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Multipurpose buildings brought closer to people



PIONEER: Lã Mạnh Tường is currently a graduate student in construction management at Nottingham Trent University (NTU). Photo courtesy of Lã Mạnh Tường

It took Vietnamese master’s student Lã Mạnh Tường, just seven months to take Việt Nam to new heights in construction. Through pioneering multipurpose construction solutions, Tường, 29, and his team successfully competed against 50 others and advanced to the final of the Global Student Challenge competition. Việt Nam News reporter Hoàng Hồ talks with Tường about his journey.

Inner Sanctum: Can you explain your project, its goal, and how it applies to daily life?

Our project is a multipurpose building that offers community engagement, education, cultural enrichment, professional development, and environmental benefits. It serves as an advising community centre, conference hall, exhibition centre, and design-build construction centre. The building provides various services, including workshops, seminars, and events catering to the local community. It also serves as a resource for research and education, promoting cultural exchange and social interaction. The exhibition centre showcases art exhibits, and the design-build construction centre provides hands-on training for university students. The building features sustainable design and construction practices, resource conservation features, and encourages sustainable transportation.

Inner Sanctum: How did you feel when your team got to the final of the competition?

Our initial goal was to go as far as we could, and we saw this project as an opportunity to showcase the potential of building this complex to the school administration. Nottingham Trent University aims to make it a reality in the not-too-distant future. Therefore, being the top finalist makes us feel like an opportunity has opened up before us. We did it brilliantly.

Inner Sanctum: Can you share your passion for the field? Did you have any difficulties during the competition?

Despite its reputation for being a difficult field, I find construction fascinating. I enjoy the challenges of planning, designing, and building functional and aesthetically pleasing structures. The process of transforming raw materials into a finished product is incredibly rewarding, and I find it inspiring to see how a group of skilled professionals can come together to create something that will stand the test of time. In short, I am passionate about construction because it requires a unique combination of creativity, practicality, and attention to detail.

I believe that the most difficult thing is getting used to the new format of the contest. This year, the organisers used a new format that requires participating teams to apply their knowledge and create products of pure expertise such as design, cost estimation, and construction organisation. They also ask teams to create and run a fictional company throughout the project. This makes it a bit difficult for the members when most of them are pure professionals and do not have a business management mindset. Along with the above difficulty is that we need to be familiar with the environment and culture of the UK when researching the location for our project. 

AWARDED: Lã Mạnh Tường (left) and his teammate Siavash Shamsi at the NTU’s Scholarship Awards Celebration. Photo courtesy of Nottingham Trent University

Inner Sanctum: What are the requirements and challenges in reaching sustainable construction? Does Việt Nam have the potential to reach the level of the UK?

Sustainable construction requires a comprehensive approach that takes into consideration various aspects, including design, materials, energy efficiency, and waste management. It involves adopting green building practices that reduce the environmental impact of construction activities. The challenges in achieving sustainable construction include high upfront costs, a lack of awareness and understanding among stakeholders, limited availability of green building materials and technologies, and the need for specialised knowledge and skills. However, with the right policies, incentives, and education, sustainable construction can become more accessible and widespread, resulting in significant environmental and economic benefits.

Việt Nam has made significant progress recently towards sustainable construction, but it may take some time for the country to reach the level of the UK. The UK has been at the forefront of green building practices for two decades, with a well-established regulatory framework and a strong culture of sustainability. However, Việt Nam has recognised the importance of sustainable construction and has taken steps towards promoting green building practices. The Government has developed a green building certification system and introduced policies and incentives to encourage sustainable practices. 

Inner Sanctum: Do you plan to apply this model to Việt Nam?

A complex university building like our project can positively impact Việt Nam’s education and cultural landscape, as well as the local community.

The counseling centre can provide valuable services to students and the community, while also allowing students to apply what they have learned in a real-world setting.

The international conference centre can draw high-profile events and speakers, therefore bringing more high-quality events and promoting Việt Nam as a destination for global conferences in the future. The exhibition areas can provide opportunities for students to showcase their work and promote their ideas, while also serving as a space for cultural events and exhibitions. The outdoor campus and green roof can provide a much-needed oasis in the city, creating a space for relaxation, recreation, and community building. 

To build a model like this in Việt Nam, it would be important to engage with stakeholders, including universities, local governments, and the community, to ensure that the design and features of the complex are appropriate for local needs and preferences. Funding mechanisms, such as public-private partnerships or grants, may be necessary to finance the construction and maintenance of the complex.

Inner Sanctum: From your experience in the UK, do you have any advice for the next generation of construction students?

By being in the last age group of Generation Y, I have had many opportunities to reach out to the young people of Generation Z, who are part of the next generation of civil engineering students. From my point of view, they are dynamic, creative young people who have a viable approach to problems, foreign languages, and the ability to master IT faster than previous generations.

