Architect Doan Thanh Ha typed slowly, the words gradually appeared on the computer. It was the letter he sent to himself, which was later published in the book Send the past a time box (Kim Dong Publishing House, many authors, 2021).
“At the age of 34, he completed an interesting project called Toilet garden, for poor students in the highlands. The work was designed with heart and I’m sure there is a great urge from your childhood memories. Not long after, this model was applied more in practice because of its humanity and social responsibility”, wrote Doan Thanh Ha.
Toilet garden is a work combining toilets and washing places for students in mountainous boarding schools. That toilet is located in the school, close to where both students and teachers cultivate to have more green vegetables. The bamboo truss systems are both to block the sun and to plant trees, usually fruit trees such as gourds and squash. They are green to the eyes and cool the whole meal. Such architectures are pursued by Doan Thanh Ha and called “architecture for people’s livelihood”.
As the winner of many awards, competitions and multinational architectural exhibitions, architect Doan Thanh Ha has many different construction stories. I share with Youth about the architectural path that I choose.
The story of why gardening is also shared by me once in a letter to the age of 16, printed at Kim Dong Publishing House. I talked about how difficult living conditions in my childhood influenced my thinking about having to have specific toilet designs. A few years ago, when I went to Ha Giang, I also saw the problem of toilets for children in schools.
A friend at the Ministry of Education and Training also told me about the approach angle. Fortunately, I have chosen the approach of combining toilets with washing and bathing places in semi-boarding schools for ethnic minorities (organizing accommodation and activities for day-boarding students). Usually the Ministry of Education and Training has designed typical toilet models in normal schools, but those models do not have components related to bathing, not to mention the ability to utilize natural energy ( sun, rainwater) and reuse water. Therefore, we can deploy this new template for teachers and students to use. This is not a matter of luxury, but simply adding a circular feature to make the architecture more sustainable.
Later, other boarding schools also learned and followed suit. When multiplying in Dien Bien, UNICEF used a larger sample. The toilet garden in Cao Bang is very small, only 1 toilet and 1 bath for each sex, if applying the standard 1 toilet for 20-40 children is not enough. Should go to Dien Bien, this model has become more “inflated” to meet the standards of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Training.
I usually use bamboo rods in their original form, no bends, no extensions, with the simplest structure – but expandable. And these spaces are all aimed at vulnerable people. Maybe that’s the basic difference between us in the way we use bamboo.
I am inclined to the folk treatment, drill holes in each bamboo tube and then soak it in a mud pond, after a few months, it can be used. This way is known by most people, so it will motivate them to create their own space with bamboo materials.
Making bamboo, the hardest part is the joints, I use the way of attaching the bamboo sticks together and then using steel pins and ties. This latch makes the element removable for replacement, maintenance, or expansion of space. Installing the bars also makes the process easier, it doesn’t take much time to choose the big bar, if you use a mortise.
Bamboo is many times more exploitable than oak. Bamboo grows very quickly and has the ability to regenerate itself, after 3-5 years it can be exploited. It is necessary to have a bamboo strategy in planting and exploiting it in a sustainable way. Architect Simón Vélez, who built the whole cathedral in Columbia out of bamboo, has long believed that bamboo is steel – plants. This is a very liberal way of thinking about bamboo.
People still say I’m “muddy hands and feet”, maybe it’s because when I approach any material, I also directly experience and manipulate it to understand first and then think about what to do with this material. . After having a solution, I myself always try to realize that detail at a 1:1 scale before the project is built, especially with plant-based materials like bamboo.
Along with plants, soil is a unique (I consider primitive) material. We also modified the presentation method with modern day aids to create compact, lightweight and efficient compactors. I still make fun of my friends, when I do this, my 15-year-old can report.
That is, we need to understand the material well and then combine it with the appropriate technology in the present time to have a way to use it to bring outstanding efficiency.
I can’t do it exactly like the old people, but I can’t do anything. So I have to do it differently.
At the beginning of the year, Samsung Museum contacted me to invite me to do an exhibition at this location. They invited 20 Asian artists in general, each with a theme Walking on the clouds. I got a plot of about 6 x 6 x 6 m. I decided to make a model of the floating house and around this August will start showing.