Referencing the utopian visions of 1960’s architecture practice Archigram, Walking City is a slowly evolving video sculpture. The language of materials and patterns seen in radical architecture transform as the nomadic city walks endlessly, adapting to the environments she encounters.”

Interactive Processing cubes. Reacts to mouse movement.

Beautiful video of theoretical physics professor Andrei Linde’s emotional response after hearing the news that experiments have confirmed his theory about the big bang. In theoretical physics apparently failure is the norm and 99% of the time, predictions turn out to be wrong. The 1% moment that you think you understand how nature works, and in this case after 30 years, you turn out to be indeed correct must be magical.

In Vietnam fashion is for dreamers

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While the pressure to march to the drumbeat of public scrutiny is high in Vietnam, fashion seems to offer an escape. Fashion design gives students the opportunity to dream.

When a Vietnamese friend returned to his home country after studying in the US for nine years, he had developed a casual clothing style with faded t-shirts, torn jeans and long hair. It horrified his grandmother, who feared people might think he had become a trash collector or a lottery seller.
Appearance is everything in Vietnam and despite a decade of double-digit economic growth, there are still plenty of people who cannot afford anything but rags.
As in many Asian countries, Vietnamese society values harmony, balance and the collective above individualism. In general, the ideal is to blend in, to be successful but not stand out, positive or negative. Disagreeing with parents, superiors or teachers is considered disrespectful.
Add to that a government that severely restricts freedom of speech and an educational system that prefers memorizing facts over independent thought and the possibilities for self-expression become small.
So when Vietnamese students decide on a career in design, you might expect most of them to pick something safe, something with a reasonable chance of making a living — maybe graphic design.
However, despite very few career opportunities, the Fashion Design department at the school where I worked consistently attracted the most students. “Vietnamese want to dream,” my colleague told me when I asked him why.
In fashion, with its glamour and connection to the rich and famous, you can be controversial without public backlash. Creative young people who dream about walking in the spotlight are safe within a context that is familiar to a wide audience thanks to popular television shows like Next Top Model andProject Runway.
True, those shows don’t offer the most realistic image of design and Vietnam still has a long way to go for a serious fashion design industry. There are some promising signs though, showing that fashion can shake things up.
Vietnamese fashion designer Minh Hanh for example changed perception about the ethnic mountain tribes by using their traditional patterns in her collections. Before, these tribes where regarded poor and uneducated, but because of her collection the idea that they do add value took hold.

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An article I wrote about my experiences as a designer in Vietnam. It originally appeared on blog.whatdesigncando.nl

CLIMBING THE BAMBOO LADDER

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Vietnam boasts an amazing tradition of handicraft that is quickly being traded in for cheap, mass-produced western copies. There are examples, though, that merge local ingenuity with new ideas.

The success of Vietnamese guerrillas during the Vietnam War (or American War, depending on your perspective) depended in no small measure on their ability to convert unexploded American bombs into grenades to throw back. Anyone who spends some time in the Vietnamese countryside will be amazed by the clever designs that farmers, street vendors and craftsmen have been making for years.

One of the finest examples is a simple, functional design made of a sustainable and local material with a natural skin that preserves it for longer than any artificial coating would: a bamboo ladder.

Bamboo ladders can be seen all over South-East Asia. Typically, you might encounter one in the middle of the road with a repairman on top, fixing the countless electricity lines overhead while a constant stream of motorbikes dodge the ladder left and right.

While walking around Ho Chi Minh City with a group of Vietnamese and western designers, I expressed my admiration for the bamboo ladders. The Vietnamese designers were surprised, explaining that they associated such an ordinary object more with their grandparent’s time rather than with good design.

It made me realize that the perception of materials is different: for westerners, used to decades of mass production, ‘handmade’ signals high quality and luxury. In Vietnam, where labour is cheap and, until a generation ago, most products where handmade, it means old-fashioned and low class.

As Vietnam is rapidly developing, people’s tastes move away from natural materials and craftsmanship. The rising middle and upper classes are looking for ways to shake off the past and embrace development, favouring low quality mass production, knock-offs and western luxury brands.

However, if Vietnam really wants to develop, instead of copying the west, it might be valuable to look at that bamboo ladder and try to find a way to adapt its principles to today’s challenges. That is what’s happening in a workshop in a suburb of Ho Chi Minh City, where an American-Vietnamese company called Boo Bicycles combines great Vietnamese bamboo with carbon fibre to build high-quality racing bikes that compete at professional levels.

An article I wrote about my experiences as a designer in Vietnam. It originally appeared on blog.whatdesigncando.nl