• Design quality benchmark in contemporary Vietnam

    31 March 2021

    Almost three decades ago, DCMSTUDIOS established one of the first international architectural design practices in Vietnam. In the late eighties the post war nation opened the door to foreign investment, with international design expertise coming along with the project funding.

    Following on from many years of chaos, abundant potential lay in the demand for new investment in commercial and tourism projects, but it was not plain sailing for entrepreneurs. It soon became apparent that there was a steep and painful learning curve to be faced in both the negotiation of mutually beneficial arrangements in mandatory joint ventures with the Vietnamese counterparts, and in the slow process to re-educate a construction industry which had been dormant for years.

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    Today the market has matured considerably, and the appointment of international consultants and the need for foreign investment is no longer a given. Local professional and financial expertise has matured rapidly at the same pace as the thriving SEA economy, and it is the Vietnamese developers who are driving growth exponentially. To meet these high expectations, we can also see that the local architectural consultants are rising to the occasion and are well able to satisfy the aspirations of a well-travelled upwardly mobile Vietnamese society.

    For international consultants to enter this market it is now essential for them to be both competitive in service delivery and, more importantly, able to bring a compelling difference in truly cutting edge architectural concepts delivered.

    DCMSTUDIOS are certainly one practice who are leading the way in providing an urban design approach which is focused on meeting this demand for the highest level of design, and they are also doing so in a manner that satisfies a prerequisite to merge local social and cultural influence with dynamic concepts to support Vietnam’s drive towards more sustainable urbanisation.

    DCMS’s early projects in Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City include Hong Kong Land’s Hanoi Central Building, The Furama Resort and Saigon Centre respectively. These remain influential buildings from Vietnam’s internationally funded period of renewal, and it is testament to the design principles applied in these early projects, that they later became significant benchmarks for design quality in contemporary Vietnam.

    Today DCMSTUDIOS have stepped up and are strategically focused on the urban design and planning of high impact projects to which they continue bring innovation and unique design expertise in meeting the more discerning client demand in the market. With the competitive design approach becoming the norm for consultant selection in the local government sector, they have also invested in this path to access major urban redevelopment project types. Successful participation remains the only certain path to be part of the wider discussion on the urban renewal of key city center sites many of which also require the retention of heritage elements.

    One such project is their award-winning design for the expansion of the historic Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee. The concept unveils the restored classic formality of the original historic building with formal public access once again placed on the central axis of the Nguyen Hue pedestrian avenue. The City Chamber, conceived in form of an imposing translucent drum wrapped in a grand circular colonnade, sensitively accessed through a landscaped garden, becomes an imposing ceremonial landmark for the City. Finally, the signature Administration Tower with louvered glass façade completes the composition, forming a new public address for the city’s administrative functions on the historic Dong Khoi Street.

    In avoiding pastiche, DCMSTUDIOS have confirmed that a sensitive application of contemporary architecture can both enhance the existing urban morphology and remain responsive to the functional and cultural demands of the final architectural solution.

    In Danang, DCMSTUDIOS have recently proposed an ambitious scheme to replace a popular but ageing landmark, the Cho Con Market.

    The challenge here was to retain a sense of consistency in the public and social domain between the old and the new in the future redevelopment.

    This has been achieved in the application of the familiar through the retention of naturally ventilated open floor plates in a solar shaded envelope. Here a contemporary re-imagining of permeable traditional Vietnamese screens is inspired by environmentally familiar building typology yet delivered in contemporary materiality in the translucent façade.

    Thu Thiem District has emerged as the singular new development area for the future growth of the Ho Chi Minh City. Within the flood plain of the meandering Song River, this area was formerly a substantial area of farmland and small village settlements located in the heart of the city directly across from the historic central area of old Saigon. Now with multiple new bridges and a tunnel connection, Thu Thiem now offers a fully connected land bank of new development potential offering relief to congestion and aging infrastructure.

    DCMS were recently invited to create a design for one of the very first new projects to be constructed here, the Thu Thiem Planning Exhibition Centre. This design was to be a highly visible stand-alone building with a central site location clearly visible from across the river. Not only a functional exhibition facility, but also one that would be the envelope to show case the emerging development opportunity arising in the Thu Thiem development area.

    Without any meaningful existing urban context, DCMSTUDIOS conceived a dramatic and dynamic concept with super exaggerated angular trapezoidal visual forms. This iconic form would appear as if floating in isolation above an interrupted horizon – A stunning architectural statement from across the river projecting a visual architectural message of emerging future opportunity in Thu Thiem.

    The Thu Thiem Tower project, a developer driven headquarters concept, was designed to be the outstanding landmark building within competing development projects destined to be less inspiring in the overall master plan. With public interface at podium level the tower is approached over architecturally dynamic landscaped links from the future civic buildings located on future riverside parkland.

    From the very beginning DCMSTUDIOS has retained a registered professional design office in Ho Chi Minh City, essential for seamless design liaison and client communication on all Vietnam based projects. Recent pandemic issues have further increased the need for remote working practice and thus with strong locally based representation the ability to develop design in response to a demanding client base has not been impacted.

    DCMSTUDIOS can surely look forward to the next decade of exciting opportunity in the vibrant Asian economic hub of Vietnam.

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