Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture

196 Pasteur, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
196(Truong Dai Hoc Kien Truc) Pasteur Ho Chi Minh City Hồ Chí Minh VN


35 years anniversary of FOUNding and continuing 85 years OF architecture training

Autumn 2011, Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture (HCMUARC) celebrated its 35thanniversary of foundation (1976-2011). While the event of the Board of Architecture established by Indochina School of Fine Arts was the beginning of architecture training in Viet Nam, this autumn marks the anniversary of 85 years continuation of architecture training (1926-2011).

This is foremost important and so meaningful to both lecturers and students of the university. On this occasion, all university’s staffs, students as well as former generations of architects, engineers, bachelors of fine-art who once spent part of their life at 196 Pasteur street, District 3 for teaching, studying, and professional practicing are desired to coming back to their “place of once-upon-a-time”, looking back on the origin, the establishment and changing of the Saigon University of Architecture at old days and witness ever-developments of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture at the present time.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and the delegation of high-ranking officer during a working session at HCMUARC (April 30th2009)

1.1. The Board of Architecture – Indochina School of Fine Arts is the predecessor of Architecture Institutions in Vietnam (!)
Indochina School of Fine Arts was established in Hanoi, 1924 under a decree authorized by Indochina Governor-General Merlin on October 22nd 1924. Painter Victor Tardieu, who passed away in Hanoi in 1937, was the institutional founder. On October 1st 1926, the Indochina School of Fine Arts founded the Board of Architecture (or “Architecture Department” prescribed in other documents). After 5 years of practice, the first batch graduated in 1931. Therefore, Board of Architecture of the Indochina School of Fine Arts was known as the first Architecture institution in Vietnam.

The location of Indochina School of Fine Arts before 1945 (overlooking Le Duan street, Hanoi in current time)

1.2. Road to the Brand “Saigon University of Architecture”

In 1942, according to a new policy of training practical architects and handicraft painters, the Indochina School of Fine Arts was divided in two separate schools: the Indochina College of Fine Arts and Hanoi School of Applied Arts. (Decree dated October 22, 1924 by Governor-General of Indochina). Board of Architecture together with Board of Painting, Scuplture, Lacquer were belong to the Indochina College of Fine Arts. In 1944, Board of Architecture was upgraded to the School of Architecture under the Indochina College of Fine Arts (Decree dated February 22, 1944 by Governor-General of Indochina).Meanwhile, an inter-ministerial decision on June 13th 1944 verified that those granted graduate diplomas from the school could work as registered architects. This marked the merge of School of Architecture into the Paris National College of Fine-Arts. The graduate diplomas were conferred by French government, which is occupationally valid in France and Indochina (Decree dated February 6, 1945).

On March 9th 1945, the Japanese took over the authority from the French through a coup. Evacuated from the war, Governor-General of Indochina decided to move the School of Architecture to Dalat and just months later, the School had to cease operation because of unstable politics. On February 1st 1947, the School went back into operation under the name “Dalat School of Architecture”.

On March 8th 1948, it was acknowledged inter-ministerially as one of the local architecture schools, a branch of Paris National College of Fine-Arts. At the end of 1948, Dalat School of Architecture merged with the Indochina Higher-Education Institute and was upgraded to College of Architecture. Since then, Dalat College of Architecture was no more a branch of Paris National College of Fine-Arts (Decree dated September 6, 1948). In 1950, according to the Vietnam-France cultural pact signed on 30 December 1949 and 30 May 1950, Indochina Higher-Education Institute was renamed Hanoi Higher-Education Institute. Dalat College of Architecture was under the management of Hanoi Higher-Education institute. At the end of 1950, Dalat College of Architecture was moved to Saigon, located at 196 Pasteur, District 3, under the new name “Saigon College of Architecture”.

Prof. Nguyen Quang Nhac and Prof. Pham Van Thang with students.

After Geneva Accords, Hanoi Higher-Education Institute was renamed Vietnam National Higher-Education Institute, and in the Southern Vietnam was Saigon Higher-Eudation Institute. Saigon College of Architecture was directly under the management of Saigon Higher-Education institute. In 1967, Saigon College of Architecture was renamed as Saigon University of Architecture, still under the authority of Saigon Higher-Education Institute (Edict No. 159/SL/QD dated October 30, 1967). In May 1975, the Military Management Committee took over the Saigon University of Architecture. In November 1975, Ministry of Higher Education and Professional Education appointed Mr. Truong Tung – Assoc. Prof. Assoc. Dr. Architect as Head of training board. The board was in charge of continually offering courses for student in progress and undertaking enrolment as well as training at university and college level.

