Vietnam relies on German building culture
“What is Vietnamese building culture?” This question is asked in a country the architecture of which was for many years defined by the former colonial powers, France and Japan, and by the separation of the country into North and South Vietnam with the two capitals, Hanoi and Saigon. The architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp) have been addressing this subject for more than ten years. Back in 2006, the practice designed the National Conference Center in the Vietnamese capital, which was followed by new buildings for the Hanoi Museum and the Ministry of the Interior. Now – just a few months after the completion of the new building for the Vietnamese National Assembly in Hanoi – the Vietnamese Architects Association has awarded the “Vietnamese National Prize for Architecture” for this building, a clear demonstration of trust in the work by architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners. During a three-day session, the jury selected the gmp-designed building in the Vietnamese capital from 200 entries. The award ceremony will take place in the presence of gmp founding partner Meinhard von Gerkan and his partner Nikolaus Goetze on 18 and 19 April in Hanoi. The new building for the National Assembly creates a bridge between the Vietnamese past and the country’s future. The new building was erected in Hanoi’s historic city center, at the site of the former People’s Building in the area known as the Citadel, opposite the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and houses the plenary chamber and the representatives’ offices. The tradition of using symbols and emblems, which is deeply anchored in Vietnamese history, has been continued in gmp’s design, and translated into architecture:
In Vietnam, the basic shapes of circle and square symbolize heaven and earth. The building volume of the assembly chamber is based on the basic shape of the circle, which is surrounded by an additional square structure. The building places a marker representing the new, emerging Vietnam. Ornaments typical for the country were used in the bronze cladding - in a modern interpretation – thus creating a contemporary reference to the locality.
The square foyer surrounds the plenary chamber and is used for receptions, public speeches and celebrations. Generous openings to the south and west provide access from the direction of the Mausoleum and Bac Son Square on the south side. A sequence of planted courtyards has been inserted into the external contour of the square, making the green color – which is deemed to be of special importance in Vietnam – a theme of the architecture. The materials used on the outside are natural stone of a light beige color, glass, and bronze-colored metal, and on the inside high-quality wood elements. Not only the generously designed public access areas and the well-organized circulation give the building complex a special quality of experience but also the way daylight is guided into the interior and the varied sequence of rooms.
The shape of the plenary chamber – resembling a truncated cone – seems to almost float above the angular building, and the translucent jade glass facade can be seen from afar above Old Hanoi’s dense sea of houses. The structure, which on the inside feels like a crystal, provides space for the 493 representatives from all 58 provinces and up to 340 visitors.