The places we exist within, the places we reside in and those which we travel through, these effect our emotions and our state of mind. Sometimes travelling far away from home can teach you something about yourself. Sometimes coming back home can show you that you’ve become the person you were truly meant to be. In the case of Binh Nguyen, the journey from Vietnam to New York allowed him to complete the circle and bring the best of both worlds to provide a better experience for others. Born and raised in Hanoi (Vietnam), Binh spent his formative years there before pursuing his design and architecture education in the US. Mr. Nguyen’s work as Lead Designer/Project Architect on the renovation of the headquarters of Vietnam Airlines has been described as “planting the seed of change for innovative work culture and productivity from West to the East.” Exposed to this father’s timber import and export business with a general interior contracting service within the commercial design sector, and naturally inclined to drawing and visual arts, Binh was set on a path since his youth towards this project which seemed destined to find him.
Binh was brought in early on for this full-on exterior & interior renovation, with featured additional new custom furniture, fixture, lighting, and landscaping. When clarity was lacking on the full scope of the project, Nguyen offered multiple rounds of simple renovation ideas such as repainting and keeping as much as possible of the pre-existing with as few removals or demolitions as possible. Through this design consulting process, Thienson Imexco and Binh were able to inspire Vietnam Airlines to the commitment of a 200,000.00 USD design and renovation budget. Binh also partnered with Vietnam based architectural designer Antoni Nguyen of KAHN Atelier. In addition to creating the images which communicated the final versions proposed, Mr. Nguyen assessed the cost and management of it for this project to ensure that it met the aesthetic and budgetary goals. Quite simply put, Binh was the creative source and the quality control assessor for the entire renovation. Because the designs were adventurous and challenging, it’s impossible to think that the astonishing results could have been achieved without him along every step of the process.
The Atmospheric Barrisol Ceiling of light located in the center of the lobby of VNA HQ is an undeniable focal point and takes direct inspiration from air travel itself. Binh divulges, “When I started the spatial concept for a high-end brand like VNA, I recalled my first immediate attention going to the quality of diffused light from the curved window of any aisle seat inside an airplane. This diffused soft light evokes a serene and peaceful feeling deep within me – nowadays I personally identify such design elements which invoke a somewhat sacred atmosphere as place making/space making components for a ‘pure and deep silence’ within us.” To establish the same sense of comfort and luxury of a first-class lounge on a 4-5 star airline combined with a breath of nature, Binh designed a lounge for VNA HQ that featured wooden hanging ceiling panels. He procured woodworking experts THIENSON Imexco who sustainably sculpted wooden flooring product into custom wall and ceiling finishings. Nguyen describes this lounge area as, “a space to sink into ourselves for stillness and pure silence, and to avoid making hours of regrettable mistakes at work when we do not have as few as 6 seconds of being still or in silence.” A stunning part of Binh’s design is the layered plexiglass sculpture of an airplane section cut to showcase VNA’s achievements & awards, located at the center of the lobby but created with the ability to be completely mobile. This piece in particular is imbued with a sense of defying gravity as Binh informs, “This abstraction ‘slice’ of an airplane was brought to life here using layered of heat bending sheets of acrylic/ plexiglasses – ghostly translucent to tie in with the lightness, airy atmospheric feel of the space that we have established with the lighting and spatial volume of the lobby.”
Through this renovation, Binh Nguyen has created a new spatial brand identity to the long-term branding guideline package of Vietnam Airlines. The results testify to the positive effects that can be obtained as we see a departure from the traditional architecture & interior design, confirming that the specialization of architecture can result in unique and interesting outcomes which comfort the human spirit. Binh Nguyen shirks off the idea that he is reinventing this type of role but concedes that when given the freedom to push the bar, experimental design yields a fruitful outcome for all.
Writer: Coleman Haan