The nature trail-laden living laboratory of Evergreen State College? The many sylvan splendors of Lewis & Clark College? The outdoorsy wonderlands otherwise known as Berry College, Warren Wilson College and Furman University? The serene forests of, umm, Wake Forest University?
Chaotic, sprawling and very heavy on the concrete, Ho Chi Minh City would seem pretty much the least likely place on earth to find an exceptionally arboraceous college campus. After all, the once-lush city formerly known as Saigon, Vietnam's largest, is notorious for its rapidly disappearing green space — precious vegetated land that's being gobbled up left and right by development. In fact, only .25 percent of the landscape within the pollution-choked Ho Chi Minh metro region — home to well over 9 million people — could be considered vegetative. (To be fair, the city proper is home to a few standout albeit scattered, parks including Tao Dan Park.)
And then there's Vo Trong Nghia, a lauded Vietnamese architect that, through his eponymous firm, has taken it upon himself to reintroduce vegetation to his country's greenery-starved urban landscapes with projects such as Ho Chi Minh City's House For Trees and the eye-popping Farming Kindergarten in the Dong Nai province. Nghia's firm also recently designed the Vietnam Pavilion, a tree-topped spectacle constructed from bamboo, for Expo Milano 2015.
Explained Nghia in "Greening the City," a 2014 documentary short produced by Al Jazeera English that profiles the visionary architect's work:
Green architecture helps people live harmoniously with nature and elevates human life by embracing the powers of the sun, wind and water into living space. If the current way of thinking does not change, sooner or later citizens will actually live in concrete jungles. For a modern architect, the most important mission is to bring green spaces back to the earth.
Nghai's latest project is perhaps his most ambitious — and also perhaps his most arboreal: a 242,000-square-foot college campus building nestled in the skyscraper-heavy heart of Ho Chich Minh City that's described as an "undulating forested mountain growing out of the city of concrete and brick."
The tree-covered — and I mean covered — campus would serve as a satellite campus for FTP University, a Hanoi-based private institution with an information technology-based curriculum. Vo Trong Nghia Architects is also responsible for the design of FTP University's now-under-construction main administration building, a distinctive structure with a green roof and a checkerboard façade peppered with trees and other forms of vegetation.
Centered around a verdant central courtyard, the billowing design for FTP University's Ho Chi Minh City campus is all staggered floors, rooftop gardens and tree-filled terraces.
The ziggurat-ish structure is a touch reminiscent of Weyerhaeuser's old English ivy-clad corporate campus in Federal Way, Washington, in that it's both completely covered in vegetation and also a sort of anti-skyscraper. "This sprawling metropolis has a primarily flat landscape that is dominated by vertical straight buildings," explains Vo Trong Nghia Archiects. "This form creates more greenery than is destroyed, counteracting environmental stress and providing the city with a new icon for sustainability."
From the looks of the renderings, the striking campus is so lush, so green it's hard to really imagine getting much of anything done — academically speaking, that is — particularly for students and faculty who aren't used to coexisting with so much nature. Curbed likens the design to an "overgrown, post-apocalyptic city" and the "kind of place that Will Smith might hunt for food and supplies while wearing a leather jacket."
Har har. Sure, some of the renderings are a bit jungle-y, a bit Weisman-esque but I mostly see life.
In addition to the obvious aesthetic appeal, there are also more practical perks to blanketing an urban college campus in Southeast Asia with so much shade-providing green like drastically reduced cooling costs and overall energy savings, important in a city beset with frequent blackouts. The wildly verdant campus would also help to improve air quality and foster biodiversity.
Elaborate the architects: "FPT University has been designed towards a harmony between humans and nature. The building will aid the recovery of greenery that once flourished in this land and foster a new generation of thinkers."