Several years ago, a young Vietnamese graduate with a Masters Degree in Urban Design came knocking on Kevin Brewer’s door. “He could hardly speak any English, but he could draw well,” explains Kevin, who is a principal of Auckland architectural firm Brewer Davidson. Little did he know it, but Kevin had opened the door to one of the biggest commissions his practice had ever had the good fortune to be involved with.
Xuan Anh Nguyen happened to be the pet pupil of a Vietnamese professor from the Hanoi Architecture University who had close connections to the Vietnamese Ministry of Construction. After Xuan had been working at Brewer Davidson for a while, the professor asked him about the firm and Kevin was invited to send his CV to be considered for a large
Vietnamese project. Backed by his noteworthy urban design experience in New Zealand urban environments, Kevin won that project. And then another came along.
“I’ve been going to Vietnam for some time as my wife has a business producing safety apparel in Vietnam. I guess I was comfortable with the Vietnamese culture and they felt confident I knew the processes.”
So when the huge state owned petroleum firm PetroVietnam (reportedly responsible for 20 percent of Vietnam’s GDP) went looking for an architect to produce the master plan for a new university (to advance the energy industry) in Hanoi this year, Brewer Davidson was a prime candidate. Right time, right place.
Brewer Davidson in conjunction with Norman Day and Associates from Melbourne won the contract to master plan the Hanoi University campus, which is the first stage of a programme planned for completion in 2025. Right now, a tender process is taking place to take it to the next stage and Brewer Davidson is one of five firms that were asked to register interest.
The Hanoi University is a project on a huge scale. It’s to be built on a greenfields site of 174 hectares to accommodate 20,000 staff and students. The long-term construction budget is estimated at $NZ1 billion. The master plan involved designing seven faculties and three institutes plus accommodation for 60 percent of the students.
Brewer Davidson produced designs for three different types of accommodation for students, post-grads and professorial staff in dormitories, apartments and townhouses.
The campus incorporating 25 buildings in the first stage - including an admin centre, library, conference facility, student services etc - is clustered around a central park space and a green stream/park corridor surrounded by faculties planned on Cambridge/Oxford type quadrangles model. These are connected by a network of cycle tracks and walkways. There is a quiet academic hub to the north and a vibrant retail mainstreet at the southern end. Parking is placed internally to be concealed between buildings. Brewer Davidson also had to prepare the urban design rules and guidelines for future construction.
It’s a huge deal for a small New Zealand firm of nine staff, a fact the Vietnamese could hardly believe. Little wonder Kevin gets in to work each morning and opens up his in-box in eager anticipation of a note from his clients to tell him what happens next.