I have often expressed my respect for the modernist tradition practiced by Vietnamese architects in urban houses. I believe that Vietnamese architects have explored a long history of modernist design ideas, and produce very interesting, well-designed houses. They constantly try out new original ideas using color and layering of the structural frame skillfully. This house in my neighborhood illustrates the basic modernist design principals used by good Vietnamese architects in houses throughout Ho Chi Minh City.
This house exhibits a spare but well-chosen use of color as well as layering of the structural planes with void elements (holes) to provide a balanced composition.
What I cannot understand is why Vietnamese architects have not often been able to scale this ability up to larger buildings. More often than not, Vietnamese architecture for larger buildings is heavy-handed and displays none of the inventiveness and fresh ideas designed into new houses everyday here in HCMC. This building is a new example (just finishing construction on Nguyễn Trãi Street in District 5).
The heavy base of the building is a very dark color with no relationship whatsoever to the curtain wall of the middle floors. The facade is bland and is devoid of any ideas.
This residential building, newly constructed on Cao Thắng Street in District 3, is also a bland building, but explores some basic modernist ideas that give it design touches to offset the blandness..
Accent colors are skillfully used around the windows to emphasize the openings and give interest to a facade that is otherwise the most common expression of this kind of construction in Viet Nam. Layers have been added to the facade to further give depth and interest to the building. These are very simple ideas, but are not used often enough in the larger buildings designed by Vietnamese architects.