However, there is one element that today’s younger generations lack compared to their predecessors. It is the spirit of learning and searching. Through many years of approaching the environment and working with many international clients, I find the most important thing when working with them is to show the spirit and attitude of inquisitiveness and willingness to listen to others’ opinions and have a humble attitude at work. Knowledge and skills can be cultivated over time, if there are conditions to go abroad to study and practice, it is also a good thing. However, it is the right attitude to work that will bring you success. VNS


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Chile enjoys promising friendship with Việt Nam



Chilean ambassador Sergio Narea wrote to Việt Nam News on Chile’s Independence Day (September 18)

This September 18, Chile commemorates the 213th anniversary of its independence, a day Chileans celebrate every year.

Traditions blend with new trends as the Chilean spirit appears at its best. Colourful costumes, cultural expressions and cheerful music add the right atmosphere to public parties all over the country that lure families to enjoy our popular gastronomy while watching folklore shows. The festivities extend for a couple of days, which gives people a chance to have a good time in afonda or ramada (informal folklore restaurants), where people can listen and dance the national cueca. During the celebrations, nobody goes back home without having tried empanadas (meat pie), barbeque, wine, and chicha (a beverage made of apples or grapes) along with other popular food and drinks.

Cueca is the national dance of Chile. Photo Courtesy of the embassy 

Our communities abroad are also fond of celebrating the national day proudly, and we send a fraternal greeting to all Chileans, including men and women living today in Việt Nam.

This is also an appropriate time to highlight the relations between Chile and Viet Nam. The historical bonds between our countries have been driven by early and visionary decisions made by our leaders. Mutual respect and friendship continue to grow since the historic encounter of Dr. Salvador Allende and President Hồ Chí Minh in May 1969.

In March 1971, Chile became the second Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with Viet Nam. Since 1990, we have witnessed a fluid exchange of visits by numerous public figures. Three Chilean presidents have visited Việt Nam so far, and when President Nguyễn Minh Triết visited Chile in 2007 our, relations were upgraded to “Comprehensive Partners”.

Since the Free Trade Agreement came into force in 2014, our bilateral trade has grown dramatically, up to US$1.8 billion in 2022, with a huge surplus (76%) for Việt Nam. Between 2010 and 2022, Chile doubled its exports by value while Việt Nam multiplied them by 13. Currently, Chile is Việt Nam’s fourth largest trading partner from Latin America and Việt Nam is Chile’s largest trading partner from ASEAN. We are confident that our bilateral trade will increase in amount and diversify of products. On February 22 of this year, Chile became a full member of the CPTPP, expanding horizons of opportunities and challenges.

As reliable partners we are permanently working for more bilateral and multilateral cooperation, noticeably in regional fora such as APEC, as well as in ASEAN, of which Chile is one of its Dialogue Partners. Moreover, Chile and Việt Nam are members of the UN Human Rights Council and look for ways for meaningful cooperation in this area, as well as ways to boost efforts for the empowerment of women in society.

Santiago, the capital of Chile, is surrounded by the impressive Andean mountains. Photo Courtesy of the embassy

Sustainability, decarbonisation of the economy, energy transition, and protection of the oceans can also be counted as common concerns to which we are committed. In the area of green energy, our country hopes to become a new global leading force in the field of green hydrogen based on competitive prices. Furthermore, Chile also hopes to contribute to the electromobility industry with its lithium exports, and its large reserves of this mineral. We hope the Vietnamese electromobility industry positively assesses Chilean advantages and investment opportunities in these areas.

To conclude, the 213th anniversary commemoration gives us the opportunity to send warm greetings to the people of Việt Nam, and to express our faith in a promising future and our trust in our solid bilateral friendship. VNS 


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Conference helps ASEAN-based publishers and industry partners share knowledge and experience



Phạm Minh Tuấn, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Communist Magazine and President of the Việt Nam Publishers Association. — Photo Courtesy of VPA

The Việt Nam Publishers Association (VPA) and the People’s Committee of HCM City will host the annual conference of the Executive Committee of the ASEAN Book Publishers Association (ABPA) and sidelines activities from September 14-19. Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Communist Magazine and President of the VPA, Phạm Minh Tuấn, talks to the media about the event.

In recent years, how has the Việt Nam Publishers Association participated in international cooperation in the field of publishing?

The Việt Nam Publishers Association (VPA) is an organisation focused on the publishing industry’s development and the promotion of reading culture. Since its inception, it has actively engaged in international cooperation.

In 2005, the association teamed up with publishing representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand to establish the Southeast Asian Book Publishers Association (ASEAN Book Publishers Association – ABPA). This association serves as a platform for sharing information, discussing industry policies, and exchanging professional skills within the Southeast Asian publishing community. Despite Việt Nam publishing’s unique characteristics, its initiatives within ABPA have been highly valued.

