By Nicholas Fraser
In November 2018 I took part in a study tour hosted by the University of Tasmania. The study tour was focused on the use of bamboo in construction. It was an international exchange with UTAS, University of Technology Sydney, University of NSW, Hanoi Architectural University and the University of Architecture Ho Chi Minh, as well as connections to other universities throughout Vietnam. I left Tasmania on the 2nd of November and arrived in Hanoi on the 3rd of November. I had two days to get to know the city before the study tour began on November 5.
For the first few days of the tour we were at Hanoi Architectural University working on concept designs for a bamboo pavilion we would be constructing. We designed our pavilion and began building 1:5 and 1:2 scale models; to work out the connection points in the structure. By Saturday the 10th of November we finished most of our structure and only had to add aesthetic features.
On Sunday we packed our things and took a 12-hour drive into the country of Vietnam, heading towards the Laos border. We stopped at some amazing lookouts, and the beautiful province of Son La, on our way to the province of Tuan Giao.
In Tuan Giao we stayed at a community accommodation centre, a very different experience to the hotels we had been staying in. We spent two days in Tuan Giao visiting the work site of the cohort before ours. The previous cohort’s goal was to construct a cow shed for a farmer in the Tuan Giao province. On our visit to that site we conducted an analysis of the structure, fixed any issues, interviewed local farmers and analysed the bamboo on the farm.
I got to harvest bamboo, which involves using a machete to cut the base until it splits and then lifting and pulling the bamboo away from the clumps they grow in. This was a fun experience. After the farm we spent the next few days traveling to other small towns on our way back to Hanoi. We visited the Sereena Resort on our way back and saw the amazing bamboo construction there.
We returned to Hanoi Architectural University and recommenced work constructing our pavilion. However workers had started demolition on another building in the university and it was suspected there was asbestos on site. Our lecturer advised us to return to the hotel.
Over the weekend the local students, and our lecturer, continued work on-site while students on the tour remained at the hotel to compile a summary of the tour so far. On Saturday seven of us took the opportunity to make a day trip out to the beautiful UNESCO site of Halong Bay.
On Monday, our last day in Hanoi, we returned to Hanoi Architectural University for the unveiling and presentation of the pavilion. On Tuesday we travelled to Ho Chi Minh City, a stark contrast to Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh’s architecture is a lot more westernised.
We spent five days at the University of Architecture Ho Chi Minh City investigating potential avenues for the next cohort of students to work on in their design challenges. We also visited a bamboo village just outside the city.
We all enjoyed our last day in Ho Chi Minh together as tropical storm Usagi hit the city before saying heartfelt goodbyes. Many of us were not going to study together again, and we may never see students from the other universities again. The trip was a truly amazing experience and will forever be special to me.
Nicholas was awarded an AVCAT Tasmanian Naval Network Hobart Area /TPI Tasmania Scholarship in 2017. He is undertaking a Bachelor of Environmental Design at the University of Tasmania.