On diamond-shaped island in southern Vietnam is a collection of small lagoons surrounded by leafy vines. Adding to the hanging greenery, blossoming frangipani trees bloom with buttery yellow champa flowers and bunches of bamboo stems supporting a lime green canopy. As green as it is, this forest is not wild. And despite the botanical setting, the lagoons are actually isolated pools. Wyndham Garden’s 36 villas are due to open later this year on Phu Quoc Island, a tourist hotspot, but unlike the Radisson, Movenpick, JW Marriott and other international hotel names that are moving there , this complex is clearly low.
“Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of projects in Vietnam that just want to be huge,” says Nguyen Hoang Manh, chief architect of MIA Design Studio, the company that designed and landscaped the Wyndham Garden. “They don’t see the point of keeping the balance between the building and the living environment; there is no dialogue with nature.
MIA Design Studio is one of the leading companies in the biophilic architecture movement in Vietnam, which aims to build built environments that connect people and nature. The move conforms to the biophilic hypothesis, which states that humans have an innate love for the natural world. Vietnam’s economy has grown at breakneck speed since the 1990s, but with that progress comes a construction boom that apparently rejects greenery. Biophilic architects seek to reverse this trend.
In central Ho Chi Minh City, overshadowed by the gigantic Hilton Saigon hotel, is the Myst Dong Khoi, designed by Nguyen Hoa Hiep of a21studio, another local architecture firm specializing in biophilia. Unlike the mundane buildings that surround it, plants burst through the facade of Myst Dong Khoi to provide flashes of green in one of the city’s most concrete-dominated neighborhoods.
It echoes the work of Vo Trong Nghia, possibly Vietnam’s best-known biophilic architect. In Danang, a seaside town in central Vietnam, he built the Chicland Hotel with forward-facing balconies that are teeming with tropical plants, including bougainvillea that bloom pink and purple in the dry season. In Ninh Binh, a northern province famous for its mountains and karst rivers, Vo built the restaurant at Hotel Vedana from bamboo so that it captures the breeze and does not require air conditioning. According to Vo, biophilic architecture is not only aesthetic. “Greenery and natural materials help cool buildings, lower energy bills and can even fight flooding if done on a large enough scale. “
When it comes to building sustainably, supporters of the green architecture movement in Vietnam share the perspective of Thomas Heatherwick, Britain’s best-known biophilic designer: the buildings that connect humans to nature and evoke an emotional response are less likely to be destroyed and replaced. “I want my buildings to survive not only me but my children as well,” says Vo, who appreciates that only architecture that lasts can be considered sustainable.
Not everyone is convinced. “To have truly sustainable buildings, there are a lot of things to consider,” says Dang Thanh Long, executive director of the Vietnam Green Building Council, which assesses the sustainability of buildings. “It’s not just about having green spaces and it’s not about planting as many trees as possible.
Biophilic architecture has come under fire in recent years, with critics claiming that the additional materials needed to incorporate plants into structures simply increase the carbon footprint of buildings.
Kanopya, based in Ho Chi Minh City, has decided to take a different approach to building sustainable accommodation, with lodges that cause minimal damage to the environment. Detached lodges are nimble enough to adapt to natural clearings, eliminating the need to level the terrain and chop down trees, and they are raised on stilts to have as little impact on the ground as possible. Kanopya Lodges are also mobile, which means they can migrate to new locations and allow their old sites to recover.
According to Charles Gallavardin, architect and co-founder of Kanopya, it is “our bioclimatic approach that makes us truly unique”. While the biophilic design seeks to connect humans with nature, the bioclimatic design harnesses the local climate for optimal human comfort and minimal energy consumption.
The fact that the lodges are on stilts helps to preserve the soil, but also to reduce humidity. A large fabric roof awning not only protects against rain, but also repels heat from the sun. The judicious positioning and wraparound windows promote cross ventilation and natural cooling. “If you compare these lodges to an average five-star resort in Vietnam, Kanopya uses a quarter of the energy per square meter,” says Gallavardin. The first Kanopya lodges will be set up later this year outside of Hoi An in central Vietnam.
Whether through a biophilic or bioclimatic approach, the construction culture in Vietnam is starting to change, and the result could be more hotel options that better present visitors with the friendlier side of the phenomenal flora and fauna. from the country. “Some people say, ‘What about snakes? What about insects? ‘ »Laughs Nguyen from MIA Design Studio. “I always say, ‘But think of the birdsong in the morning. Think of the afternoon butterflies. Nature is not something we should be afraid of.