HAPPINESS ARCHITECTURE 1+1>2 AND THE SPIRIT OF THE MARTIAL ARTS
The globalization erases geographical distances, blurs the boundaries between regions, while revealing development disparities in many places, especially remote areas. Vietnam is a country consisting of 54 ethnic groups, which has a diverse culture, and possesses a huge treasure of indigenous wisdom in general and vernacular architecture in particular. Especially among them is the village model with traditional folk houses, “the garden - pond - barn” model as an ecological unit capable of self-adjustment and balance, balancing the ratio of land use, tree, water surface, and flow. Although, nowadays these traditional values are broken by the impact of globalization and urbanization. People are isolated in the hustle and automated life, lonely and lack intimate communication. That context has a significant influence on the architectural practice process.
My colleagues and I, both architecture lecturers at the Hanoi University of Civil Engineering, established 1+1>2 Architecture firm in 2003 with a motto: Architecture committed to people, to ecological and cultural diversity. Throughout 20 years of practice, working in both urban and rural contexts, from small projects with low budget to large projects in urban setting, including many volunteered projects. In rural areas, we focus on small school projects: 52 school sites have been completed and many are continuing to be built in remote areas. Besides, there are community house projects such as Suoi Re community house, Nam Dam, Cam Thanh... and houses for the impoverished, supporting ethnic minorities to combine service, social functions and economy to improve their living conditions. In urban areas, we persuade and find solutions for investors to create more humane buildings, to preserve and acculturate the core cultural architectural genes of the nation in such projects: Hanging village, Jackfruit village, Earth village, Workers village and Zen village...
1+1>2 is a creative method of integrating practice and research. It is a continuous interaction between academia and folk wisdom, in which each element has the ability to self-improve, approaching to “1” while always ready to interact with another “1” to create a surplus “1+1>2”. Initial activities are volunteered and community projects carried out by a small group of teachers, architects, students, and the locals, with a spirit of spontaneous, creative, guerrilla and uncompromising, “anything can be architecture”. We experiment, adapt and improve construction methods and technologies, guiding local people new techniques, while learning from them traditional indigenous techniques, which is a two-way data transmission process. After a series of projects, we summarize, evaluate and gain experience to make better improvements. For example, we manufacture on-site clay brick making machines. We combine modern and traditional materials more smoothly, such as bricks, soil, and concrete; bamboo and steel, at low cost. When formed, the buildings have had a spreading value, gradually increasing in both quantity and quality. We are able to connect more resources: local authorities, philanthropists, sponsors, organizations, products suppliers... join hands together. Conveying through real works is an efficient way of architectural practicing. It is true to the saying "a deed is worth more than a thousand words".
From 2015 to 2023, we propose “Happiness Architecture” philosophy with three pillars: Happiness Architects, Happiness Buildings and Happiness Users. A large part of the earth, on all continents, many areas do not have architects, where people make their own architecture, inheriting the wisdom of their ancestors. How can professional architects work for them? Newly developed cities, urban or quickly developed areas, have no identity. We cannot easily distinguish modern high-rise cities when look at the pictures of Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Shenzhen or even Dubai… they are the similar. When there are happy architects, working for the sake of nothing but creativity for humanity, protecting ecological and cultural diversity, they will create happy buildings that acculturate the core architectural cultural genes of each land. As the result, happy users will feel both familiar and strange, rising inspiration and the will to interact friendly and compassionately with the surroundings, architecture, and the environment.
The philosophy of Happiness Architecture guides our office in both architectural teaching and practicing. We have established a training model based on the principle of apprenticeship, similar to a martial arts school. The root of happiness architecture is to train happy architects, the model of martial arts school - vocational training parallels knowledge and skills training, while building ethics and social responsibility in practice for the next architect generations. It has been proven to be effective by us through our practicing for 20 years. At the same time, we are always ready to collaborate, share, and spread values with others in the architectural field as well as in all other fields to join resources in the 1+1>2 method. Each individual and organization is a factor with a sense of self-improvement, forward-thinking, striving to a complete “1” and always ready to combine and resonate with other factors with the same tendency, together creating greater common values.