1.3. Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture

Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture

On October 27th, 1976, according to a Decision by Prime Minister, Saigon University of Architecture was renamed Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture (HCMUARC). From 1976 to 1995, the university was under the authority of Ministry of Construction. From 1996 to 2000, the university was a member of Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City. On October 10th, 2000, the university became an independent institution under the authority of Ministry of Education and Training. Since 2002, the university has been under the authority of Ministry of Construction.

On the foundation of great heritage and foremost values built through many development phases, Ho Chi Minh city University of Architecture has created its own outstanding characters at  location of 196 Pasteur, District 3, HCMC throughout 60 years.

Particularly, the “bond” between lecturers-students was nurtured from generations to generations and called the name “patron-negre” spirit, “brotherhood” or known as “the fellowship of HCMUARC” in general.

The view may have changed, still, the central building which was built from 1972-1973, a graduate project of student Truong Van Long, instructed by the late Prof.Arch. Pham Van Thang, is still remain in its original exposed aggregrate façade, a stamp of a pioneering style in Saigon of the past, now still plays its role as the heritage-in-heart of many generations of architects before and after the Reunification Day.

Students: Pham Tu, Trinh Phuong Thao, Tran An Toan defending their graduation project entitledTourist Spot of Non Nuoc. Board of jury: Arch.Huynh Kim Mang (President), Arch.Le Van Vuong (Secretary), Arch.Vo Dinh Diep, Assoc.Dr. Arch. Nguyen Kim Sen

For implementation of decree 14/2005/NQ-CP of the Government on basic and comprehensive renovation of Vietnamese higher education (phase 2006-2020) to meet the demand of national industrialization and modernization, and complete the mission assigned by the Government on producing high-quality human resources for the two southern economic zones: Southwest and Central Highlands as well as the Kingdom of Cambodia under the protocol authorized by the two nations. Since 2006-2007, HCMUARC has been fostering its training quality through acquiring new values of academic philosophy.

1) The quality of training is the moral principle;

2) The objective of training is corresponding with contemporary epoch;

3) The training method is realistic-based ;

4) Administration in training is the key;

5) Academic staff is of the overall decisive factors

Thereby, the university is forming suitable solutions for itself

1) Dismiss the “ivory tower”: break up the barrier between the university and society, make condition for academic environment to return to true values of human life, connect academics with real life.

2) Boost practical skills: practice is a motivation for training in different aspects. It has become an indispensable skill for every graduate “learn to practice, from practice, within practice” (Boyer & Mitgang – 1996).

3) Put great concern to the “context”: in the globalization trend with both merits and defects, making place in terms of physics and spirit is indispensable for preserving the training culture..

4) Professionalize teaching staffs: aimed at the interests for students and career opportunities for academic staff.

5) Overcome the barriers of the system in a “brave” way: there still exist some difficulties between “policy” and “reality”, it means “immediate correction” – there may exist “mistakes” but not “guilty”.

“If we don’t act, even angels will leave us” – Voltaire.

HCMUARC’s new image:

  • Be a multidisciplinary university in construction and related fields;
  • Limit quantity, enhance quality;
  • Apply both academic and practical approach to training programs, meet the national standards, gradually toward international standards;
  • Foster the academic staff by 2 in 1 – a lecturer with excellent pedagogical method and a professional specialist with skillfull practice, approach the international standards.


– The main campus is located at 196 Pasteur, District 3, the place since over 60 years ago.

– At Can Tho: the campus located at 201, Le Hong Phong street, Binh Thuy ward, Binh Thuy district undertakes training of highly qualified human resources in the construction industry for 13 provinces in the Southwestern areas.

– At Dalat: the campus located at 20, Hung Vuong street, Ward 10, Dalat city undertakes training high-quality human resources for 5 provinces in Central Highlands.

– At Phnom Penh – the Kingdom of Cambodia: the construction is in progress.

