Up to 2/5 of the main categories of the 2023 UIA Awards (prizes organized by the World Association of Architects every 3 years, to honor architects who have achieved internationally significant achievements) are two representatives from Vietnam. In which, architect Hoang Thuc Hao and his office 1+1>2 won the category Humane and sustainable environment (Robert Matthew Award) for the above cluster of 5 villages with the assessment from the Jury: “The series of works emphasizes a sense of cohesion and a friendly environment for the lives of local people…”
6 years ago, also at this prestigious Professional Award, he won the Vassilis Sgoutas Prize for the cluster of works that improve the lives of the poor in the highlands and rural areas of Vietnam, “while respecting both the local traditional culture and the natural environment“…
Architect Hoang Thuc Hao shared with Youth about his career philosophy as well as the life philosophy called “1+1 > 2” that he and his associates have pursued for the past 20 years.
What enthusiasm and architectural solutions have you and your colleagues put into the 5 special villages that have just been honored above?
Nam Dam (Quan Ba, Ha Giang) was formerly a mountain village, surrounded by forests and terraced fields. The village has a unique cultural identity with houses made of clay. However, the lives of the people here are isolated, lack of connection with other communities, children cannot go to school, unsanitary livestock barns cause pollution, epidemics, etc., so the villagers have found a way. saved himself by deciding to go down the mountain, establish a new village, combine homestay development, and then received help from the NGO Caritas (Switzerland) and the architects of the 1+1 office >2 to build 50 new houses, between 2009 and 2015.
From the old model of house lacking natural light and ventilation…, people’s houses have been designed appropriately, convenient and flexible in space. Renovated homes often lift lofts, convert warehouses into guest bedrooms by pairing wood textures and earthen walls, expanding and improving the family’s living space. Newly built modules harmonize with existing houses: every 4, 5 houses have a common pond to raise fish, the amount of soil dug up is used as building materials for walls, biogas cellar for families’ barns… Plays a role The nucleus is Nam Dam Community House – a center of information and community activities with innovative architecture, 80cm thick rammed walls, well insulated from harsh weather, integrated with modern materials. The flexible connection spaces before – after, above – below by corridors, gaps, light bars…
Nam Dam Land Village (Ha Giang)
Lao Cai Workers’ Village (built in 2014 – 2015) is dedicated to workers who are far from home, who are workers at Duc Giang Chemical Factory. The complex consists of 4 blocks, located on different heights of about 2.5 m, with connecting corridors. The blocks run in an arc based on the natural contour, creating a green core in the middle. The spaces between the blocks and between the ladder positions create convection hoppers that blow through the courtyard. The architecture of the house faces North – South, avoiding the hot sun and ensuring all rooms have natural light and ventilation. The façade is designed with a tree-shaped concrete skeleton system combined with flower beds and climbing plants that have the effect of shading, creating a special shadow effect when moving along the corridor. The design takes advantage of the terrain and natural slope, minimizing the leveling, forming terraced fields – a characteristic of the Northern mountainous region. In addition to the courtyard between the blocks, the roof area is also used to grow vegetables and local agricultural products. Housing, garden, common playground, football field, volleyball, swimming pool create the cohesion of residents as friendly and sustainable villages… That is the reason for the project to receive special recognition from the Board of Directors. UIA 2023 judges: “The highlight is the “Worker’s Village” project, which has contributed to creating an optimal and effective living environment for the workers working at the factory, helping to regenerate labor force and encouraging the connection between the workers. neighbors through the design of courtyards, common corridors and garden care activities, and at the same time, towards a living environment with a green ecosystem, close to nature.…”
Lao Cai Workers Village (childrenlove) and Hanging Village on Nguyen Luong Bang Street (Hanoi)
Enthusiastic and attached to community projects and schools in highland and remote areas…, Hoang Thuc Hao and his associates were dubbed “architects of the poor”, is that true?
Ever since the establishment of the 1+1>2 architecture office, I have always determined that the main resource of the office is to do social architecture – a job that can be said to be “carrying prisons and goods”, but fortunately. I was fortunate to have met young brothers with the same passion and upward spirit. During the past 20 years, no one has “left the ship”, although most of the projects we pursue have been implemented under extremely difficult conditions, both in terms of funding and construction context…
True architects always respect the humanity in architecture, environmental sustainability and cultural diversity. Their committed responsibility is to strive to eliminate inequalities in architecture, especially paying attention to serving disadvantaged communities in remote areas or underdeveloped urban and rural areas. The 20-year journey of 1+1>2 is a persistent effort to contribute to the formation of social consciousness, by resonance: Architects + researchers + planners + residential communities.
