Calm the mind, connect with place __ Võ Trọng Nghĩa __ VTN Architects

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Calm the mind, connect with place __ Võ Trọng Nghĩa __ VTN Architects
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Calm the mind, connect with place __ Võ Trọng Nghĩa __ VTN Architects

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Calm the mind, connect with place __ Võ Trọng Nghĩa __ VTN Architects
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How to unlock the mind to produce better designs, faster? Võ Trọng Nghĩa explores this question, revealing a philosophy where meditation is the key to healing ourselves and saving the planet.

Võ Trọng Nghĩa is renowned for adapting vernacular techniques to a modern context. His pragmatic approach has earned him international acclaim, including 156 awards and prestigious recognitions like the Prince Claus Award and Architect of the Year by Dezeen.

Planetary wellbeing begins with personal healing, says Nghĩa. In this episode, discover how an idealistic philosophy grounded in pragmatism can reveal unexpected sustainability solutions.

Episode outline

00:10:51 “We disconnected from nature and also we disconnected with ourselves.”
00:03:29 Meditation and reconnecting with nature
00:05:24 “I started to meditate in 2012. I had a lot of anger and an unhappy life before that.”
00:10:01 “When we do meditation well then we can develop loving kindness with other beings and then it connects better with nature and helps to protect our planet better.”
00:11:50 “We need to reconnect with ourselves by concentration, by practising meditation, and we have to reconnect with nature again. Otherwise we will all become crazy.”
00:15:40 Bamboo and vernacular techniques
00:16:22 “I decided to be my client, my first client by building the Wind and Water Cafe with about 7,000 bamboo pieces.”
00:18:37 “The most difficult things about bamboo structures are the structural systems and also the joint details.”
00:32:31 Returning to Vietnam
00:33:24 “I had suffering in my mind, in my heart because maybe I had a bad trauma from the American War.”

Summary

In 2012, Võ Trọng Nghĩa turned to meditation to cope with anger and unhappiness. His commitment led him to a monastery in Myanmar, where he stayed for about three years.

Since then, meditation has shaped his design ethos and approach. Nghĩa views meditation as an essential tool for personal and professional clarity.

Nghĩa believes meditation contributes to the sustainability of his work by encouraging compassion for all living things.
Courtesy of VTN Architects

The staff at VTN Architects spend an hour meditating every day after work. Nghĩa says meditation simplifies architecture by improving concentration and quieting the wandering mind.

Nghĩa highlights the benefits of having his staff meditate, asserting that it speeds up the design process.
Courtesy of VTN Architects

He emphasises that we are disconnected from nature and ourselves. He advocates for mental healing, believing that it will naturally lead to environmental restoration.

The Farming Kindergarten provides an example of how architecture can foster a connection with nature. The design of the kindergarten incorporates a roof that also operates as a community farm.

An integrated rooftop farm allows children to participate in urban agriculture at the Farming Kindergarten in Đồng Nai.
© Hiroyuki Oki

Nghĩa is best known for his use of traditional materials, particularly bamboo. His choice of bamboo is rooted in practicality, as it is a cheap and abundant resource in Vietnam.

Today he is globally recognised as a leader in bamboo construction. However, the start of his journey was an uphill battle.

After a period of study in Japan, he struggled to find clients upon his return to Vietnam. He took matters into his own hands and built the Wind and Water Café, becoming his own first client.

The Wind and Water Café in Bình Dương was built using 7,000 pieces of bamboo.
© Hiroyuki Oki

Nghĩa outlines the process of using bamboo in architecture, beginning with the structural system before moving on to the joint details. The structural system, he emphasises, is crucial in defining the spatial quality of the building.

He also underscores the importance of bamboo treatment, which involves soaking it in water and then smoking it. This treatment can extend a bamboo structure’s life to over 50 years, and even up to 100 years.

But how do we apply vernacular techniques in urban settings, where challenges like pollution and noise abound? Nghĩa advocates integrating natural elements to combat these urban stressors, enhancing city living conditions.

He points to his House for Trees project as an example. This project functions as a “pocket park”, where integrated greenery acts as a natural barrier against pollution, noise, and intense sunlight.

The House for Trees in Ho Chi Minh City is composed of five separate concrete blocks capped with lush greenery.
© Hiroyuki Oki

The Bat Trang House exemplifies Nghĩa’s use of vernacular techniques in novel ways. Its standout feature is a double-skin facade that filters the surrounding air and noise pollution.

The double-skin system of the Bat Trang House sandwiches a layer of greenery between residents and the urban setting of Hanoi.
© Hiroyuki Oki

We must first heal our inner selves before we can heal the planet, says Nghĩa. This is more than a fanciful philosophy. Nghĩa’s unique brand of architecture may emerge from idealism, but it is wholeheartedly rooted in pragmatism.

While modern sustainability solutions are important, Nghĩa shows us that sometimes they distract us from the more subtle, unexpected solutions that are already within reach.