MOU singing between HCMUARC and Swinburne University of Technology, Australia           

1.4. A look-back to the past with the hope of becoming tradition

Thinking of the predecessors: according to the document by the late architect Vo Dinh Diep – lecturer at the university and referencing to the document “50 years training architects in the mid-20th century” by architect Doan Duc Thanh which appeared on the architecture magazine No.45 dated May 2007. Here is some reliable information of the preceding architects in pre-revolutionary Vietnam (1925-1945):

Most predecessors come from the earliest batchs of the Board of Architecture – Indochina College of Fine-Arts. From 1925-1945, the college graduated 11 batchs with over 50 architects. Here are some renowned examples: batch 1925-1930: Nguyen Xuan Phuong, Le Quang Tinh; batch 1926-1931: Nguyen Van Ninh, Nguyen Tuong Tam (entitled Writer Nhat Linh); batch 1927- 1932: Nguyen Cao Luyen, Hoang Nhu Tiep; batch 1928-1933: Tran Huu Tiem, Nguyen Gia Duc; batch 1929-1934: Doan Ngo, Bach Van Chu, Phan Van Hoa; batch 1930-1935: Doan Van Minh, Vo Duc Dien; batch 1931-1936: Huynh Tan Phat, Nguyen Ngoc Diep; batch 1932-1937: Do Huu Du (entitled Hoang Linh), Pham Khac He (entitled Pham Hoang); batch 1934-1939: Nguyen Ngoc Chan, Nguyen Nghi, Ta My Duat, Nguyen Ngoc Ngoan, Nguyen Ngoc Diem; batch 1938- 1943: Ngo Huy Quynh, Khong Toan, Luong Tan Khoa, Pham Khac Nhu; batch 1940-1945: Huynh Soan, Tran Van Duong, Do Ba Vinh (defended graduation thesis and received qualification at Dalat).

Some honored architects who once joined in the training and held senior posts in the government included: Arch. Nguyen Cao Luyen, Nguyen Nghi – co-founders of the first course in architecture field (1956-1961); Arch. Nguyen Gia Duc who established R&P group (research and publicize) for the enlighting house of the urban poor; Architect Huynh Tan Phat – former Vice Prime Minister and President of Vietnam Architects’ Association. The other renowned architects were also thrived on the architectural movement in Indochine and pioneered to the architecture foundation of Vietnam as well as devoted to the training series generation of architects. HCMUARC forever acknowledged the contributions of many great architects over the past generations.

Transitional period: what happened at Saigon University of architecture on May 1, 1975 still remained a mystery to lecturers-students nowadays.

According to Arch. Co Van Hau, nearly all staff members, including the director board, professors, teachers were all presented at the campus. They included: Prof. Arch. Nguyen Quang Nhac – Dean; Prof. Arch. To Cong Van; Arch. Pham Van Thang; Arch. Tran Phi Hung; Arch. Do Ba Vinh; Arch. Vo Dinh Diep; Arch. Co Van Hau; Arch. Tran Phong Luu; Arch. Nguyen Trong Kha; Arch. Ho Thieu Tri; Arch. Nguyen Tan Cang; Arch. Đinh Huu Tuong; Prof. Arch. Pham Minh Canh; Prof. Arch. Pham Minh Tri. Everyone was extremely worried about the future life which is totally different from the past.

Arch.Huynh Kim Truong – former Director of Institute of Planning and Synthentic Design said, “In the morning of May 01st, 1975, the group of over 300 armed cadres or so called K7 came to Saigon University of Architecture”, he added, “K7 took charge of the university and gathered a group of over 500 students to establish a “revolutionary architecture students’ committee”. All the members of the committee served themselves but contributed their efforts to the public work. Everyday they drive the officer of K7 to participate in the activities under the commands of City Military Management Committee.

Generally speaking, HCMUARC was of the “few” universities that chose not to “walk away” but to “keep up with” revolutionary movements and with training.

A little thought of the training: architecture is a professional major, based on the theory of creativity and applied to reality.

Professional Training: professional training in architecture enhances the foundation and interest for teaching & studying. The training must be conducted in a professional way (best at knowledge, best at practice). Arch. Susan Savage, lecturer at Queensland University of Technology said, “Professional architects are capable of solving difficulties at hands with their drawings – that must be the goal for each student of architecture”. Accordingly, besides working with “objects”, an architect can also work with their “brains” to foresee any unexpected visions. Arch. Becket, in a brief statement, described architecture training as “particular situation, thorough understanding, immediate action”. Practice, therefore, is supposed to be the core in architecture training.