Globalization brings many great values, but there is a risk of erasing or even destroying identity. Almost forgotten cynical communities hold vast cultural treasures. They naturally have the right to have their own voice, to contribute to the wealth and diversity of humanity. This justification is the commitment motivation, the convergence of resources, the immutable driving force of the happiness architecture 1+1>2.
After 20 years, does the addition of 1+1>2 change?
It has always been a beautiful philosophy of ours, in the sense of converging resources to create greater values. Remember, during a visit to Lung Luong school (Vo Nhai, Thai Nguyen) – the first highland school that we designed, Prof. Ngo Bao Chau suddenly wrote on the calculation board: “1+1>2” and asked “Is this calculation correct, children?”. GS’s explanation is that it is necessary to add a heart around the plus sign (+), with the implication: if each individual joins together with a warm and kind heart, the collective strength will be greatly multiplied. . This is also the core value of 1+1>2, not afraid to commit, share enthusiasm and intelligence for the formation of a network of highland schools in all regions of the country.
An element with a sense of self-improvement, upward direction – towards the complete number 1 is always ready to interact, resonate with other elements that also tend to move towards 1, will jointly create greater shared values. . Modernity is dominant with the indigenous core, academia adapts folklore, materials, traditional technology with improvement… Each element tends to be 1, approaches 1 but constantly has to interact with other 1s. to be greater than 2.
1+1>2 so for us it’s not just a name, it’s a way of life.
One of the typical “identifiers” of his projects is his attention to the roof system. Because the roof “is considered the fifth facade of the building”, say architect Le Quang (Berlin), or is there another reason?
In a tropical country with a lot of rain and sunshine like Vietnam, the most important part of a house, especially a low-rise building, is the roof. Weather cavitation hitting the roof is the main, so it is the place to stand the pole, also the most visible identification of the house. Vietnamese folk architecture also leaves behind examples of roof design such as communal houses and long houses in the Central Highlands… But the fun of creativity sometimes comes from luck, such as when we build houses. community for the Dao village in Nam Dam (Quan Ba, Ha Giang), later called Canh En Community House. Because during the survey, we caught a few swallows flying around the house. We found out that swallows often nest here under the roof and local Dao people believe that this is a bird that brings good luck. The idea of building a stylized sloping roof in the shape of a swallow’s wing was born from that, it both reflects the beliefs of the local people, and helps to receive more natural light, optimizing the view to the large fields.. .
Hoang Thuc Hao showed me the manuscript of the book “Thousand wind” soon to be published, which reviews the 20-year journey of building nearly 60 highland and remote schools by him and his associates with many touching pages. A persistent and quiet journey to not only build School sites help to erase blindness and carry letters, but more importantly, as he said, it helps to form social consciousness, right in the innocent and sincere people where the wind is blowing thousands of people: “The day of the school’s renovation has changed. Thinking about the whole village, how to do reciprocal actions to motivate the village head and everyone to join hands to build the school. At first, some households were not willing to participate because in their opinion, it was the state’s problem so the government had to solve it by itself. But when listening to the architects explain that it is the common work of many organizations and individuals participating in volunteering to help the village, everyone understands and is enthusiastic and enthusiastic. 297 households, 1489 people, more than 3000 working days, each person brought back 30 pebbles from the stream, in the end collected approximately 80,000 stones, enough materials to build a multi-purpose house, pave the yard and decorate the items. From working together, all realize that school and words are as important as food. Working to build a school is also a way for each family to nurture their future…”.
And most of all, it’s the journey of “decoding the architectural genome”, as you once fondly mentioned?
Similar to biological genetic code, in architecture, each ethnic group also has its own architectural genome, including 4 “molecules”: topographical conditions, climatic conditions, customs (including beliefs) lifestyle) and relationships, social exchanges. These four “architectural genes” combine in a certain proportion like biological genes, but are more flexible and multidimensional. These factors can change, so they need to be extracted and quantified as the basis for determining values, so that the final product – an architecture – does not lose its core values and is not outdated. with the times. When the genome is decoded, the architecture in particular and the culture in general will have enough resistance to the negative sides of the development process, absorb the positive and good factors for dialectical development, healthy…