According to a Vietnamese legend, Ha Long bay set up during the old time when the country was newly formed and Vietnamese had to fight against Chinese fierce invaders coming from the North through the sea. To assist the Vietnamese in defending their country, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. These jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay, linking together to form a great wall against the invaders . In fact, Halong literally means “descending dragon”.
The challenges presented by the project are very important not only because the very large area covered by the project (approximately 800 Ha), but also because the extremely “special character” of the area . The thousand island are UNESCO World Heritage and they have an environmentally critical position, being located in a portion of the lagoon where three rivers (Cai Ca River, Kenh Chai River and Ben Giang River) converge and dump into the sea. The landscape is the one typical of lagoons and water is dominant. Here is unthinkable planning an anonymous city, with anonymous houses, streets and impersonal parks. The city has to enhance landscape features, to face with water element and to respect local building traditions. The name Dao Viet of is because of its similarity with Vietnam shape. Vietnam is dragon-shaped and the islands of the city are symbolically parts of dragon: head, body, wings and tail. Design follows two design strategic approaches: The Terra-forming and The Typological Transformation. The terraforming is a synthesis between climate, space and imagery of the project. Working with the modeling of the landscape and its characteristic elements, it combines the geometric interpretation of the local- plastic topography and its geomorphological features (karst), making it hybrid with urban structures of Vietnamese cities.
Starting from the head of the Dragon, the island has the main services and the design assigns a shape modelled over the waving and terraced low hills typical rural Vietnam. To this landscape we have imagined to superimpose the urban texture of the ancient historical centre of the typical Vietnamese cities, like the one in Hanoi, its “beating heart” in the 36 streets old-quarter, a rare example of urban vitality.
The intention is to replicate in Dao Viet that kind of space structure. The hybridization process between rural and urban landscape is a sort of “sculpting” operation: the carving of the streets inside the volume of the terraced hills. The building blocks resulting from the carving operation respect the maximum height requirements fixed by the Provincial authorities and get denser toward the port. The blocks’ internal parts are modelled as solid rocks with excavated portions that define the borderlines and cavities that articulate the internal landscape creating chimney effects facilitating the circulation of air, natural halls and wells of light to guarantee natural lighting and ventilation in the entire complex of buildings: the atmosphere is romantic in the sense of “fascinating”, dramatically enhanced by the play of light and shadows, capable of generating dreams and strong emotions. The typical local buildings have been studied carefully in the initial phase of design planning not only with reference to the solutions developed in time to respond to the weather characteristics but also with reference to the distributive characteristics suitable to the way of living and social behaviour. These two strategic approaches, The Terra-forming and The Typological Transformation, represent the best antidote against the risk of a conventional design, the risk of a déjà vu effect because design choices indifferent to the specificity of the geo-social-cultural context. The attention posed by the team on the process of building up a specific image and character for the new town of Dao Viet is not a cultural fantasy or a design sales talk it is a genuine proposal to design together with the body also the soul of the new urban community that promise to be culturally and environmentally sustainable.
For example in tube-house sample, we have proposed the same technological solutions, building materials and the aggregating mechanism used to enlarge the house in case of a new family had to be included (i.e. in case of a marriage). The same aggregation mechanism is proposed to add new modular extensions to the buildings. This way the design guarantees many variations on the theme of the “habitat”. Design opposes the anonymity of the “internationalist architecture” and the outdated formalism of the “nostalgic architecture”.
The project proposes modern architectural forms and proven advanced technologies however in a respectful way towards the development of the local architecture and way of life and the exceptional and unique features of the geographic and socio-cultural context.
By analogy, the city of Venice in Italy has been assumed as the design reference. Venice is an extraordinary example of a city living on water, perfectly functional and of great beauty. The parallel between Dao Viet and Venice is based not only on the similarity of the geographical features and sea & landscape (a lagoon at the delta of rivers), but also on the many cultural similarities. The parallelism between the two cases suggests a very tight relationship between the men made landscape and the water-scape that shapes the systems of the human dwellings and their architectural solutions.
TStudio - Guendalina Salimei is the principal of T- studio office in Rome.
Tstudio takes part and wins major competitions for public projects and design awards both in Italy and abroad. Among them, project of reuse of Annunziata church to Contemporary art museum in Foligno, redevelopment of Naples’ monumental port area, school complex Mazzacurati in Rome, new head office of lawyer’s chambers, social housing building at Bembo st. and renovation of Corviale building in Rome, new multifunctional building for port activities in Taranto, redevelopment of Bari city centre, waterfront in Corigliano Calabro, sustainable neighbourhood of Vydrica in Bratislava, a multifunctional building and Dao Viet eco city in Vietnam.
The research activities focus on the investigation of the complex relationships between the design methodology and ways of intervention in built and natural environment. Projects and designs have been published on various Italian and international magazines and exposed in cities worldwide.