Shaping future cultural and societal heritage

Shaping future cultural and societal heritage

International practitioners in architecture, art, design, and photography convened at the Vietnam Festival of Creativity & Design (VFCD) 2023 to discuss the multi-faceted future heritage of Vietnam, and how deliberate actions today can shape it.

In simple terms, “future heritage” hints at the notion that conscious decisions made today affect what happens in the future. Whether it is a major urban transformation project, a sustainable fabric, or the modernisation of traditional crafts, creative professionals and the wider community can play an important role in constructing what the future generations will consider heritage.

To facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration for the good of Vietnam’s future heritage, RMIT University and its partners recently organised two symposiums in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Hanoi during the fifth annual Vietnam Festival of Creativity & Design.

six panellists sitting in a row A panel discussion during the Future Heritage symposium in HCMC (Image: VFCD)

Thirty local and international practitioners and researchers from multiple creative disciplines lent their expert insights to the discussion.

Co-organised by RMIT and the HCMC University of Architecture, the HCMC symposium focused on the role of spatial making and mapping as repositories of Vietnamese memory, meaning and identity.

Meanwhile, the intention for the Hanoi symposium was to provide a platform to discuss the creative value of “Vietnameseness” - what makes Vietnam unique in the here and now that warrants continuation into the future.

Award-winning founder and principal architect of MIA Design Studio Nguyen Hoang Manh was among the speakers at the HCMC event. Specialising in eco-friendly hospitality and residential projects, Mr Manh presented how architecture can positively transform cities that are struggling with climate change such as HCMC.

Award-winning architect Nguyen Hoang Manh (Image: VFCD) Award-winning architect Nguyen Hoang Manh (Image: VFCD)

His work produces buildings that have a "give and take" interaction with nature, for example, through empty gaps and built-in green spaces.

“Every small design component can contribute to the sustainable development of a society with many open-green spaces.

“It’s wonderful to engage with fellow architects and designers from such diverse backgrounds. Together we can motivate young Vietnamese architects and the Vietnamese society to develop the country while preserving the nature for future generations,” Mr Manh said.

For fellow architects Paul-Antoine Lucas and Bui Quy Son, their experience with other creative disciplines led them to uncover a different approach to future heritage at the Hanoi symposium.

Bui Quy Son (left) and Paul-Antoine Lucas (right) of Exutoire (Image: Exutoire) Bui Quy Son (left) and Paul-Antoine Lucas (right) of Exutoire (Image: Exutoire)

The duo formed their practice Exutoire in 2019 and are currently based between Oslo, Paris and Hanoi. Since moving to Hanoi earlier this year, they have been conducting research through design that explores the present-day relevance of various forms of craft in relation to space-making. 

Their field trips to craft villages in and around Hanoi led them to rediscover the art of making brick, lacquerware, and smoked bamboo, among other things, and to collaborate with local artisans.

“This ongoing research on a contemporary approach to traditional know-how, both as a tangible and intangible heritage, is leading us to better understand how local craft practices could inspire more social and environmental sustainability in design,” they said.

Using photography as the medium, RMIT Associate Dean of Photography Dr Alison Bennett took audiences in Hanoi through the concept of extending heritage.

3D model of a Hanoi living space Using photographs, Dr Alison Bennett created a 3D model of a living space in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. (Image: Alison Bennett)

“What does it mean to make a digital copy? Does it extend and share the value of the artefact? Does it make it more vulnerable?” the RMIT academic and photographer asked.

Dr Bennett first visited Hanoi in 1993 and came back to the city thirty years later on a study trip with students from RMIT Australia. Their photographic journey through Hanoi has captured the distinctive array of the city’s architecture, from French colonial villas to 1980s collective housing and tube houses – and how they are constantly adapting to the times.

“It’s important to understand that every choice that we make is time travel – it affects the future. And we cannot separate the cultural, the technological, and the ecological. These things are deeply interconnected when we think of heritage”, Dr Bennett said.

Speakers and audiences at the Future Heritage symposium in HCMC (Image: VFCD) Speakers and audiences at the Future Heritage symposium in HCMC (Image: VFCD)

Since the inception of the Vietnam Festival of Creativity & Design in 2019, international collaborations – especially between Vietnam and Australia – have been a focal point. The Future Heritage symposiums exemplify this intention.

Dr Rachel Jahja, RMIT Vietnam Lecturer of Design Studies and the chair of the symposiums said, “I see increased possibilities for future exchange partnerships between RMIT and the creative communities in both Vietnam and Australia. There has also been demonstrated interest in developing further projects and publications around the topic of future heritage, and that is a very positive outcome”.

Story: Ngoc Hoang

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