Design Furniture design

Vietnamese designers highlight technical and aesthetic advantages of American hardwood in Ho Mai Furniture Design Competition

May 18, 2020

Vietnam’s design and architecture industry continues its upward momentum with a number of award-winning projects by both established and up-and-coming practices that are making a mark on the global radar. The country has also seen a rise in the number of initiatives and programmes that aim to recognise these talents. Recently, The Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of HCMC (HAWA) and the American Hardwood Export Council announced the finalists and winners of the Hoa Mai Furniture Design Competition.

The 17th iteration of the competition continues to provide young Vietnamese designers with the opportunity to explore the creative possibilities provided by American hardwood species and for business and industry to discover and connect with emerging design talent.

“We are delighted with the high quality of entries to the competition this year. The creative talent that continues to grow in Vietnam and the interest in the design and commercial possibilities that American hardwood species present is hugely encouraging”. – John Chan, executive director of The American Hardwood Export Council

American red oak, the most abundant species in the American hardwood forest, was used in all the entries this year – there were over 331 entries, 269 of which were from university students. The judging panel whittled down the shortlist to 23 entries from which nine category winners were chosen.

Designer: Nguyen Thi Kim Thoa, Hanoi Architectural University
Winner – The Honourable Prize

Presenting a range of contrasts – solid and thin, bar and block, black and white, push and pull – SmartDesk cleverly integrates wireless charger and USB ports within a concealed Hafele drawer. Designer Kim Thoa found the combination of the compressive strength of American red oak and ease with which it can be steam bent, a huge advantage in the manufacturing process.

Floating Market Bench
Designer: Lê Long Vĩnh and Huynh Thanh Quyen, Vang Lang University
Winner: Outstanding Concept

Inspired by the floating market of the Mekong Delta, designer Vinh explores the beauty of the grain and texture of the American red oak in this piece. Technically, the reliable and consistent quality meant that the slender poles were easier to achieve without splitting.

Cham Shelf
Designer: Nguyễn Hòa, TTF Team Concept
Winner (Advanced Group)

Indigo stain with red Vietnamese lacquer detail, the Cham shelf fuses western and eastern cultures through a combination of colour and pattern.

Designer: Vũ Thành Nam, University of Industrial Fine Art
Winner (Intermediate Group)

Contact with materials including rattan, rush and duckweed while in the traditional trade villages of Thanh Hoa and Ninh Binh combine here with a Scandinavian aesthetic to create a sofa that strikes harmony between modern and traditional simplicity.

Minnaar Chair
Designer: Quach Minh Quan, Ton Duc Thang University
Runner-up (Intermediate Group)

“Derived from the poetics of a wave” is how interior design student Quach Minh Quan describes his softly curved creation with a continuous line flowing from the front leg of the Minnaar chair through the arm and from the armrest to the back. The chair is fluid and rounded in character with soft points of transition. “American red oak has some of the best qualities to work with. It’s easy to cut and can be guided well with machines. It’s a fine wood in my opinion and I kind of like the colour too!” he says.

Pet and Me
Designer: Nguyễn Thị Thanh Mai, Van Lang University

Inspired by the posture and body shape of her dog, Mai experimented with staining her design with pigmented Rubio Oil. The porosity of American red oak makes it ideal for accepting stains and the result is a deep cobalt base to her chair. The prominent grain of the red oak particularly appealed to Mai and has been highlighted in the gently curved back of her design.

Designer: Nguyen Thanh Nam, Industrial design – Tôn Đức Thắng University

‘The hundred knot bamboo”, a Vietnamese fairytale in which the hero commands 100 stems of bamboo to first ‘Stick together, stick together’ and then ‘unstick unstick’ in his quest to win his bride, was the initial catalyst for this intricate design by Nguyen Thanh Nam. The stability of red oak made it the perfect timber for the complexity of this piece, Nam also chose to stain with a dark-hued oil for a more dramatic effect.

Designer: Phạm Quỳnh Sao Mai / Phạm Gia Luật, Interior Designer / University of Architecture HCMC

Roucacha is a shareable seat that was created to facilitate family connection. It has a repeating spindle design that shows the distinctive grain pattern of the red oak. The designers explain: “The high-quality timber means we can achieve a very natural look.” The combination of stained timber, woven backrest and leather seat pad brings a contemporary twist to a traditional Vietnamese design approach.

GÓI Cabinet
Designer: Nguyễn Thế Hùng, Faculty of Interior Design, Van Lang University

Inspired by the Vietnamese tradition of wrapping Chung and Giay cakes in la dong leaves, this cabinet melds shapes and textures and demonstrates the versatility of American red oak. The dimensional stability of the timber makes it equally suitable for the larger shapes in addition to the detail where the natural meets the stained timber. Made completely out of red oak, this is a heavy piece designed to be a timeless piece.

The Moon Cabinet
Designer: Nguyễn Trí Trường Giang and Nguyễn Văn Diện, National University of Civil Engineering

Twin moons in stained American red oak with brass and rattan inlay resulted in an arresting design whose outcome surprised even the designers themselves.

Lagom Shelf
Designer: Nguyễn Duy Trí, Ton Duc Thang University

‘Lagom’ translates in Swedish to ‘just enough’. The shelf mirrors the angular lines of an open book and has been designed to be customised according to needs and space. A minimal piece with maximum usability. The design shows off the unique end grain of the oak and the xylem which allow the timber to be stained with ease.

Làng (Village)
Designer: Ngô Như Huỳnh, Van Lang University

Designed to be a multifunctional bookshelf and table, the desk can be folded when not in use and woven water hyacinth drawers maximise storage. Limed American red oak provides a minimalist but natural feel to the design and contrasts with the darker tones in the water hyacinth weaving.

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