Nha Tay transforms Exhibition at manzi Art Space，Hanoi-2013 ← Back to the portfolio
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“Nhà Tây” transforms
For a long time the Vietnamese have considered “Nhà Tây” one of the three measurements of happiness. Without a doubt there are always conflicting opinions about the validity of these measurements. However if we could turn back time and try to imagine Vietnam in the old days when people had to live frugally, we might just be able to understand the reasons behind such living standards. The words “Tây” (West) and “Tây Dương” (Western) – probably originated from the Chinese language – are still commonly used by the locals to refer to all things beautiful, novelty and imported from abroad. The word “Nhà Tây” indicates a spacious two to three storey house with high ceilings, large doors and windows, and balconies that look out onto the streets. The front of a “Nhà Tây” is often decorated with spectacular patterned pillars, while the inside is spacious – airy in the summer and warm in the winter – making it easier to deal with severe weather of this tropical country. The notion of “Nhà Tây” begins with the introduction of French-styled architecture to Vietnam, which later became a housing design and quality standard popular among the local middle-class. The harmonic blending of Eastern and Western cultural elements in “Nhà Tây” gave birth to the irresistible charm and undeniable values apparent in the architectural heritage of Hanoi. Its story, however, is one of ups and downs – just like the history of Vietnam in the last century.
With “Nhà Tây” transforms I want to further expand my research on the transformations of urban landscapes, which I have been carrying out in the last 10 years through separate artistic projects. By utilizing a method called “photo-relievo”, I try to dissect the different social and historical layers which have been built, extended and altered on top of these “Nhà Tây” since their beginning. Through this imaginative act of time-traveling, I hope we will be able to see and appreciate not just the journey these architectures have been on, but also the fate and story of their owners throughout the last 100 years.
Nguyen The Son