Vietnam has been rapidly developing in recent years. Consequently, Vietnamese cities are facing the same problems as many developing metropolises in the world: overpopulation, pollution, and high urban density with a severe dearth of greenery. Vietnam’s population is approximately 100 million, yet the amount of green space per person in the country’s urban areas is extremely low, roughly only 2-3 square meters.
Meanwhile, as the population numbers continue to soar, real estate prices are driven up as demand for land increases. This escalating cost of real estate results in limited availability of suitable land for constructing schools, especially in densely populated areas such as Ho Chi Minh City. Such a scarcity of land and escalating cost of real estate has led to overcrowded schools and compromised learning environments, and when combined with the city’s aforementioned lack of space and disconnect from nature, results in harming the mental health and physical well-being of children.
Within such a dire context, designing climate-resilient, green and sustainable schools for children is pivotal and challenging.
The studio will undertake the challenge of designing a primary school of approximately 10,000 square meters, accommodating nearly 500-700 students.
The studio aims to study this increasingly narrower and taller architectural typology in Vietnam that is under-refined and open to experimentation - a prototype for green school architecture in highly dense, polluted, overpopulated urban settings in Vietnam.
We aim for climate-resilient architectural structures that harmonize with nature, protecting users from harsh weather and environmental pollution in the context of highly dense urban settings.
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city by population, and second largest city by area in Vietnam. Renowned as the economic hub, the city has witnessed rapid urbanization in recent decades.
The project’s site is on the southern periphery of the expansion, a newly planned area that also has not escaped the challenges associated with swift urban growth.
One of the pressing issues of Ho Chi Minh City in general and of this area in particular is the deficiency of green space, a concern that has given rise to various social problems (air and noise pollution, lack of recreational areas, parks…) As the city races towards modernity, the need for green spaces becomes increasingly urgent to counterbalance the concrete sprawl.
The site thus plays a pivotal role in addressing these pressing concerns. How to design a school with high density yet still able to integrate green spaces – mitigating air pollution, and enhancing the overall well-being of its students and the people living in the area?
As Ho Chi Minh City continues its trajectory as a dynamic economic center, the importance of balancing development with environmental sustainability becomes paramount. The success of the project on the southern periphery not only addresses the immediate challenges posed by the lack of green space but also sets a precedent for future urban developments, emphasizing the integral role that green infrastructure plays in fostering a harmonious coexistence between urbanization and environmental well-being.
This is a design-based studio that will search for new ways to redefine schools in a specific context of Vietnamese cities and with special regards to the children’s mental and physical well-being.
First, students will do research on various cities such as Bangkok, Jakarta, Dhaka etc. with a particular emphasis on understanding their climate and urban landscapes in comparison to Vietnam, among them issues such as green space, pollution and high density.
The studio then focuses on the architectural characteristics that define schools in these similar climates: we will examine unique features spatially, tectonically, and materially, across these cities.
Students will investigate the educational conditions, population demographics, and architectural constraints, identifying parallels and distinctions. Through case studies, students will gain insights into the cultural, social, and economic factors shaping the architecture of schools in these areas.
In parallel to the research work, the students will develop an understanding of the studio’s site. Virtually, we will meet with Project Leaders at Vo Trong Nghia Architects to better understand the challenges of building in Vietnam, construction methods, and discuss sustainable design solutions with the office. These discussions will foster a deeper understanding of the urban life and culture of Vietnamese cities, not to mention the culturally different approaches to schooling in the country.
Before travel week students will develop a conceptual, programmatic, and organizational proposal for school design at the given chosen site.
The studio will fly to San Jose and Bay Area where we will visit a variety of projects that may offer similar but unique perspectives that contribute to the studio’s complexity. Projects will encapsulate material and tectonic ideas, spatially complex buildings, historic structures, and several educational and institutional facilities. The hope is that through the unique facets of these projects, students will better understand their own approach to the studio problem.
The trip encourages active participation, reflection, and analysis.
On returning, students will develop individual design responses for the school program.
A tentative list of projects to visit in San Jose/ Silicon Valley:
- McMurtry Art Buildings, Diller Scofidio
- Denning House, Ennead Architects
- Piedmont Hills School, LPA
- Nature Center Preschool, LPA
- Marin County Civic Center, Frank Lloyd Wright
- Google Bay View, BIG/Heatherwick
Schrank, Sarah, and Didem Ekici. Healing Spaces, Modern Architecture, and the Body. New York: Routledge, 2021.
Fuller, R. Buckminster. Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. Lars Muller, 2008.
Banham, Reyner. The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969.