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Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture : Mid-Century Vernacular Modernism - Mel Schenck

Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture

Mid-Century Vernacular Modernism

By: Mel Schenck, Alexandre Garel (Photographer)

Paperback | 21 April 2020

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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.

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