We interview Nguyen Thi Thuc Huyen, associate architect at CMV-Vietnam, to analyse projects and challenges the studio is facing in this Asian country
When did the opportunity to work with CMV-Architects come around in Vietnam?
CMV arrived in Vietnam in 2009, when we won two first awards with international projects: a 5-star hotel in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City and an office building. The first one to come was Pep, when there were only four of us. At the time we needed to organize documents, look for an office to rent… When we started growing, between 2012 and 2013, the market crashed. Until then we were focusing our work in skyscrapers and residential buildings, but with the new market situation we had to change and we started working on hospitality projects.
Investors in Vietnam are looking for professional designers for hospitality, as until very recently those types of projects didn’t require complex designs. With time, they have come to understand that its not just design that is important, also functionality. It can look nice, but if it isn’t functional we wont be able to use it. As of today we’re proud to say we are one of the best designers in hospitality projects in all of Vietnam, and though we still work on skyscrapers, hospitality is our focus.
How do the Spanish and Vietnamese workplace cultures mesh?
We talk about everything, and we work on designs and other concepts through email. From there we keep learnging from Spain, as they are more experienced in hospitality. We also have an expert from Spain working with us, Sebastian, who teaches us the technical stuff.
What aspect of the Spanish way of life, and Mallorca specially, has surprised you during these years heading the delegation?
Spaniards and Vietnamese people have a very similar way of working, so we coordinate very well. We’re team players and, even though there are some differences when presenting documents, in the majority of issues we follow the same rules.
Its clear we can’t use similar designs to the ones used in Spain, as Vietnamese climate is different. Vietnamese is tropical and Spain is colder.
What are the most important or daily issues or challenges the CMV-Architects Vietnam delegation has faced over the years?
Our biggest challenge to date has been the language, as people in Spain don’t speak much English. It’s also been hard to understand the market and how Vietnamese investors work. When Pep arrived in Vietnam he had to study all these things, on top of legal documentation, which is very different from the one in Europe. In fact, Vietnam has recently changed their necessary regulations to reach a higher standard, so we have to keep our eye on that. Investors, on their hand, also must study how to deal with international studios.
The problem with investors is that sometimes they don’t have enough knowledge and chancellors have much to explain. In these situations, they may think “I have money, I don’t care how much it costs”, and we have to make sure to balance that.
What are some current projects of the Vietnam firm?
Currently we’re focusing our efforts in resorts and hotels, like the 5-star one we’re now working on, near Ho Chi Minh City. We also have a skyscraper which combines a shopping mall, residential areas and offices in Hanoi. Apartments are selling and offices are being rented again so we go back to it!
What are some future challenges?
Our current challenge is studying to become the best hospitality professionals. It’s a big market and requirements tend to change frequently. Our intention, however, is to be among the best in Vietnamese hospitality.