Vietnamese architect Bùi Thúc Đạt has published a wonderful review of our book, and he captures the essence of the book in his review. You can find his original review in Vietnamese language in the Vietnamese Modernist Architecture group on Facebook here:
Here is a rough translation from Google Translate into English language of his review:
by Bùi Thúc Đạt
Architecture books published in Vietnam are mostly picture books with brief explanations or research books on Vietnamese traditional architecture, but Mel Schenck's book is an exception. Not only writing about modern Vietnamese architecture, but moreover, the author has clarified an architectural style that has been created and developed by generations of talented Vietnamese architects from 1954 to 1975, modern architecture in southern Vietnam.
The book is written in English with the title "Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture- Mid-century Vernacular Modernism". Instead of focusing on introducing and describing works, the author approaches the problem by stringing together historical bases and architectural forms to identify and clarify Southern Modernism in Vietnam.
The content of the book can be divided into 3 main parts including historical origins, architectural features and modernism in indigenous architecture.
The first part of the book deals with the historical context, formation and factors affecting modern Vietnamese architecture. In this section, the author discusses the traditional architecture of Vietnam, the colonial architecture brought and recreated by the French in Vietnam as well as the architectural trends in the world at that time and their impact on the world. Modern Vietnamese architecture. In particular, the author has spent an important part referring to the early Modernist Architecture period in Vietnam - the period of the last French architects in Vietnam - such as architect Paul Veysseyre, Architect Arthur Kruze, ... and the first class of Vietnamese architects - such as Architect Nguyen Van Ninh, Architect Truong Ngo Phu, Architect Huynh Tan Phat, ... collaborated on architectural projects. Following that is the transformation of architecture in Vietnam from Art Deco-style buildings to the first modernist works.
The second part accounts for two-thirds of the book and is also the most important part, referring to the unique characteristics of modern South Vietnamese architecture. The opening is the image of the golden age of modern Southern architecture with the appearance of a generation of talented Vietnamese architects such as Architect Nguyen Van Hoa, Architect Vu Ba Dinh, Architect Pham Van Thang, Architect Nguyen Quang Nhac, Architect To Cong Van, Architect Ngo Viet Thu,... In this section, modern architectural works were selected from many typical areas of South Vietnam at that time such as Saigon, Da Lat, Quy Nhon , the Mekong Delta,... and classified by the author according to the characteristics of modern Southern Vietnamese architectural style. The modern architecture of South Vietnam in the period 1954-1975 is rarely deepened and presented thoroughly in books on Fine Arts & Architecture published in Vietnam, so the author Mel Schenck's identification and digging depth and presentation of modern southern architecture through classification method based on architectural characteristics, is a special thing.
The last part of the book deals with indigenous houses throughout South Vietnam. What is interesting here is that the sphere of influence of modernism extended from the big cities to the countryside, where it is often considered difficult to open up to new Architectural-Arts movements. According to the author, this has never happened anywhere in the world, even in the United States, France or Japan, etc., which have many modernist monuments.
The most unfortunate thing is that most of the works in the book have been or are planned to be demolished. It is clear that looking at Modern Architecture in Southern Vietnam, we admire the creativity and intelligence of generations of Vietnamese architects, but we also cannot help but regret the fate of modern architecture in Southern Vietnam when fall into the fracturing of postwar politics and culture. However, from the books of Mel Schenck or Thierry Delfosse,... we still have hope that the value of modernist architecture in South Vietnam will be properly recognized as well as preserved with its role as a heritage of architecture and art of the Vietnamese people.