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Vietnamese honoured as 21st century architect

Update: June, 05/2012 - 09:57

Leading light: Architect Vo Trong Nghia receives the World Architecture News 21 for 21 award for his bamboo designs.

 

Curvaceous: A view of wNw Cafe, an architectural work in bamboo by Vo Trong Nghia. — Photos courtesy Vo Trong Nghia

HA NOI — Architect Vo Trong Nghia has been recognised by an international magazine as most likely to impress this century, for his work with bamboo.

He is among 21 architects to be chosen by the website World Architecture News for its "21 for 21 Awards" – potential leading lights in the profession this century.

The award is for "outstanding, forward-thinking people and organisations who have demonstrated they have the potential to be the next big thing in the architectural world", the magazine said.

Nghia's bamboo designs include wNw Cafe, wNw Bar, Eco-resort Pavilion in Viet Nam and the Hill Restaurant in Mexico. They were listed among eight winners of the second stage of the magazine's 21 for 21 Award.

Nghia said bamboo was the green material of the 21st century due to its ability to absorb Co2 and to regenerate compared with other rainforest species.

"It not only is a decorative material but also plays an important role in the main structure," Nghia said.

Bamboo is small and uneven and bends easily. Nghia makes use of this flexibility to create curves which cannot be achieved with other wood materials. Because of limitations on its length and dimensions, small pieces with numerous joints are the essence of a bamboo structure.

Nghia said that if too many metal joints were used, the organic characteristics and cost advantage of bamboo would be lost, so he used rope and bamboo nails to make the joints sleek. However, the aim was not to create work for handicraft villages but designs to use the material around the world, he said.

Nghia divides a structure into several units, the assembly of which allows easier transportation. The wNw Bar is a bamboo dome while wNw Cafe is a 500sq m bamboo building in a tropical garden. For the Eco-resort Pavilion, bamboo frame-units were installed in a 22m diameter circle. The open-air Hill Restaurant in Mexico is the first commission outside Southeast Asia.

The magazine said Nghia's designs showed elegance and intelligent use of natural materials that simply wowed the judging panel.

Juror architect Patrik Schumacher said Nghia "finds forms true to the material which has enabled them to create light forms with influences of scientific vernacular".

Nghia was born in 1976 and spent what he described as a difficult childhood in the central province of Quang Binh.

"When I was young, water and wind were the most precious things to me," Nghia said. "Without rice, I could find other things to eat but without wind and water, I couldn't stand the heat in the central region."

As Nghia grew up, he dreamed of building green houses, contributing to a pure environment. That's why he named two of his designs wind and water (wNw).

"There is no charge for wind and sunlight, so I found a way to bring sunlight into the houses and to use wind to give the feeling of living in a forest," he said.

This year's awards also honoured architects from Norway, China, Germany and Mexico.

Five architectural practices were credited last year and with this year's eight, the magazine is well on the way to finding 21 firms for the 21st century. The remaining seven would be selected next year, the magazine said. — VNS

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