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Journal — Beauty

Ella Windner
12th July 2023

Vietnam, a world of landscapes

Last summer, my friends and I travelled to Vietnam with no expectations or plans set in stone. These photos are a glimpse of Vietnam’s various environments and styles of design. Its landscape fluctuates between lush rice paddies, jungles, dramatic mountain ranges, river deltas, tropical beaches and high-density cityscapes. There is a polarising difference in the climate across the country, the north is temperate, similar to Aotearoa, while the south is tropical and humid.

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Vietnam has had a tumultuous history, and there are remnants visible in its architecture. We saw this in Hanoi, with the intersection of Chinese visual language and French-colonial influences.
Many buildings have decorative balconies, clusters of planter pots and ornamental window frames. There’s often a mix of materials painted in pastel colours, with curves or asymmetry. It feels like there’s no particular order, but it works and it’s exciting.

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Vietnam’s more traditional architecture has influences from its most widely-practiced religion, Buddhism. You can see this in its many pagodas, churches and temples. We were there during preparations for Tết, Vietnamese Lunar New Year. It’s a week-long celebration, similar to Matariki, where everything closes down for people to spend quality time with their families. One evening, we were invited to help Linh Son Buddhist Temple set up for Tết with an arrangement of flowers, clipped ornamental topiaries and woven baskets.

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Everyone celebrates Tết. At the centre of this Chrsitian church is the festive Kumquat tree, which is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.

Sometimes there’s a collision of more traditional building styles and construction methods combined with Western influences. A few examples are perforated brickwork, organic building materials and mis-matched facades on narrow, irregular plots of land.

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Streetscapes – climbing plants weaving over wires in tightly packed, hidden alleyways, beauty in the unstructured. A mature tree meets the pavement with a roadside message translating to “Respect the tree!!!” Featuring epiphytic ferns which have found their home in the tree's roots.

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Ho Chi Minh, a high-rise concrete jungle. It was also the hottest place we visited…

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I was lucky to see how different influences come together to form such different visual styles. And while this happens in other contexts, the collision between natural and fabricated, traditional and modern is what gives Vietnam its unique charm.

Ella Windner

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