A friend asked me a while back why the Vietnamese architects adopted European modernist architecture after colonialism rather than develop their own indigenous architecture. The most important answer is that southern Vietnamese people see good ideas and adapt them to fit southern Vietnamese needs. This comes from a long history of contact with European and Asian traders along the coast. The southern Vietnamese architects could see how modernist architecture could be easily adapted to suit the tropical climate. They also saw similarities to Vietnamese traditional architecture that could be enhanced to project Vietnamese identity.
But modernism isn’t just a European idea. Although Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe of the Bauhaus were German and Le Corbusier was French-Swiss, the other pioneers of modernism were Americans like Frank Lloyd Wright and William LeBaron Jenney with the first metal-framed skyscraper in Chicago in 1885. The Russians were also pioneers of modernism with their Constructivist architecture.
Modernism quickly spread throughout the world between the world wars and became a global movement. But the primary impetus came after World War II with the cascading independence of former colonial countries in Africa, South America, and Asia in the 1950s. These countries inevitably embraced mid-century modern architecture. Because it suited Vietnamese identity so well, the southern Vietnamese embraced it totally into the culture and made Vietnamese modernist architecture the vernacular architecture for houses.
Photograph: Robie House, Chicago, 1910 — Source: Teemu08, https://commons. wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Frederick_C._Robie_ House.JPG, Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0