Vietnam: My fascination with its architecture

Saigon House / a21studio
Saigon House / a21studio

I have recently developed a kind of infatuation with modern domestic architecture in Vietnam. I even proposed last year an academic analysis of the Termitary House with undergrad students at the University of Edinburgh.

The source of my sudden admiration is reduced to a series of online explanations of contemporary projects, particularly through photographs. I have not visited the country yet, but the history of Vietnam could give us a sense of its current situation. There is a popular saying in Vietnam: “The Americans were here for 15 years, the French were here for 90 years, the Chinese were here for 1,000 years.” According to Andrew Rawnsley:

Three decades ago, Vietnam was isolated and impoverished. Still bleeding from the deep wounds left by the war, it was one of the poorest of the poor. Its Soviet ally was broke and imploding under the weight of its contradictions. Collectivisation imposed in the name of Marxism after reunification in 1975 had been a disaster. The big turn came in the mid-1980s. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Doi Moi (Renovation). The ruling Communist party calls its economic policy “the perfection of a socialist-orientated market mechanism”. To anyone else, it looks like capitalism rampant. Vietnam is now one of the most vibrant of the “frontier markets” that are going to produce an increasing slice of the world’s future growth and trade opportunities.

Other examples of domestic architecture are the Kontum House and Saigon House. The most interesting feature of these projects is that they are inserted within compact urban environments. They respond to the urban fabric of cities such as Da Nang and Saigon. They are not the typical isolated, fancy houses of tropical contexts. These objects are good examples of the combination of thoughtful design with a clever response to urban conditions. My own discovery of Vietnamese domestic architecture brings a fresh air to my perspective towards contemporary architecture in non Western contexts.


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