Vo Trong Nghia (1976, Quang Binh Province) is an architect whose green, sustainable 21st-century designs are transforming urban spaces and attitudes in Vietnam. Working with a team of innovative architects, engineers and craftsmen at Vo Trong Nghia Architects (established 2006), he is implementing solutions to counteract the neoliberal paradigm turning cities into concrete deserts.
The key to Vo’s projects, which range from large public structures and university facilities to restaurants and homes, is using natural elements to create functional buildings that are rooted in local culture and suit tropical conditions. At Binh Duong School, façades of louvres and perforated screens allow natural light and airflow, eliminating the need for costly and environmentally damaging air conditioning. Countering the loss of gardens to rapid urbanisation, at Farming Kindergarten (see photo above) children grow flowers and vegetables on a roof that slopes down to join green play areas, while solar power heats water and waste water is recycled to irrigate plants and flush toilets.
Influenced by the local tradition of cultivating potted plants on every available surface, and built on the typical ‘tube house’ plot, 20 metres deep but only 4 metres wide which results in dark, damp interiors in monsoon season, Stacking Green has a roof garden and front and back façades constructed of layers of planters that provide natural lighting, cross ventilation, sun filtering and privacy while reducing noise and purifying the air. Similar solutions are applied for mass housing, with a roof garden linking tower blocks fronted by bamboo-lined balconies. In contrast, the concept for House for Trees is the house as a series of giant pots planted with trees which change over the years to become a green canopy.
Vo actively advocates a mandatory 50 percent green roof requirement for new developments. Initiating debate on all aspects of the built environment through television appearances, seminars and events, Vo is working on a prototype for affordable low-cost housing and on an urban masterplan for Ho Chi Minh City.
Vo Trong Nghia is awarded for his striking, environmentally friendly architecture that is reviving the urban landscape of Vietnam; for pioneering a Vietnam-specific ‘green’ programme of common-sense spatial practices that balance culture and nature and are good for life and community; for presenting viable, sustainable, built alternatives, demonstrating to residents, officials and developers that such change is possible; for raising awareness and influencing public perceptions on the need to improve living conditions for the millions of city dwellers; and for promoting architecture as a form of activism for social change and moving it forward to a greener future.