For example, we have been strong advocates for nurturing a reading culture and establishing book streets and book days. In addition to annual book fairs, various regions have organised Book Day and Reading Culture events.

Furthermore, the VPA actively participates in or facilitates member units’ involvement in prestigious international book fairs such as those in Frankfurt, London, Moscow, Bologna, and Beijing. We were honoured guests at the 2020 Havana International Book Fair and are set to attend the 2023 Asian Children’s Book Fair in Singapore as the focus country.

Even the 2016 Hà Nội Book Fair, themed “Books and Integration,” included participation from ABPA and several member countries.

In our quest to learn from major global publishing platforms, in 2017, we collaborated with the Hà Nội Department of Information and Communications and Frankfurt International Book Fair (Germany) leadership to invite experts for a publishing professional training course in Hà Nội.

In 2019, as part of the 6th Hà Nội International Book Fair, we hosted a conference titled “Publishing trends in ASEAN countries.” Towards the end of 2021, the VPA assumed the position of Chairman of the Southeast Asian Publishers Association (ABPA) for the 2022-23 term.

In this role, we have actively connected ABPA member countries’ publishing associations to find solutions to challenges faced by the publishing industry in the post-COVID era.

In November 2022, we organised a meeting of the Executive Board of the ABPA in Jakarta, Indonesia, offering proposals and initiatives to promote intra-regional cooperation and strengthen the role of ABPA in the region and in the international arena.

In my capacity as the Rotating Chairman of the ABPA, the Việt Nam Publishers Association will collaborate closely with the People’s Committee of HCM City to host the Executive Committee Conference of the ABPA, alongside various related activities, scheduled to take place between September 14-16. Overcoming numerous challenges, including those posed by the complex and ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we assumed the role of Chairman in 2022.

The COVID pandemic had a profound impact on the Vietnamese publishing industry. In the first six months of this year, the industry witnessed a significant reduction in book production, with a staggering 51 per cent decline. What is the current situation in other ASEAN countries?

The adverse effects of the post-COVID-19 era on the publishing industry in Southeast Asian countries have been exceptionally severe. Reports from various national publishing associations presented at the Conference highlight a substantial decrease in both the number of books published and overall revenue, despite the concerted efforts of governments and publishing entities in these nations. These repercussions are expected to persist throughout 2023 and 2024.

Despite facing the double challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent armed conflicts, as well as heightened competition and a global economic slowdown, several countries have managed to achieve notable success in their publishing endeavours. This positive trend is particularly evident in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia, and Việt Nam.

These nations have expanded their range of activities to promote a culture of reading, including establishing copyright trading centres, increasing their presence at international book fairs, hosting national book awards, and actively encouraging the use of electronic learning materials.

Many Southeast Asian governments have made concerted efforts to enact supportive policies, such as tax exemptions and the creation of conducive ecosystems, recognising them as pivotal elements of a thriving publishing industry.

Publishing units across these countries have taken proactive measures to overcome challenges, especially by emphasising digital transformation, the development of electronic publishing and the application of e-commerce within the industry. This approach has contributed significantly to the modernisation of each country’s publishing sector, helping it navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic.

How will VPA leverage its role in ASEAN to elevate the Vietnamese publishing industry on the international stage?

During its tenure, the VPA is advancing three important initiatives. The first is to research and implement the “One ASEAN” initiative, which aims to enhance the exchange and cooperation among publishers in ASEAN countries via ABPA.

Through this initiative, the association seeks to learn from the experiences of other countries, exchange copyrights within the region, and diversify the ASEAN cultural identity.

The ultimate goal is to develop ASEAN into a publishing centre that gradually gains global recognition.

Secondly, the association plans to establish a copyright centre under the ABPA to introduce books published by member associations. This centre will facilitate copyright transactions within the region and share information to promptly address any copyright infringements.

Thirdly, the association intends to establish the ASEAN Book Awards, with judges selected from member publishers of the ABPA.

This award aims to recognise outstanding books in the region. Furthermore, we will continue to prioritise the development of reading culture as a focal point.

Việt Nam will continue to collaborate with publishers from other countries to foster reading culture in the region. This not only promotes the cultural products of each country within the region but also allows us to learn from the experiences of our neighbouring countries.

Developing a reading culture will help evoke in many persons a passion for reading, cultivate reading habits within families, schools, organisations, and contribute to building a learning society.


Việt Nam hosting the annual meeting of the Executive Committee of the ASEAN Book Publishers Association

HCM CITY — Việt Nam this year is hosting annual conference of the Executive Committee of the ASEAN Book Publishers Association (ABPA) in HCM City during September 14-16, to review the activities of the ABPA in the past year and discuss upcoming initiatives.

