Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture
by Mel Schenck with photography by Alexandre Garel
In the mid-twentieth century, southern Vietnamese architects developed a
version of modernist architecture that accommodated the tropical climate and
reflected the identity of a newly-independent culture. It demonstrated the innate
sense of design of Vietnamese and it represented the outlook of the southern
Vietnamese people as they looked towards the future, even in the face of war.
The vast quantity and quality of Vietnamese modernist buildings constructed
throughout southern Vietnam made Vietnam an unrecognized center of
modernism in the world. Most importantly, the southern Vietnamese as a
culture embraced modernism, and it became the vernacular architecture of the
culture for dwellings.
Featuring an interplay between masses and voids, Vietnamese modernist
architecture provides a much more vibrant version of modernist architecture.
This style fills the gaps between the functionalism of the International Style and
the quest for identity and spirit that has been lacking in modernism worldwide.
American architect Mel Schenck is a long-term immigrant to Vietnam and has
been studying this architecture since he was surprised by the extent and quality
of modernist architecture in Saigon when he first lived there in 1971/72. He and
photographer Alexandre Garel accumulated a database of 400 buildings and
4,000 photographs in southern Vietnam to serve a comprehensive analysis of the
history and characteristics of this distinctive architecture.
Architectural historians, aficionados of modernist architecture, and anyone
interested in Vietnamese culture will find that this book is a positive story about
Vietnamese aspirations for independence and the value of modernist
architecture in living in the world today.
TitleSouthern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture: Mid-Century Vernacular Modernism
PublisherArchitecture Vietnam Books