Brewer Davidson + Norman Day Associates design a masterplan that links univeristy campus to a vibrant community
The site for this proposed university is 174 hectares and the programme is to accommodate 17,000 students and staff. Vinh Yen is a fast growing satellite city of Hanoi but much of the new development is ‘western suburban’ rather than reflecting the dense mixed use fabric of older Vietnamese cities. The brief was biased toward a 1960’s style campus park plan and quite segregated from the neighbouring suburbs. The architects convinced the client that the masterplan should be a ‘university town’ as opposed to a ‘campus park’ type. This creates an urban centre for the university and the developing suburbs around the site.
Vibrant streetscapes are more suited to student lifestyles and reflect the best parts of Vietnamese cities. Faculties are organised as blocks in the street network with interior quadrangles. The Temple of Literature in Hanoi was quoted as a precedent along with the urban form of universities such as Harvard and Cambridge. The site is beautiful with rolling hills framed by an arc of larger hills to the north. Two streams converted into rice fields cross the site and meet at the southern boundary. The masterplan is based on a street /quadrangle structure within the natural framework of hills and valleys.
A feng shui lay line across the site had to be recognised in the masterplan so ‘Knowledge Hill’ is left as open space in the centre of the campus. An entry boulevard and landscaping elements on Knowledge Hill mark the lay line. A small but important shrine is located on the twin hills at the top of the valley so they too were left as open space above the sports fields. The rice field valleys are converted into a landscaped stormwater treatment green corridor. The concept is to rebuild the haphazard dykes as walkways between ponds and across the green corridor with the streams and wetlands re-established to control flooding. Perimeter streets along the green corridor become the pedestrian / cycling spine of the university.
The campus hub buildings are co-located with retail and student accommodation to form a bustling main street. A north south alignment allows for better sun penetration and focuses on an amphitheatre cut into Knowledge Hill. This alignment also provides a more pedestrian friendly connection to Vinh Yen than the regional highway along the western boundary. The street network is an organic grid deformed to suit the valley and hills. Development rules have a maximum front yard and active frontage requirement so that busy streets create a university town. Development rules also stipulate a perimeter block building footprint to create a network of quadrangles.
Sports fields are located on the largest flat area at the head of the valley with detached staff houses located to minimise earthworks on the surrounding slopes. The soil in Vinh Yen is a rich red clay colour. Vietnam produces beautiful bricks but they are largely covered in poorly maintained plaster. The masterplan design guidelines propose using locally produced bricks as a dominant material to give the campus an identity that is connected to the place, easier to maintain and a more sustainable choice.
Learning outside the classroom is more important now with a credit-based curriculum. Not only library spaces but learning commons, common areas in faculty buildings and open spaces are designed to facilitate people working in small groups and on laptops. These spaces need to be human in scale, have sunlight control and good internet access. Monumental lawns and plazas of a campus park plan do not encourage this activity. Smaller quadrangles, courtyards and internal atria are more important in this campus design. The design is based on a dense, mixed use street culture that reflects the best of Vietnam’s cities and therefore creates a university rooted in its own culture and more suited to young modern students.
Design: Brewer Davidson + Norman Day Associates
Landscape Architect: DJ Scott