Architect Vo Trong Nghia shares insight into his eco-friendly bamboo structures
In 2020, Ho Chi Minh City-based green architect Vo Trong Nghia saw his eco-friendly bamboo structures spread throughout his native Vietnam. Vo, who studied architecture at the Japanese Institute of Technology in Nagoya and the University of Tokyo before opening his eponymous company in 2006, has added to his collection “House for Trees” – residential projects that house both plants and people – including the award winning Bat Trang House in Hanoi. He embarked on the Dong Na Villas, a residential master plan filled with roads and restaurants outside of Hoi An. But perhaps the most impressive are three ambitious new bamboo buildings: the Vedana Resort Restaurant in Ninh Binh, the Huong An Vien Visiting House in Hue and the Grand World Phu Quoc Welcome Center on Phu Quoc Island. He develops these projects and more.
Interior design: Your bamboo structures have attracted international attention from your Vietnam pavilion
at Expo 2015 in Milan. Why bamboo?
Vo Trong Nghia: It appeals to me for many reasons. First, it is endemic and abundant in Vietnam, two key elements for any sustainable building material. Second, bamboo grows quickly; I am able to harvest it after only five years. Compare that to a tree, which takes decades before we can cut it down and use it for construction. Third, the flexibility of bamboo makes it easy to shape and mold, which means I can be really creative with it. Finally, bamboo still retains a very natural look even after being processed, which is very important to me.
ID: Create a natural aesthetic
seems to be a recurring theme
in your creations.
VTN: That’s right, I want all of my buildings to connect humans to nature. I believe in biophilia, that people have an innate fondness for the natural world, and I want to harness that in my designs. This is crucial for sustainability; if people form an emotional attachment to a space, it is less likely to be demolished. This is especially important in a rapidly developing country like Vietnam where we are in this unsustainable cycle of destruction and construction.
ID: How did you operate
biophilic design concepts in
your bamboo buildings?
VTN: I like to think of my bamboo buildings as biophilic not only because they are constructed from a natural looking material. The Vedana Resort restaurant has a large skylight at its top so that the sun can illuminate the interiors. It also has no windows, walls or doors, which allows the wind to ventilate the space. I think harnessing natural light and ventilation is crucial for successful biophilic design. I also believe that biophilic design ideas can create calm and caring environments. Huong An Vien Visiting House sits in a cemetery and is designed to be a place of quiet reflection before and after paying homage to the dead.
ID: Can you describe how you
treat bamboo for
for construction purposes?
VTN: In Vietnam, we have been using bamboo for generations, and my processing process is adapted from traditional techniques used by my ancestors. First of all, I completely immerse the bamboo in the water, which speeds up the aging process. This is a kind of accelerated decay, which changes the chemical composition of the material, making it inedible to insects that would otherwise devour and destroy it. After soaking it for several months, the bamboo is smoked for two weeks using rice husks. This dries it out and replaces the oils lost during submersion. Then I polish it, giving the bamboo its earthy yet shimmering appearance, an aesthetic that is both traditional and modern.