Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture: Mid-Century Vernacular Modernism

Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture: Mid-Century Vernacular Modernism

Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture: Mid-Century Vernacular Modernism

Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture: Mid-Century Vernacular Modernism


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"Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture" features beautiful architectural photography that illustrates the outstanding accomplishment of the people of southern Vietnam in developing a mid-century modernist architecture that is extraordinary in the world.

Especially for Americans, Vietnam has been a war instead of a country. The world didn’t notice that the Vietnamese were simultaneously constructing modern apartment buildings, houses, large public buildings, and public housing as they developed a new nation. And the world didn’t anticipate that this architecture would be so overtly modernist rather than an adaption of traditional Vietnamese designs to the continuation of colonial architecture.

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 demonstrates the innate sense of design of Vietnamese and it represented the outlook of the people of southern Vietnam 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.

This architecture features an interplay between masses and voids that 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780578516585
Publisher: Architecture Vietnam Books
Publication date: 04/21/2020
Pages: 316
Sales rank: 780,400
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Mel Schenck is an American architect with five decades of experience managing design and construction. He earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree at Montana State University in 1970 and a Master of Architecture degree at the University of California at Berkeley in 1981. Mel began his career managing construction contracts to Vietnamese constructors for the U.S. Navy in Saigon and southern Vietnam in 1971/1972, where he became enamored with the Vietnamese mid-century modern architecture. After several years managing architectural projects in America, Mel managed the operations of KMD Architects, a San Francisco firm with offices in Asia and Mexico as well as major cities in the U.S. He returned to Vietnam in 2006 to direct master planning for a 325-hectare $1 billion resort and two new towns in the Ho Chi Minh City metropolitan area. He leads a weekly seminar on Vietnam modern architecture and history at the Huỳnh Tấn Phát Foundation in Ho Chi Minh City for university architecture and planning students, and is a member of the Society of Architectural Historians based in America. Mel contributed the chapter on Vietnamese modernist architecture for the 2018 book "Adventures in the Land of Modernism" published by the Modernist Society in Manchester, UK. Mel's article "The Largest Military Construction Project in History" was published in the New York Times on 16 January 2018. Mel is on Instagram as architecture.vietnam and on the internet at

French-born Alexandre Garel has lived in Ho Chi Minh City since 2011 and has made his mark in the creative scene in Vietnam and in France as an architectural photographer, photo-journalist and travel photographer. Alexander's photo books entitled "Saigon: Portrait of a City" and "Yangon: Portrait of a City" are in production for release in 2019. These books focus on the historical heritage of those locations since he is passionate about old buildings and their life and history. He is fearless and able to climb through old abandoned buildings to bring them back to life. His photographs of heritage buildings in Ho Chi Minh City illustrated an article in USA Today on 5 March 2017 entitled "Vietnam's architectural gems are disappearing." Alexandre can be found on Instagram as saignonsnaps.

Table of Contents


Southern Vietnam in the Context of Modernity: Why Consider Vietnamese Modernist Architecture? Modernity and Modernism; The Richness of Ho Chi Minh City’s Architecture; Southern Vietnam is a Center of Modernism in the World

Architectural History of Southern Vietnam: Vietnamese Historical or Traditional Architecture; French-Colonial Architecture; Modernism in Southern Vietnam; Modernism in Northern Vietnam

Global Modernist Architecture; The Growth of Modernism; Principles and Characteristics of Global Modernist Architecture; Variations in Modernist Architecture: Postmodern Architecture; Brutalist Architecture; International Style Architecture; Critical Regionalism

Influences for Vietnamese Modernist Architecture: French Schools of Architecture; Vietnamese Identity; Communist-bloc; Parallel Development in Cambodia; America and Frank Lloyd Wright; Japanese Influences are Contemporary; Le Corbusier

Early Modernist Architecture in Vietnam; Genesis of Modernism in Art Deco; French Art Deco Buildings; The First Modernist Buildings

Characteristics of Vietnamese Modernist Architecture: The Golden Age of Vietnamese Modernist Architecture; Characteristics of Vietnamese Modernist Architecture; Typology of Vietnamese Modernist Architectural Features

Brise-soleil Design

Double-wall Construction

Intricate Design

Cellular Architecture

Abstract Composition

Expressive Composition

Experimentation with Villas

Experimentation with Shophouses

Modernism For the Masses

Vietnamese Modernist Architecture Throughout Southern Vietnam; Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture; The Mekong Delta; Dalat; Quy Nhơn

The Vernacular Architecture of Vietnamese Houses and Villas; The Vernacular Housing of Southern Vietnam is Modernist; Past Vernacular Architecture of Southern Vietnam; The Rural Form of Modernist Vernacular Houses

Modernist Vernacular Houses: Ordinary Modernist Houses; Modernist Vernacular Streetscapes; Trends in Vietnamese Contemporary Houses

Why Did the Vietnamese Embrace Modernism?: An Architecture Beyond Colonialism; An Innate Sense of Design; The Positive Eclecticism of Vietnamese Culture; Future Orientation



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