Author : Hung Trung MAI

University : ENSA Paris-Malaquais School of architecture

Status : MArch, 2015

Competition : ASA International Design Competition DENSITY/DENSE CITY_ 2nd prize winner


The site is situated at the old quarter in Hoan Kiem district, one of the most densely populated area in Hanoi with the highly complex urban fabric. From the top-down position, the site which can feel like a series of villages melting together is stitched by honking and careening streets into a single unit. The streets are characterized by small business, traditional handicraft workshops and informal sectors. These sectors transform small scale buildings into local commercial service and exploit the public space as the extension of private space for business and domestic activities.Consequently, the lack of public space such as sidewalk causes daily traffic congestion as well as the difficulties of circulation from the quarter to its neighborhood.

The vision of this project is to see public space and common spaces as interchangeable in time dimension. The same space that is public at one time can be a common space at another. This could be a basis for a governance structure of the public/common space. Common space is actually not primarily about safety; it is about being a manageable size, about real communities whose members really know each other. Can common spaces therefore be more productive and meaningful for practices of living together? A public space is more social  that generally open and accessible to people. By combining two opposite notions into 1, the intervention responds not only to the daily need of hanoians of extra domestic spaces but also the needs of the city of extra public space to DEsaturate the circulation and to increase the quality of people’s urban life. Turning  [ outside-in ] by bringing daily domestic and commercial activities from the outside to inside which gives back the status for the sidewalk as a public space and create a new pole of  activities on the inner vertical extension of each house.

The architectural design composed of three main elements : cave, ring, park

CAVE_ the lightweight self-build structure that provide a various potential uses, the cave is considered as a interchangeable function place in time dimension. In the daytime, it serves as the extra space for handicraft workshop, domestic activities such as hand washing, drying clothings, cooking, and also space for recreation, gathering, sport, playing ground ect. In the nighttime, the self-build structure transform to the space for domestic business activities, and become a tourist attraction, many handicraft shop gather creating a night market.

RING_ Considered as an interchangeable element between architecture and infrastructure. Composed by a pathway of 5m wide; it acts as a local  [ common space ] inside the  block connecting the caves with each other to form a local community at the daytime.  At the night time,the ring opens to public, and connects to other rings in different quarter creating a shortcut, an independent circulation to get rid of daily traffic congestion. It play the role of an infrastructure instead of an architecture element.

PARK_ By planting a tropical cluster of root trees on top of each house in the heart of the quarter, the roof-park stands [ outside ] like an oasis, it offers a tropical lifestyle that COexists with nature. A forest [ inside ] the city giving an ideal place for recreation which function as a green lung.

In a prospective vision, cave, ring and park can be a prototype which is adaptable to many different sites with similar urban contexts in the any Asian dense city.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Hung Trung MAI_ The switching functional program through the time dimension. Architecture shouldn’t be only about shape and space, architect should be a programmer. The richness of architecture can be found in the 4th axis.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
HTM_ Philosophy, it’s quiet and powerful. The work of a philosopher is mainly about thinking whose final products are non-material.
I am currently studying in ENSA Paris Malaquais, Paris for the Masters degree. Originally from Vietnam, I moved to Paris for my study. I finished a civil engineering diploma and changed to Architecture. Last year, I came back to Vietnam and founded EADL ( experimental architecture and design lab) which is a platform based on the desire to combine architecture research and application activities at schools and experimentally apply into social charity works. Furthermore, I’ve tried to create a network of freelance architects and architecture/civil engineering students – solely voluntary- working together to bring the philosophies and research results in small-scale architecture to the needed people.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
HTM_ How to keep your table clean. From an organized space, creativity emerges.

S//A : Describe your dream project
HTM_ A retrospective project that recalls good old days of Beaux-arts.