1. Why did you choose this site and what issue do you see here?
The site was chosen due to the variety in its surroundings: a big road (Nguyễn Trãi Road) with sky train, old workers’ housing, small alleys with self-built houses, a strong local high street with markets, the canal side, and the domination of Vinhomes Royal City over the road. Thượng Đình is an area built around the Cao-Xà-Lá complex, and many of the people who first moved there to work in the factories in the 60s and 70s are still local, sitting out on the street watching the kids play.
We visited the site firsthand despite the limited time of the competition. It is crucial when designing for an active post-industrial town that the scale and ongoing changes are understood. This includes the extremely dense housing, the ongoing use of the Đình system, and how communal courtyards are heavily used. The vibrant high street paired with congestion and pollution.
The post-industrial vibrancy must be properly fostered, with more dedicated and designed spaces, better local facilities. New low-cost housing should be built and designed with plenty of public communal spaces, to alleviate the overcrowding. The new space should create room for the current activities to grow and be really centred in their communities.
2. How do you define utopia?
The original definition of Utopia is ‘no place’.
We define Utopia as the process of trying to find something better. When applying to an urban scale, it is the shared process in creating a better city and society. This Utopian process engages everyone in making a better future.
Utopia’s a “no place”, but utopian promise can be seen everywhere every day.
Utopia’s promise and the process of inching closer to it creates it own meaning and satisfaction. An urban context is always in a process of renewal, it’s an ad-hoc superstructure, which makes it a perfect site of utopian (or dystopian) promise.
Utopia’s found in imagining, discussing, workshopping, and sharing the plans for the better tomorrow.
Utopia’s always on the move.
3. Are you experienced in handling this issue? Tell us more about your source of inspiration.
Both of us have worked separately in the United Kingdom on adaptive reuse projects, and Alfie’s worked on reusing neglected industrial sites, spaces that carry a lot of potential due to their large spans and robust construction.
But really the designed element of this project is the perimeter block, which has a few key references. The mega-block and ground treatment has been influenced by Sewoon Sangha in Seoul, which was recently refurbished after years of neglect. Then there’s the work of current French architects like Bruther (particularly how they engage with the road on their Maison Julie-Victoire Daubié) and Muoto, who are reclaiming an infrastructural approach to public building. The entire mixed-use flexible arrangements are pulling from Dogma, the super-thin border block on their Frame(s) project being a particular example.
The idea of a loose-fit approach that allows a lot of autonomy for people over time binds the experience of these references and is the central intention with our project.
Frame(s) by Dogma