A group of Architecture and Design students were lucky enough to put their creative skills into practice on a recent New Colombo Plan-funded study trip to Vietnam.

Under the guidance of Dr Helen Norrie, the group explored the use of bamboo for soil remediation and water filtration, and developed prototypes of bamboo structures for community buildings (both cultural and agricultural).

The trip culminated in the development of a full scale prototype of a bamboo cattle shelter for a local farming community in Central Vietnam.

The prototype will be used in Dr Rowan Smith’s (School of Land and Food) beef cattle production research project, to show farmers different design and construction options using bamboo for cattle shelters.

We were really interested in the idea of getting experience in Asia that’s afforded through the New Colombo Plan, Dr Norrie said.

The completed cattle shed.

"Vo Trong Nghia, the most well-known architect from Vietnam, is doing some really beautiful work with bamboo and we’re very interested in relationship between traditional building techniques and contemporary architecture. So Vietnam just seemed like a perfect place.”

Dr Norrie had 20 funded places for the trip, and there were some spare. When she found out that the University’s School of Land and Food was already working on a project in Vietnam, they found a way to connect.

Dr Smith said “we have a project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research in Vietnam and it’s mostly focused on improving livelihoods in beef production.

Bamboo is just one of the materials that they use, so we were looking to explore ways that bamboo could be used further in the construction of these cattle shelters.

The students were able to gain valuable skills working with bamboo, a new experience for them.

The Architecture team learned from bamboo masters, who taught them different techniques for joining the bamboo together, and how to ensure the foundations survived the wet climate.

Helen said the team spent a week developing prototypes, and the final product was “beautiful.”

Rowan’s team had set up a Cattle Club, a little village administration village, so we built our structure at the front of it, so it can be used as a social space. They can also look at the structure and think about how they might develop it.

Dr Smith said the local farmers would be able to look at the students’ designs and work from them to build their own shelters.

Here's what our Architecture and Design students said about their trip

Ishka Heart (2nd year Bachelor of Environmental Design)

"The journey to Vietnam was an unforgettable, life changing experience that will be cherished for the rest of my life. Thanks to the generous opportunity of a scholarship from the New Colombo Plan, I had the chance to be immersed in a totally different culture. Working with architect and bamboo ambassador Jed Long exposed us to detailed knowledge about bamboo which seems to be such an exciting and versatile product to work with and further research and experiment with in architecture and agriculture. I hope that others are able to embrace such an incredible opportunity."

Jesse French (3rd year Bachelor of Environmental Design)

"This trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was such a privilege to meet numerous bamboo experts as we travelled around the country. Bamboo is a material that we have learned nothing about in Australia, so to now have a good working knowledge of this amazing resource is fantastic. It was invaluable to be designing from within a different culture than our own. As a result of this I believe all of us are now better equipped to tackle a greater array design problems with a more sensitive approach to differing cultures."

Emma Hall (3rd year Bachelor of Environmental Design)

"This trip was absolutely amazing.  I have learnt so much, not just about bamboo, but about Vietnam and its culture.  It was great that we had so many contacts in Vietnam, and we got to do so many things that you would not be able to as a tourist.   It was also great to get involved with people working in other fields, and how they were all working towards improving the lives of people in Vietnam." 

Check out some of the great pics and videos from the trip on the Architecture Facebook and Instagram pages or search the #vietnambamboo2017

There will be more trips in January and June/July 2018, and students from other Faculties are invited to joint he team.  Please contact Helen.Norrie@utas.edu.au for expressions of interest and/or further information.

Interested in studying Architecture and Design? Visit: http://www.utas.edu.au/courses/study/architecture-and-design

About Dr Helen Norrie

Dr Norrie teaches design studio in B Env Des and M Arch. Studios explore the teaching research nexus, engaging with issues of liveable and sustainable cities, exploring 'architecture as urbanism'. Projects engage students in understanding the relationship between individual buildings and the broader physical, temporal, cultural and conceptual context in which they are located. Both student studio projects and academic research explore a range of urban issues, focusing on the role of architecture in developing a relationship between urban design, development and planning.

View Dr Helen Norrie's full researcher profile