Often referred to as 'the bamboo architect,' Vo Trong Nghia is a Vietnamese architect and a champion of sustainability. Having founded his firm not long ago in 2006, Vo Trong Nghia Architects is the recipient of several awards such as that of the World Architecture Festival (2014), ARCASIA Building of the Year (2012) and many others.

I had a chance to chat with him while he was in Dhaka recently for Bengal Institute’s 'Now! Next' symposiums. Despite his renown, I found him extremely down-to-earth, passionately discussing his philosophy while maintaining a continuous smile.

The practice of architecture in Bangladesh has gone through several stages of growth. There are many examples of great architecture, such as those of Muzharul Islam, Louis Kahn and Bashirul Haq, but they are too few and far between. As a young nation, for many years we have been in what I term as “survival mode.” Engineer-like efficiency dictated our construction, which resulted in drab, lifeless colony quarters. But as our purchasing power increases so too does the desire for quality spaces become more of an option. The age of simply surviving is over.