Vietnamese journalist Nguyên Vân has published a good summary of our “Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture” book in one of the mainstream newspapers here in Vietnam, Thanh Niên. It can be viewed at the following link (in Vietnamese language):
Mr. Vân attended our Vietnamese-language version book launch event on 12 January here in Ho Chi Minh City to gather information for his article. Following is a Google Translate version of his article in English:
American architect and 50 years of passion for modern South Vietnamese architecture
By Nguyên Vân
Published 13 January 2023
In THANH NIÊN Newspaper
Vietnamese people have every right to be proud of their different version of modern architecture because they have succeeded in developing an architectural style that clearly shows the national identity.
That is the opinion of Mel Schenck, an American architect with more than 50 years of experience in managing the design, construction of complex planning and construction projects. The book Modern Architecture of Southern Vietnam by Mel Schenck and photographer Alexandre Garel has just been released as proof of that statement, as well as to introduce the history of this achievement to Vietnamese people everywhere and to the whole world.
This is the third edition of this book. The first version is the international edition published in April 2020 (paperback, color print). The 2nd edition of World Publishing House released in May 2020 (black and white paperback in English). The 3rd edition is the Vietnamese edition published by Phuong Nam Book in 2022 (a few omissions have been corrected and added in this Vietnamese, paperback and hardcover edition).
Architect Mel Schenck has resided in Vietnam since 2006, having studied Vietnamese modern architecture right from the first encounter. “I was extremely surprised at the size and quality of them in Saigon when I was here from 1971 to 1972. At that time, I had just graduated from an architecture school in the US for a year, so I felt like I was lost in the world. paradise of architecture”, he said at a book introduction session yesterday on January 12 at Nam Thi House, Ho Chi Minh City.
Talking to readers, Mel Schenck said that the book, made in the last few years, is the fruit of his great and persistent love for modern South Vietnamese architecture from 50 years ago.
“Vietnamese people are gradually losing their own legacies, which could have been left to future generations to continue to admire and appreciate their value.” — Architect Mel Schenck
Regarding this book, architect Dam Vu acknowledges: "Under the sharp perspective of an experienced architect in the US, with the sharp thinking of an in-depth researcher who has lived in Vietnam for many years. , Mel Schenck has brought to domestic and foreign readers a valuable source of analytical data about modern architectural works here. Through each carefully crafted page, the architectural legacies of the Vietnamese generation of architects in the golden age will partly help us to better visualize the characteristics of modern architecture with bold imprints. Vietnamese".
Not only that, as shared by author Mel Schenck, all images in the book were captured by photographer Alexandre Garel (born in France, living in Ho Chi Minh City since 2011) during her creative activities in Vietnam. and France as a photojournalist, travel photographer, and architecture photographer. “His love of the city and heritage architecture is reflected in the unique photographs in this book,” says author Mel Schenck.
Are Vietnamese people losing their heritage?
Mel Schenck said he has selected more than 150 modern architectural works in Vietnam in the mid-20th century to introduce in the book, based on a database of more than 400 works and is still updating new findings every day.
“It is surprising that until recently, no Vietnamese or international authors have paid attention to the architecture of this period. The analytical study of this architectural style would have been more convenient if we had a foundation to do it," he said, citing the scarcity of archival materials as well as the inability to find them fully. sufficient facts even if they exist, “we will be held responsible for any unavoidable errors or misunderstandings contained in this book.”
Accordingly, the book is a professional synthesis - research and cataloging of architectural works based on their aesthetic and social values. However, because the data is not found or there are conflicting sources, the names of architects and construction dates are also omitted from most of the projects in the book.
The author also added, of the architectural works included in the book, currently 11 have been demolished and 27 other works are on the verge of being destroyed. "Vietnamese people are gradually losing their own legacies, which could have been left to future generations to continue to admire and appreciate their value," he said, referring to a Among the works, according to him, is very regrettable, when demolished, is the building at 30 Phung Khac Khoan (District 1, Ho Chi Minh City). This was originally built with the function of a villa or an embassy in the diplomatic district of the city. “Unfortunately, the building was demolished before this book was printed,” says author Mel Schenck.