top of page
Anchor 1
Anchor 2
Anchor 3
Anchor 4

Ad hoc Talk 03: Encounters with Architectural Modernism in Vietnam

This is the third talk in the ADHOC TALK series of “Hanoi Ad Hoc 1.0: Architecture, Factories and (Re)Tracing the Modern Dream of Recent Past.”

Weaving the examinations of our speakers, through their respective research approaches - Architectural and Anthropological, the talk will impartially explore the parallels between ideologies and the differing responses to modernism across the country. The talk, in this case, will deliberately discuss the influence and linkage of large-scale housing development for industrial, social infrastructure design in Vinh, and also the modernist building types found expressed in the buildings constructed by the populace in the South. In which, the former enhanced the producing conditions in the subjective socialist context, while the latter demonstrated the embracement of modernist architecture – giving rise to the unique vernacular modernism of the anonymous architect in Vietnam. Join our guest speakers as they draw from their recent books on architecture in Vietnam and examine these modernist building types.

MEL SCHENCK (Architect managing international design and construction, and author).
CHRISTINA SCHWENKEL (Professor of Anthropology and Director of the program in Southeast Asian Studies (SEATRiP) at the University of California, Riverside).
Facilitated by Michal Teague, Lecturer in Design Studies at RMIT Hanoi City campus.
Co-organized by Ha Noi Ad Hoc and RMIT Vietnam, with support from UNESCO and Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Urbanization in the Global South.

About the speakers:
Professor of Anthropology, Director SEATRiP
Christina’s talk will draw from her new book, Building Socialism: The Afterlife of East German Architecture in Urban Vietnam to show how designs for industrial and social infrastructure in Vinh, including large-scale housing developments, sought to enhance worker productivity and produce modern socialist subjectivities. Based on research as a resident of mass housing, she highlights the important class and gender dimensions to creating a modernist city through an attention to the intersections between building and living practices.
Bio: CHRISTINA SCHWENKEL is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the program in Southeast Asian Studies (SEATRiP) at the University of California, Riverside. She also serves as Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Vietnamese Studies (JVS) at UC Press.
Over the past two decades, Christina has conducted ethnographic research in Vietnam on the cultural politics of postwar memory, affect and urban infrastructure, and debates over Vietnamese architecture and monumental built forms. She is the author of The American War in Contemporary Vietnam: Transnational Remembrance and Representation (Indiana University Press, 2009), a co-edited special issue of positions: Asia critique (with Ann Marie Leshkowich) on “Neoliberalism in Vietnam” (2012), and the recently-released JVS collection on Global Vietnamese Studies, with Charles Keith.
Her new book, Building Socialism: The Afterlife of East German Architecture in Urban Vietnam (Duke University Press, 2020) is a historical ethnography of the cycles of urban destruction, reconstruction, and decay through the lens of modernist mass housing in Vinh City.
Building Socialism: The Afterlife of East German Architecture in Urban Vietnam

American architect managing international design and construction, and author.
Based on his book Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture, Mel Schenck will discuss the origins of Vietnamese modernist architecture as architecture students in the 1930s encountered international modernism in their education. Upon graduation, they produced modernist architecture that was highly adapted to the tropical climate and expressed Vietnamese identity. After the disruption of the Japanese occupation and the Indochina Wars, modernist architecture diverged in the north and south of Vietnam.
As the southern architects produced many examples of modernist architecture for larger buildings and villas, the southern population encountered this modernist architecture and could see the identity embodied in it. Unlike most other cultures around the world, the southern Vietnamese embraced modernism for themselves and used these principles to design their own houses, making modernist architecture the vernacular architecture. Examples of industrial factories and mass housing will be presented to illustrate the extent and quality of Vietnamese modernist architecture.
Bio: MEL SCHENCK is an American architect with five decades of experience managing international design and construction. After researching the extensive mid-twentieth-century modernist architecture in southern Vietnam, Mel published the book, Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture in 2020. Mel is currently researching Information Age architecture and contemporary Vietnamese architecture.
Author: “Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture”
Architecture Vietnam Books

bottom of page