On architect Dao Thanh Hung’s facebook page, he admits his harsh manner, but maybe it’s just the outside expression. Having known Mr. Hung for almost 5 years, the author of this discussion see the architects as a gentle person and only sometimes raise his voice to his colleagues, all because of him being a perfectionist in work.
Handhome got the chance to know AHL Architects when the practive was in their third year, sharing some small projects with the media. Architect Hung back then isn’t much difference from now. He rarely speaks or laughs and doesn’t mind holding back his discontent. We admire him for his straightforward character. On AHL Architects’ seventh year, we had a talk with architect Hung Dao.
Handhome: Hello Mr. Hung, AHL Architects had a 7-year career, how has your thinking about architecture changed ever since?
Hung Dao: We’ve been practicing for 7 years and looks like it is just the beginning of a long journey. Change is inevitable but the core principles are still there. I’m still my old self of 7 years ago and it seems I would remain that way in the future.
After 7 years working in the architectural field, what’s the most important experience that AHL has had until now?
“Observe and Persist”
Observe what happens around us everyday to choose the best materials for the next designs. I read an article about Vietnamese cuisine once: We have a world of very distinct spices that sometimes only we have, the way we cook depends on how we use the local resources. I think architecture is just the same.
Be persistent with the path you chose. Actually, most of our starting decisions for the office are based on feelings. It could lack much fundamental basis in order to be successful but it’s the closest thing to you, to yourself. That why I think if we remain true to ourselves, take the first steps with consideration, then our path will be an interesting one.
What do you think about AHL’s clients over the years? If they’ve been better so what is the reason?
I see that we’ve had less client compared to the previous time but they are more serious than ever. They understand how we work, look us up really carefully before contacting. This doesn’t just happen naturally. In our previous projects, I always sent hidden messages to the clients. We told them everyday stories, one at a time, so that they have a clear understanding of how AHL work. They would have chosen us if they had seen it fit, once the contract had been signed, then AHL received the clients’ full trust, even for really young architects who hadn’t gone out on the field before.
That’s the truth and I’m glad because it’s happening. Trust is the first thing in my negotiation with the clients before the projects are taken further.
After many years, AHL still takes on small projects such as apartment renovation, designing houses and villas. Why don’t you work on bigger buildings?
I’m a perfectionist. I want the already good designs to be realized in the most practical and careful way as possible. With this thought in mind, my focus shifts to small scale projects using private fund so that I can spend all my time on the designs instead of worrying about the paperwork.
I think that big scale projects usually involve lots of paperwork, permits, regulations,… They are extremely time consuming. Besides, in commercial projects, the client would care more about the investment instead of the architecture or design.
Of course I also haven’t had the chance to meet the clients with big public buildings. If their requests are suitable for our thinking then we have no reason to refuse.
Have you ever designed something for free? If yes then what is it?
Not completely free but money was just for formality. That was 7 x 18 House (2013) – a house of my wife’s aunt.
During the career of AHL, which project brought you the most joy and why?
The Hopper House, simply because it has 3 things that every project needs: Love from the client, the efficiency during the design and construction process, and lastly, it helps the architects gain valuable experience from their work.
In your opinion, do you think Vietnamese architecture is becoming better or otherwise? How so?
Seeing something good or bad depends on each person. I find Vietnamese architecture very vibrant at the moment, bearing many colors and flavors. I just hope that the architectural results would be true to the architects’ ideas when they design, instead of putting on many public appearance.
What do you think about the media, community activities and competitions for Vietnamese architecture nowadays? Does AHL intend to take part in any competition or go for any award this year?
I have never seen the aforementioned activities are being coordinated such well as now. The websites about architecture, active groups that take part in discussions, invite people from the field to join them are creating a helpful network for the architects to exchange their ideas and learn from each other.
I don’t intend to join many competitions. AHL and I want to go for “National Architecture Awards” every two years, and this year we’re in it.
Are you planning anything new for AHL in 2019?
There’s nothing new because every opportunity, client and project is still ahead of us. Maybe we would have a new office after many years working in a tight space.
Have you ever thought about an exhibition of AHL Architects? If yes, what would you put on display?
Making a small book about our projects was in my mind but it was put on hold due to the time. I haven’t thought about an exhibition but were it realized then AHL’s works would be the main focus.
Thank you for your time!