In September 2018, a21studio collaborated with Handhome to organize an exhibition in Saigon called ‘The Doorknob’. This is one of the event in the exhibition series that Handhome realize once a year for the architect community in Vietnam. The office did an interview with architect Nguyen Hoa Hiep (a21studio) to further understand their ideas and thoughts on architectural practice through this exhibition.
Handhome: When did you start realize this exhibition? Why did you choose the Doorknob theme?
Nguyen Hoa Hiep: At the end of 2017, Handhome proposed doing an architectural exhibition on the 9th anniversary of a21studio. The first idea was an exhibition showing a21studio’s unrealized projects but I don’t find it necessary.
We usually change our location every 5 years, before it was a21house, now we’re working and living at a21gallery. Next, we would like to live and work at a office made from scraps, doorknobs is the starting point to prepare for this new building. We showed the first phase of this project in the exhibition.
From where did you get the idea of giving new use for scraps?
On our observation, many of our belongings can be replaced easily becaused they are all prefabricated and distributed quickly. Users don’t have the chance and reason to connect with their everyday items.
Our shopping habit is controlled by enterprises. Instead of consuming based on our needs, we’re used to shopping to acquire more. That leads to the increase of producing, consuming and rejecting. Each year, there are more trending collections surrounding many product ranges, but with them comes unseen price that we have to pay in other ways.
What do you mean by unseen price?
Let’s say we’re living at the upstream, our children live at downstream. Everything we’re doing now will have big impact on future generations.
What inspiration do scraps bring you?
Scarps mostly are items that no longer maintain their original use, by-product of modern consumption. When losing their commercial value, scraps become new raw materials for us. In recent projects, we always use them instead of conventional building materials.
Time has given scraps beauty that we can’t find in new materials. Using them gives us the chance to reconsider design requirements in each project. This is how we avoid consuming passively and affecting people’s lives.
What’s the main goal behind “Doorknob”?
My long time dream is to create a building that made mostly from scraps. As mentioned before, I want to start with the smallest detail: The doorknob.
This event displays a large number of old items used to made doorknobs, collected by our office or sent from people who are interested in the exhibitions.
We aim to make a handbook about building house from scraps, it would include how to gather the materials and apply them for each part of a building. We start this project by organizing the Doorknob exhibition..
Could you tell us more about the display space?
It’s a café in Phu Nhuan, Sai Gon. The building is built from scraps and will stop doing business in a day for the event.
What’s your plan after this exhibition?
I want to bring it to the world.
Thank you for taking the time!