The gathering will feature reports on the publishing industry from member countries and the activities of various task forces. According to the agenda, 23 executive members from member countries of the ABPA will attend the meeting in-person in HCM City.

The Myanmar Publishers Association will participate via videoconference. Within the framework of the conference, the Việt Nam Publishers Association (VPA) will hold a scientific workshop on “Protecting Books’ Copyright in the Digital Space” with the participation of domestic and international experts.

In addition, the HCM City Book Street, in collaboration with publishers, will host an exhibition of books about President Hồ Chí Minh and Party and State leaders during September 15-16.

The activities held by the VPA during its tenure also aim to contribute to the common goals of ASEAN, particularly with regards to the maintenance and enhancing of peace, security, and stability and further strengthen peace-oriented values in the region as well as boost resilience via amplified cooperation across political-security, economic, and cultural-social pillars.

After nearly two years of serving as the rotating Chair of the ABPA, the VPA has effectively contributed to people-to-people diplomacy and actively enhanced Việt Nam’s position on the international stage. VNS


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Artworks raises awareness and emotions about nature



Visitors look at the works at In The Forest exhibition. Photo

HÀ NỘI — “In The Forest”, an exhibition presented by twin artists Lê Ngọc Thanh and Lê Đức Hải in a gallery in the capital reflects the authors’ perspectives on nature and the environment.

The showcase features a range of expansive oil-on-canvas artworks that have subsequently been transformed into painted antique door and wardrobe frames.

These vast horizontal oil paintings have neither a start nor a finish. They are marked by intersecting bands of colours, varying from warm and vibrant shades to cool and sombre ones.

“The paintings were created in the signature creative style of Lê Brothers,” said the exhibition’s curator Nguyễn Anh Tuấn.

“The duo took turns working on the expanses of colours to alternatively recite their emotions and awareness of the forest and of being in the forest. This recitation was presented in a continuous dialogue and a constant narration.”

“In The Forest”, their latest endeavour, stands out from their previous works. Rather than merely serving as a backdrop for their mind-body-spirit narrative, this project portrays the entities of the external world as beings co-existing with the artists, facilitating a dialogue between them and their surroundings.

In this exploration, the artists convey their sentiments and cognisance of nature. Their emotions, deeply intertwined with nature, metamorphosed into the physical acts of painting – splashing, scratching, sanding, and caressing, resulting in the dynamic surfaces of the artworks.

Accompanying the paintings are moving-image videos, captured during their journeys through forests.

The recurring thought, “Tree, how old are you?” echoed in the artists’ minds as they travelled through the forests of the northern Trường Sơn Range in the central province of Thừa Thiên Huế, wandered the mountainous terrains of the Central Highlands in Tây Nguyên, and journeyed to regions beyond their homeland.

“It always questions us when we touch an old tree in the forest,” said artist Hải. 

“From our hearts, both hidden and unconscious like an echo from a distant source, a certain connection has been lost. Just as each person has their own land, origin, identity, history and places, they come and go. So where does nature come from, and where does it go?

“What is nature, whether it is the living environment and nourishment for all living beings or it is another living entity in which the living beings are part of the body and the cells of nature.”

The exhibition displays a series of large oil-on-canvas paintings from the artists’ recent project. — Photo courtesy of Mơ Art Space

Born in 1975 in the central province of Quảng Bình, Thanh and Hải initially gained attention for their Vietnamese lacquer paintings centred on war subjects. Both completed their studies at the Huế College of Art in 2000.

Subsequent to their painting careers, the duo ventured into performance and video art. They are renowned for their distinctive take on history, identity, and the juxtaposition of past within the present.

Their works have been showcased both nationally and internationally, with exhibitions at The Nord gallery in Berlin, Vietnam Eye in START at the Saatchi Gallery in London, Kumamoto Contemporary Art Museum in Japan, and the Live Performance Biennale 2015 in Canada.

Numerous national and international private collectors and museums, including the Singapore Contemporary Art, Museum Gwangju Museum of Art, and The Jim Thompson Art Center, house their pieces.

In a bid to foster global artist connections, they pioneered Việt Nam’s inaugural artists-in-residence initiative, the New Space Arts Foundation. Launched in April 2008, it stemmed from a gallery they had established in 2000.

The paintings were created in the signature creative style of the two artists. — Photo courtesy of Mơ Art Space

“In The Forest” is viewed as an addition to the historical dialogues between the flow of human consciousness and nature. The exhibition seeks to map out the journey of the concepts and efforts conveyed by the artists to their viewers, as noted by curator Tuấn.

The exhibition is open until October 29, from 9am to 8pm, Tuesday to Sunday, at Mơ Art Space, located at B3 136 Hàng Trống Street. — VNS


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