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'Without green design we're finished': Vo Trong Nghia tells CLAD about his architectural philosophy

Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia has told CLAD that real estate developers must push for green design practices if human beings are to survive and prosper.

Nghia – who is best known for his intricate bamboo leisure buildings – said humans have become too disconnected from nature, “causing conflict, wars and the destruction of the planet."

“Capitalism always requires development, but development needs a lot of energy,” he said. “If we continue to develop at this rate, in this way, we will keep destroying nature and then we’re facing the end.

“In Asia, the problem is very serious because the population is so big. Mega cities face pollution, traffic jams, the destruction of greenery. It's a mentality problem – developers cannot be calmed down, they always require development.

“Our challenge as architects across the world is dealing with high density, high consumption, high energy while moving closer to nature. In the very near future we have to become more green – using things like green walls and roofs and environmental materials. Otherwise, we will all die very soon because of climate change, conflict and misuse of technology.”

Nghia’s studio promote this nature friendly philosophy in their work, particularly in their leisure designs such as Naman Retreat and Roc Von restaurant in Vietnam, and their contribution to the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale – a meditation zone surrounded by plants stood in bamboo stands.

“With all our projects we look at the surrounding nature and see how we can harmonise with that,” said Nghia. “Restaurants, cafes and hotels don’t have to be concrete, especially in tropical climates. Nice design is about function and beauty, of course, but also how to make humans much more connected to nature. We hope our projects can persuade people living nearby to think this way.

“We also use our work to try and persuade clients about the benefits of our approach. The problem is maintenance – developers think it’s too expensive to maintain green buildings. In fact, it’s not as expensive as they think. We have to change people’s mindsets.

Nghia himself arrived at his nature-conscious mindset after taking up meditation. He and his staff meditate twice a day, and he has attended five Vipanassa courses, where you spend 10 days without speaking and devote your time to meditation.

He told CLAD: “I think anyone, not only creative people, should refresh themselves this way. It changes your way of observing the world and your perspective. People think of human beings and nature as two separate things, but humans are just a small part of nature.

“It can help us to care more for the natural world. Without this philosophy, we’re finished.”

The full interview with Vo Trong Nghia will feature in the forthcoming issue of CLADmag.

Vo Trong Nghia  green design  CLAD  architecture  Venice Architecture Biennale  climate change  meditation 
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FEATURE: Materials – Bamboo style

Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia has told CLAD that real estate developers must push for green design practices if human beings are to survive and prosper. Nghia – who is best known for his intricate bamboo leisure buildings – said humans have become too disconnected from nature, “causing conflict, wars and the destruction of the planet." “Capitalism always requires development, but development needs a lot of energy,” he said. “If
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Vo Trong Nghia is a well-known advocate of green design practices / Columbia GSAPP
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Company profile: Robert D. Henry Architects + Interiors
Robert D Henry Architects (RDH-Architects) was founded in 1990 in New York City by Bob Henry, known as the “sensuous architect of serenity.”
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