Theory-based: the international architecture conference on training architects in 2001 on Architecture Training for the 21st century warned that: to preserve the true values, we must seek out the “true theory” of “architecture” in terms of combining knowledge from: social sciences and humanities, history, philosophy, aesthetics, psychology, sociology and geomancy. Nowadays, the speedy global trend can greatly affect, or even fluctuate the term architecture. As a result, an architect must command good knowledge not only in his professional field but also in social sciences and humanities.

Practical Training: some pieces of academic knowledge are becoming strange to architecture students & architects since their professional environment is always “moving”. On the other hand, theory is not sufficient for an architect to live with a career. Following the principle “learn to practice, from practice, within practice” (Boyer & Mitgang), practice plays a very important role in architecture training and make impacts on theory. Architecture is the major combining both theory and practice. Practice is the destination of theory. So called, practical training is indispensable formula for education in Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture.

Creative thinking: there exists no subject is directly on creativity in architecture training; however, creativity always exists ‘invisibly’ in any disciplines delivered at Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture. Creativity is formed with knowledge derived from many sources along with the unique professional handlings that exist only in architecture. The products or specialized language of architecture training are also different than those in other fields. They are decoded symbols in term of abstract thinking which are demonstrated delicately in the forms of chart, drawings, models and so forth through diverse way of presentation. Architecture training is the process of transferring creativity from lecturers to students. This is a special process, particularly and clever. For instance, lecturers must do whatever it takes to direct students to a “soulful space”, a “humane planning project”, or an “impressive structure solution” as well as a sweet toy for children. From the concept through idealizing, forming to create the architectural space: beautifull, simple, implicated, legible, so called the Art of Space Composition. All that process is beyond organizing space. It is the process of creative thinking.

Meeting at the beginning of the academic year                

1.5. HCMUARC partners with Vietnam  Architects’ Association in training

In recent years, Ho Chi Minh Architect Association has been very interested in architecture training as a part of its mission. Therefore, the Association has encouraged and recommends qualified member to deliver training at HCMUARC. Many members of the association who are experienced from the professional in real life, involves in the training not only help students gain approach to their project in a practical way, but also create the attractiveness of tutoring and studying. That is very important factor because the uninspired of theory-only has been existed and affected in a negative way to moral of study of many generation of students. Beside that, the architects as members of association also guide students on their internship, encouraging them to gain professional experience. Therefore the coordination between Association and University is the strength of Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture to transform the training method toward more practical approach.

Particularly, demands of educational innovation in which that students are the center of training process, highly evaluating for their independent thinking, require lecturers to play their role in concentration to couseling, supporting, guiding in a practical way. Students now love to study less theory, more practical  is a common situation in the university at the moment. As a result, experienced architects as association member, specialist in particular professional in charchitecture participate in training are highly advantage as a pioneering in architectural education.

Ho Chi Minh Architect Association collaborates with HCMUARC in training, scientific research and other practical tasks has support the university to have better training outcome. In return, HCMUARC offers “free” members to the Association, enhancing the quality of future new-comers to work in professional practice of association members.

HCMUARC on this occasion presents great acknowledgement and appreciation to the Association for the continued support.

Rector Pham Tu reports to Comrade Truong Tan Sang – Members of Poliburo, Permanent Member of Party Central Secretariat, on the Planning of Memorial for revolutionary martyr sacrificing at Phu Quoc prisoner of war stockade in the working session at Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture on May 03rd, 2010.

Final words:

With 35 years of foundation and in connection with 85 years in architecture training, HCMUARC has become a multidisciplinary university, well-prepared for development and integration, to follow its mission statement: “HCMUARC operates its resources to be one of the leading national institutions for graduate & post-graduate education, research and technology transfer, making great contributions to the development of high-quality human resources, fostering the talents and the advancement of science and technology in the fields of architecture, rural & urban planning, infrastructure, fine-arts and interior design to cater for the regional and national socio-economic development”.

Appreciate to the past, take pride of the present and we shall have the right to dream about and brighter future for our beloved university – Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture.

Assoc. Prof. Dr.Arch. Pham Tu – Rector

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