Danish architecture contest launched in Vietnam capital

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Hanoi's cityscape is littered with modern buildings

The Cultural Development and Exchange Fund (CDEF) of the Danish Embassy in Vietnam launched its 2013 Talent Prize Competition last week in Hanoi.

Accordingly, this year's theme is Architectural Ideas for Improving Urban Spaces, which is based upon the Danish architect Jan Gehl's notion that an urban area is normally created by a set of buildings, and its real value lies in the space between those buildings.

Buildings contribute to defining the value and features of an urban area. Buildings' characteristics in terms of usefulness, aesthetics, materials, color, style, openness, proximity to one another, and their appearance of solidity or hollowness have a large impact on the feelings public spaces invoke.

The competition is aimed to represent a basic concept of urban planning: buildings are an instrument, but not a goal, of urban planning. The space between buildings, where communities actively exist is of greater importance, said the competition's organizer in a press conference on March 13.

Participants, including architects, construction engineers, urban planners and landscape architects, will choose a particular Vietnamese urban area, analyze the relationship between the buildings and the public space and propose a redesigning plan for the buildings rebuilding or renovating current edifices to create more attractive public spaces.

The Danish Ambassador in Vietnam, John Nielsen, said, "The competition seeks to find original and creative architects and to promote projects that are innovative and contribute to improving public spaces in cities in Vietnam. We also want to initiate involvement from public in judging the importance of public places and the role of architecture in designing public activities in cities."

The applications will be assessed by a Review Board which includes Nielsen, Vietnamese architect Mr. Pho Duc Tung, Nguyen Huu Thai and Danish architect Hans Peter Hagens. The Jury Prize for the winner is a one-week visit to Denmark in early 2014. 

Additionally, a competition website will be available for the public to comment on and vote for the initiatives. The initiative receiving the highest votes will get the Audience Prize, valued at VND10 million.  

The Danish Vietnamese Cultural Development and Exchange Fund (CDEF) was established in 2006 to provide support to contemporary cultural performances in Vietnam and to cultural exchange activities between Denmark and Vietnam. 

The Fund has supported more than 100 projects in Vietnam and Denmark since 2006 and organized four Talent Prize competitions for young Vietnamese artist within art sectors such as experimental music, contemporary dance, performance art and paintings.

Jan Gehl, is a retired architecture professor from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. His ideas and approaches to designing public spaces incorporate cutting edge technology without losing sight of what enhances people's everyday experiences in the public realm. Gehl has served as a consultant on city quality to city councils and urban planning departments worldwide, including in London, Copenhagen, Oslo, Zürich, Edinburgh, Sydney, Wellington, Riga, Amman and most recently New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

Gehl's book, "Life Between Buildings," was published in Vietnam in 2009 by the Vietnam Urban Planning and Development Association, the Culture Development and Exchange Fund of Denmark, the Danish Architecture Centre and HealthBridge Foundation of Canada.

The book has been a reliable information resource for city designers, urban planners and urban management officials in Vietnam and is considered to be a widely used handbook on the relationship between public spaces and the social life in cities.

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