I have mentioned walking through the terraces on the ground floor of the buildings and seeing displays of work done by the various design departments. Early in our days here, we saw fabulous gowns and sharp costumes. We also saw what was apparently an architecture final project that involved designs for resorts, something that I didn’t realize was such a big piece of economic development until we started going out to beach towns. We saw ceramics, designs for manga, things made out of wire, and big bulletin boards with brightly colored printed posters. All very sharp-edged and contemporary.
I have talked to students who say that they are majoring in industrial design.
Last week we saw a display of things built out of wood. Behind each one was an explanation, done in sketches, of how the design for the object evolved from an image of an animal. Lamps evolved from birds, tables evolved from tigers, etc. I was especially enchanted by a rocking grasshopper made out of rubber wood. The wood was kind of soft and good to touch, and you could see the grasshopper clearly in the overall shape. I would have gone into debt to buy it.
Unfortunately, I often don’t have my camera with me and so I can’t take photos. To make up for that, here are some photos of architectural models. These seem to be country houses, except for the one that has a high wall on one side, which might be a city house.
However, most city houses that I have seen — new ones, I mean — are narrow, at least three stories high, have a wide central climbing staircase and big open walls to catch the wind, so that the upper floors are kind of like terraces. When we went to Vinh and Thinh’s new house for dinner last Sunday we saw new houses like this built right in the middle of a warren of tiny, hidden streets, some about six feet wide, just wide enough for a motorbike to pass you. Deep in these “neighborhoods” you are away from the pollution (the carbon from traffic seems to drop to the ground about 15 feet from the street) and the noise but also still in the heart of the city. Vacancies in these neighborhoods are rare; the same families hang onto these buildings generation after generation.
Just standing in one place on one of those narrow streets and looking around you, you could write a novel from what you could see.