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A saga of unrealised projects

August 21, 2022
July 29, 2022
Nguyễn Hà

Paul Valéry, had famously declared: “That which has always been accepted by everyone, everywhere, is almost certainly to be false”.

Then, what about the things not accepted? Is it probable that there has always been a kind of truth, a particular significance existing in the unaccepted, rejected things? If so, should we (instead of putting them away) take a step back and give them another look?

Such a sudden burst of thoughts got us disoriented, in the persistent hot days of this prolonged summer, and finally prompted us to melt all away in a pop-up show of architecture at our exhibition space:

A display of architecture by Nguyễn Hà & associates at arb architects

Opening: 6.30 pm Friday night, 29 July 2022
On display: 30 July until 21 August 2022 (11AM - 07PM; Tues - Sun)
Location: Manzi exhibition space, no.2 ngõ Hàng Bún




24 architectural design models
24 building projects
developed by Nguyễn Hà and her associates at arb architects

24 design briefs (prescribed by the clients), 24 visions (provided by the architects)

24 proposed solutions, all forms determined and shapes laid out

24 abandonments/ rejections/ futile compromises in consequence of
24 different situations, issues

24 unrealised projects
yet, ultimately
by the way never brought into being, are also

24 original concepts, 24 pure ideas
full of irrational drives for experiments
untouched by any fixing, modification (inevitably) requested by a second party rather than the architects themselves.



Aldo Rossi (1931 - 1977), the first Italian architect to receive the Pritzker Prize, admitted in his famous theoretical work ‘A Scientific Autobiography (1981): “What surprises me most in architecture, as in other techniques, is that a project has one life in its built state, but another in its written or drawn state.”

So, what if one life is nowhere to find, as in our saga? Never put into being, thus no presence of a physical functional entity called ‘building’ exists at all, the only kind of life of a project that we could attain is just represented in 3D miniature simulations at a scale of 1: 100

Here we are, finding ourselves confronted with a new trial, not only questioning the validity of other existence / presence of architecture but at the same time justifying the essence of “the unrealised”, as shared by Louis Kahn (1901 - 1973), the most influential master of twentieth-century architecture: “I had drawings which could not be brought into fruition. I was told a very loving thing, that often the things that you are unable to put into being are more powerful in that stage than they are when put into being. The purity lies in the incompletion.” (A verbal Autobiography, from conversation with Jaime Mehta, October 22, 1973)



Adolf Loos (1870 - 1933) had this infamous declaration in 1910, that architecture “is not one of the arts” in “On Architecture” (1910), here is his view on the difference between architecture and art: 

“A building should please everyone, unlike a work of art, which does not have to please anyone. A work of art is a private matter for the artist, a building is not. A work of art is brought into the world without there being a need for it, a building meets a need. A work of art has no responsibility to anyone, a building to everyone. The aim of a work of art is to make us feel uncomfortable, a building is there for our comfort. A work of art is concerned with the future and directs us along new paths, a building is concerned with the present. We love anything that adds to our comfort, we hate anything that tries to pester us into abandoning our established and secure position. We love buildings and hate art.”  This brings him to the seemingly inevitable conclusion that “Everything…that serves a practical purpose should be ejected from the realm of art”

Of course no modern architect believed Loos (likely not even Loos himself), but nearly every modern architect, as well as any other creative practitioners, has always felt the force of the claim. 

Adopting this perspective, the installation of ‘unrealised architectural projects’ at an art space as manzi’s is to offer an unexpected test, where we try to play around with created objects - creative practices and the creative spaces, and to explore the unpredictable outcomes in the absurd juxtaposition of different labels/ definitions such as:

The Architect - The Artist
Architectural Space - Exhibition Room
A project design model - A work of art


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