Gallery

Images

Episode Notes

Keep reading if you want to deep dive into this interview’s content and get more out of it. You can also find out more about this episode’s guest/s and sponsor/s, and the team that put it all together.

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

As mentioned in this episode

If you heard it in this episode, we likely have a link for it right here. Click on any topics, people, buildings, places, products and/or technologies listed below to learn more about each of them.

00:06:08 “…in an interview that you gave…”
“Designed for Serenity, With Nature in Mind”  |  The New York Times
00:15:52 “…borrow from vernacular architecture, the material…”
“What is Vernacular Architecture?”  |  ArchDaily
00:16:02 “…practitioners in bamboo construction…”
“How To Build With Bamboo: 4 Basic Structural Systems”  |  ArchDaily
00:26:03 “…when we had the American War. Then…”
“Vietnam War”  |  Britannica
00:26:48 “…these passive strategies, the daylight…”
“What passive architecture is and how it works”  |  Domus
00:27:22 “…become a pocket park in…”
“Pocket park”  |  Wikipedia
00:36:27 “…checking on ArchDaily. You are…”
“Tools, inspiration, and knowledge to help create better cities”  |  ArchDaily
00:36:33 “…at Yale University and…”
“About Yale”  |  Yale
00:36:35 “…the University of Toronto. What…”
“About U of T”  |  University of Toronto
00:01:48 “…countries like Vietnam. Architects…”
“Vietnam”  |  Britannica
00:03:52 “…in your Ho Chi Minh City office…”
“Ho Chi Minh City” (Vietnam)  |  Britannica
00:05:46 “…move to Myanmar to meditate…”
“Myanmar”  |  Britannica
00:05:53 “…years in Pa-Auk Monastery in Myanmar…”
“Pa-Auk Forest Monastery” (Mawlamyine, Mon State, Myanmar)  |  Wikipedia
00:13:12 “…the Farming Kindergarten, which…”
“Farming Kindergarten” (Biên Hòa, Đồng Nai, Vietnam)  |  VTN Architects
00:16:14 “…back from Japan, so I…”
“Japan”  |  Britannica
00:16:50 “…the Wind and Water Café with…”
“Wind and Water Café” (Thủ Dầu Một, Bình Dương, Vietnam)  |  VTN Architects
00:18:13 “…like the Volcano Island restaurant…”
“Volcano Island Restaurant” (Xiamen, Fujian, China)  |  VTN Architects
00:18:16 “…in Xiamen, China. I mean…”
“Xiamen” (Fujian, China)  |  Britannica
00:18:16 “…in Xiamen, China. I mean…”
“China”  |  Britannica
00:26:35 “…City or Hanoi. So, because…”
“Hanoi” (Vietnam)  |  Britannica
00:27:12 “…the House for Trees, which…”
“House for Trees” (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)  |  VTN Architects
00:29:36 “…the Bat Trang House, which…”
“Bat Trang House” (Bát Tràng, Hanoi, Vietnam)  |  VTN Architects
00:31:49 “…case the Bát Tràng village is…”
“Bat Trang Pottery Village” (Hanoi, Vietnam)  |  Wikipedia
00:37:30 “…from UK or the US and then…”
“United Kingdom”  |  Britannica
00:37:30 “…from UK or the US and then…”
“United States”  |  Britannica
00:38:01 “…are in California, right…”
“California” (United States)  |  Britannica
00:38:07 “…in Silicon Valley. Am…”
“Silicon Valley” (California, United States)  |  Britannica

 

There are no design features mentioned in this episode.

00:25:19 “…should be laminated bamboo…”
“How Effective is Laminated Bamboo for Structural Applications?”  |  ArchDaily
00:25:33 “…the laminated timber, so…”
“Plywood and laminated wood”  |  Britannica

Host
Nirmal Kishnani

Producer
Maxime Flores

Editor-at-large
Narelle Yabuka

Senior communications executive
Sana Gupta

Senior editor
Tyler Yeo

Art director (video)
Alexander Melck  |  Phlogiston

Sound technician and editor
Kelvin Brown  |  Phlogiston

Video editors
Guellor Muguruka  |  Phlogiston
Madelein Myburgh  |  Phlogiston

Graphic designer
Stian van Wyk  |  Phlogiston

 

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Can architecture heal our planet? In this bonus episode, we delve into the power of regenerative design. From restoring existing structures to rethinking material ownership, find out how sustainability and healing go hand in hand.
All the noise around sustainability can be dizzying. In this episode, Bjarke Ingels returns to discuss BIG’s Plan for the Planet. Can a global framework based on real-world strategies help us achieve better individual solutions?
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All the noise around sustainability can be dizzying. In this episode, Bjarke Ingels returns to discuss BIG’s Plan for the Planet. Can a global framework based on real-world strategies help us achieve better individual solutions?

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