a stunning vantage point.
Arriving from the Welcome Sala (reception), the market area is the first public area of the resort; it is here that guests get their first the sense of the destination.The Market area is organised as a small village with a main street and its square.
On the right side against the falling rocks, small buildings (shops, offices…) are a reinterpretation of the traditional shape of the Vietnamese house with 2 pitches shingle roof, one building linked to another as we may find them in the village on countryside. The walls of the public buildings are clad in old Vietnamese doors. This is a clear statement made both environmentally in terms of re-use of discarded construction materials but also to give a sense of place. The end result is a stunning arrangement of buildings, which carry the mark of history of a vernacular Vietnamese architecture.
The slightly irregular alignment of small houses is creating the background of the resort in this area.
On the left side, roofs are lower, flatter (butterfly roof or single pitch). Terraces between the buildings (library, main bar…) provide views on the beach and invite the guests to linger and stay for a snack or a drink or just enjoy the setting.
The Restaurant area is located close to the beach. It is built on the sand dunes, located between sea and river, imbedded in the landscape. The widely spread decking is oriented to give marvellous views across to the islands and the river. The idea of this area is to provide each time the guest come a new experience of dining with varying vistas and different kinds of seating (daybeds, dining table, sofas…)
The restaurant itself is totally open with a light butterfly single roof. Inside different dining spaces allow framed views on the extraordinary surroundings.
Some private dining areas provide unique experiences of luxury personalized service, as in the wine cellar, at the Chefs Table nearby the kitchen and in the secluded ‘Cocoon’ dining room stepping down into the white sand of the beach.
Down below the Restaurant area, the swimming pool is facing the sea and located… in the river.
This will be an unforgettable experience: swimming in clear water but still being in the mangrove river with a view on the sea.
As with all the different areas of the resort the Spa is dominated by its special landscape: the mangrove. This is surely the most surprising and unexpected natural setting.
Once more the Spa experience is unique, with the extremely close contact with the natural surrounding.
Wooden bridges lead you from the entry to the Spa reception above.
Treatment pavilions and walkways are built on stilts to be higher than the ground hidden by the vegetation. All pavilions have specific views and locations to get frame views to the sea.
The architecture of the villa carries through the same philosophy as all the buildings of the resort to achieve both a unique built environment and enhance the amazing natural setting.
Each villa is designed as a timber frame structure, located sensitively within the natural slope of the dunes for the best views to the sea and the best integration of the built elements into the site. The butterfly roofs give lightness to the overall, it opens the front of the buildings towards the sea, and creates a shaded area at the front with its pool and sundecks.
The main idea of the design of the buildings is to reduce as much as possible the air-conditioned space and to privilege natural ventilation, to live with the nature but in a luxurious way. This means that only the bedroom unit is air-conditioned. All other spaces like the bathroom and the living area are completely open to the air with natural ventilation.
The residential villas are created as pavilions with separate bedroom and living room buildings. The buildings are then connected by terraces and pathways. All the villas have a large private swimming pool and a plunge pool.

Photos by: Daniel Moulinet

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