Innovative architecture ideas need to be encouraged in Vietnam

A hot issue related to urban designs in Asian cities was raised among international followers of urbanism in a meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand a few years ago. 

A part of the Village of Art in Tam Thanh Ward of Tam Ky District, Quang Nam Province (Photo: SGGP)

A part of the Village of Art in Tam Thanh Ward of Tam Ky District, Quang Nam Province (Photo: SGGP)

After the discussion, it was thought that the ideal way to implement new urban designs was to rely on local authorities, which soon turned out to be a complete failure.
The reason was that those local leaders would prefer conventional ways of development rather than innovative ones for fear of uncomfortable management.
From the examples in the world…
Innovations in urban architecture are new and creative ideas for re-designing cities, which then need specific actions to turn them into reality.
They could be either ambitious projects that cost billions of US dollars or simple yet practical planning that derives from local residents like a barber, a hawker, a retired teacher. They all aim at bringing a new breeze to the appearance of urban areas.
One typical example of this kind is the revolutionary change of a slum in Kampung Wonosari Village of Indonesia. At first, local authorities wished to demolish it but they encountered financial issues. Then, Mr. Slamet Widodo, the 54-year-old principal of a primary school in the village, shared his idea of repainting all 385 houses in that area in colorful shades and redecorating them with 3D pictures.
Thanks to the support of IDR 300 million (approx. $22,500) from the government, that wonderful idea became reality. After only a month, the area was completely renewed with rainbow colors, attracting millions of international tourist of all over the world.
This, in turn, deeply changed the life of all indigenous people there. Thanks to the event, the village was then renamed to the Rainbow Village and was imitated by many nations, including Myanmar, Mexico, and Vietnam.
Such innovative ideas for architecture exist everywhere in the world, but especially in a large number in developing nations such as Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, Penang. The fact is whether those ideas are implemented or not depends a great deal on finance, social-economic situation, and mostly government’s attitude as well as professional aid.
Take Singapore as an example. Twice each year, the office of Singapore’s Prime Minister Ly Hien Long and his advisory board hold a meeting with young people and students to collect ideas for the development of the country. This tradition derives from his father’s time when he was Singapore’s
Similarly, in Thailand, Chulalongkorn University and Bangkok authorities establish a body with many branch offices in each district to collect ideas from citizens and even foreign tourists. These are then all considered for their feasibility.
…to the current state in Vietnam
When realizing that Vietnam had a plan to demolish over 10 old mushroom-shaped water towers built in French colonial time, some of which are more than 150 years old, a Korean businessman wanted to turn them into mini-hotels as he believed that with such shape, surface (350-600m2), and location, those would become a spectacular success.
His opinion was then submitted to Ho Chi Minh City Association of Architects and was highly welcomed. But it was never turn into reality because so many complex bureaucratic procedures discouraged him gravely.
This particular story shows that in Vietnam, there has never been any body to receive innovative ideas from citizens. Only ideas in the form of official project can be considered by the government.
Others are classified as nonsense and are not worth looking into. National leaders are also not very fond of creative ideas which are different from traditional laws since theses designs make it harder to manage.
One distinctive example of this issue is the concept of changing a fishing village in Tam Thanh Ward of Tam Ky district, Quang Nam province into a village of art by painting the walls of more than 100 houses.
This had not been supported by local authorities, and Korean artists had to patiently persuade them. It then turned out to be a huge success when the houses are able to attract hundreds of tourist each day. Or the case of painting public walls in Ho Chi Minh City has only been accepted recently because formerly graffiti was considered illegal.
One more story was the idea of a group of students to use bicycles in the 650-hectare campus of the urban area of Ho Chi Minh City National University, which received the Holcim Award. It was submitted to the Directorial Board of Ho Chi Minh City National University without any response.
...and the hope for a better future
In real life, many craziest ideas bring enormous benefits. In the USA, for instance, people are ready to pay you millions of USD for an innovative idea and much less than that for the person who turn into reality.
It is worth saying that well-intentioned innovations are sometimes a flash of inspiration that needs more nurture from professionals. The example of the Rainbow Village in Indonesia demonstrations that a creative idea from a normal citizen has been appreciated and aided by architects, construction engineers, and artists.
Architects showed how to arrange colors in logical harmonious groups, while artists continued with how to use harmless materials and paints.

Similarly, in Manila or Phnompenh, with the help of architects, local residents have renovated slums into airier and more comfortable areas despite the unchanged surface.
Tet Holiday is coming in Vietnam, and everywhere people are decorating their neighborhoods with colorful lights, turning them into little shining rivers. This makes the city more fanciful and charming. And this is the innovative effort of the public.
Ho Chi Minh City is considered the most active and creative city in Vietnam. Even in the hardest time like economic depressions, citizens here would not cease their innovation.
It is, therefore, called the place of creation, where its successful stories will then be imitated by people nationwide. It is hoped that in a very near future, people’s innovative ideas are always listened to like in Singapore, Penang, or Bangkok.

By Associate Professor NGUYEN MINH HOA – Translated by Yen Nhi

Other news