The pleasure of the architects

The pleasure of the architects

Hello everyone!

In the coming weeks, I will share more insights about the whole :Playtime project and the process of making this festival. As I said previously, this year’s edition is composed of three parts: the architecture project, the programme and the research. One month ahead of the festival, I would like to start with the first element: the architecture. From last year’s experience, we knew how important it was for the festival to take place on one specific site, and designing a temporary installation was the natural and most exciting way to go...

The architects

The architecture project is led by our two partners Ateliers Mở Đất and Aupa-Urba.
Ateliers Mở Đất is a design firm founded in Ho Chi Minh City in 2015 by Architects Hoang Le Manh Thang and Bonanno Katia. They specialise in sustainable architectural design, landscape design and site planning. Committed to promoting local projects and creating sustainable living environments, Ateliers Mở Đất maintain an environmentally sensitive approach to all their projects. Working on :Playtime: architects Hoang Le Manh Thang, Serpe Laurent, Phan Minh Kieu Khanh, and intern-architect Nguyen Thi Nhu Quynh.

Aupa-Urba was founded by Anne Jauréguiberry, Architect-urbanist, and Senior Lecturer at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Strasbourg. Anne experiments with the concept of ‘slow urbanism’ through both her agency and university work by crossing morphological, geographic and landscape analysis with a sensitive, poetic perspective. For :Playtime’s installation, she works alongside Architect-urbanist Patrick Bertrand. Committed to the development of innovative models of social housing; Patrick prioritises human behaviour and need over technical systems which have a negative impact on our planet.

Anne and Bertrand participate in :Playtime as guest artists of the French Institute's Villa Saigon residency programme. This programme creates a gateway between contemporary French Artists and the Vietnamese cultural scene each year by maximising opportunities for creative exchange and helping artists from overseas develop their projects in partnership with local actors.

The concept

Nowadays in Ho Chi Minh City, we observe a trend that spans across cities driven primarily by the rule of neoliberal economic policies. Architecture is mostly an image, an object of desire, a tool to attract investments. A construction of void shelled in glass and light. An architecture disconnected from the soil where it settles. Rarely is architecture here considered for what it should be: the construction of a shelter for individuals, families, communities. And in the specific case of designing space for communities, for the public, architecture has vanished in profit of ready-made formulae. With this project and its very constraints, we wonder: what is an architecture that creates space for the commons and communal dreams, for the shared cultures that we have now and that are to come? And how to give it space in Ho Chi Minh City?
Domestic public space
Centrally located in Binh Quoi’s green fabric, the selected site creates a meeting place, a halt to start exploring the area, its build and natural forms, at another pace. On this site, we create a space for the public, for the neighbours, for the visitors. Its shape is defined by the temporary structures as much as as by the site’s pre-existing elements: the tree bushes, the neighbouring coffeeshop and houses, the streets layout, the temple, the river…  Playing with these conditions, in this specifically suspended territory, we create a place to spend time together and question our own roles, as citizens, in the becoming of public spaces and the city.
The opportunity to build an ephemeral structure offers us to question: How do we make an architecture for an occasion, set in time by a specific network of circumstances, people, resources - a context? What is the architecture of a temporary commonplace? Binh Quoi today is frozen; awaiting capitals for development, future is suspended for its residents - only nature is allowed to build on the lands. In the “hanging gardens” of Binh Quoi, we respond with an architecture that creates a comfortable and harmonious shelter for the time that we have left here, together. We nudge users and wonder: what will linger in their spirits after the structure disappears?
Context again: how do people, the old and the young, how do they play, how do they entertain themselves in this unstable territory? What games are born out of this semi-rural area? Engaging builders and users in playful activities, the structure will reflect on the power of architecture to shape an ever-changing stimulating and playful environment. The installations await for the bodies to move in, take place, inhabit their spaces, alter them, project their dreams… They are to be experienced rather than fixed on a shot: they are conceived to stimulate all the senses, and invite users to feel the breath of the surrounding environment.

The pleasure of the materials

The architectural project also takes ground in a search to answer some of the contemporary challenges faced by architects. How to reduce a building’s ecological footprint, source materials that are both ethical and durable, and create forms that are adapted to their context, rather than generic models? We believe exploring the idea of a ‘new vernacular’ can lead to solutions.
The new vernacular
Between Ateliers Mở Đất, Aupa-Urba and an ordinary city, there is a shared inspiration: the 'vernacular'. You could translate it by 'popular' architecture and uses: when tradition is fixed, entangled by too many rules, vernacular talks about how people reappropriate these traditions and make them their own: inscribe their wishes, their dreams, their tastes in the spaces they build; use materials at hands, recycle, invent; collaborate with neighbours, exchange tools and skills. We believe that in our quest to making architecture and cities more sustainable, we should look into this vernacular and its context: find the positive elements, and build upon them a common and optimistic project.
A link to the land
Here in Binh Quoi, the vernacular talks to us about the link between people have with the land, the nature surrounding them. Here, the architects look for simple and economical resources that people use in their buildings. They take pleasure in discovering the materials, their textures, presence, the volumes they can generate but also their limits. Cajeput wood, abundant in Vietnam and particularly in Binh Quoi, is frequently used for floating structures, buildings’ foundation, or for small home-gardening jobs. It will be one of our main materials used for the pavilions and playgrounds’ structure.

The method

The three parts of :Playtime - the architecture, the programme and the research - are tightly linked to each other. It forces us (although it is more a pleasure than a constraint) into a collaborative approach where discussion is central. New ideas flow in, are confronted to the reality of the context, are tested, validated, transformed or naturally vanished. For us, it somehow reflects on the vernacular culture to proceed in such a way: the initial concept is absorbed, transformed by the others, by the experience of the site, the project is in movement, in constant evolution, open for reappropriation...

Collaborative workshops
During the construction phase, we will involve students from the Universities of Architecture and teens from the nearby school. We want them to experience these unusual materials, craft with their hands, as we believe building together stimulates the community spirit and the link to the land, and helps them realise that above all we make spaces out of desires to live, dream and play in them.
The final builder is the user
The structure is not perceived as a defined place, but is left ‘unfinished’: the last builder is the user. How will neighbours, participants to the festival interact with the pavilions? How will they project their feelings onto it? How will they transform it? And what will they do with the materials once the structure is dismounted?
To be continued…

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