Arcbazar recently spoke with architect Hien Duong, of Houston, Texas. With us, Hien shares his journey through the world of professional architecture, what keeps him so passionate about his work, and advice to both homeowners as well as designers and architects who may be thinking of using Arcbazar.
Tell us about where you are from and the firm you work with.
I am from Vietnam but I currently reside in the US, where I recently relocated to Houston, Texas the beginning of 2013. I run a small architect firm, dhhA, in Vietnam and still work as a free-lance architect in South East Asia. My firm has 3-4 free-lance architects with diverse background in different areas
How long have you been an architect?
I’ve been an architect since 1983. With the breadth and depth of my experience, I have owned several architect firms and managed to execute large scale projects locally and internationally
Drawing was discovered as my natural talent. Thus, the career choice to be an architect made sense to me at the time. As I learned more about architecture and being an architect as a career, I have become more and more fascinated by the industry. Now, I have had more than 20+ years of experiences as an architect but never lose sight of inspirations in my works. My career as an architect has continuously brought fresh perspectives in life.
What motivates you after all the years?
What keeps me motivated every day is to be able to see the transformation process among imagination, reality and clients’ satisfaction. To be able to see what I have designed be adopted and accepted by clients is the biggest.
Would you say that you have a particular specialty or style?
My taste varies from postmodern to rustic or vintage style. I love to create things that match their surroundings. To me, architecture and interior decoration must accompany one another from the start of any project.
Like many architects, I am sometimes praised by clients for a certain type of architectural style. Ultimately, it depends on my clients’ interests and preferences. Most of my successful projects are around commercial and residential projects including hotel resorts, restaurants, office buildings, apartments and private houses
What is your favorite type of project to work on and why?
I prefer renovation, remodel work although most of my projects in the past are from the ground up. Remodeling is more challenging but also more rewarding at the same as I’m able to see the transformation of its condition.
Do you have one specific project that you are most proud of?
With Arcbazar.com, I’m most proud of my submission to the “Big Lake House Remodel” contest. That project was an interesting one. The client wanted a tropical room inside a house facing a lake in Alaska. The concept was to create a warm swimming pool inside, looking out to a snowy landscape through a glazed wall.
Outside of Arcbazar, there have been a few award winning projects I have built and won in Vietnam. One in particular is the Tropicana Resort that won national award for functionality, materials usage and sustainability. Tropicana Resort is a beach resort with a design concept to marry the traditional style with the use of tranquil color themes of stone, mountain, ocean water, and sand for finishing.
Is there any specific advice that you would give to homeowners relating to your expertise or past experiences?
Give adequate information and requests of what you want but don’t give solutions. Depending on what the type of project, the request for the deliverables should always be different. I highly value clients who limit the points they want to obtain.
Are there any common misconceptions that homeowners have about what you do as an architect?
Yes, there are. This happens quite often. When an architect designs a home for his/her client, there is always plenty of back and forth conversation between the architect and client to understand each other’s expectations. It’s quite a challenge to design a complete house when all you have are project description without client face to face conversations. It can be done, but architects face an issue of misconceptions and lose the opportunity to present his/her logic and rationales.
Are there any tips or tricks that you would lend to an architect or designer looking to begin a project with arcbazar?
Arcbazar is an interactive playground, yet it is highly client-driven. Meeting client requests is the key to success. I have found that nicely rendered/beautiful projects can be a failure if projects don’t meet clients’ requirements. These project entries are not bad designs; they are just not good fits. Your creative ideas may or may not be bought by clients if they don’t align with what was asked. My best advice to be successful is to diligently study clients’ requirement and project descriptions while joining the conversations of other colleagues. I have experienced plenty of my own failed projects on Arcbazar to lend this advice.
Why do you enjoy using Arcbazar?
I had participated in a few international architecture competitions when I came across Arcbazar.com in the beginning of 2013. Quickly, I have found that Arcbazar is a melting pot for international architects like me across the globe to exchange ideas, expand our creativity, learn from each other, stay relevant with new trends, and get inspired by other colleagues around the world. Not only does Arcbazar.com provide a creative playground for architects, but it has provided me the opportunity to create an online diverse portfolio of various projects in today’s digital world. This community has allowed me to fuel my creative energy. Arcbazar’s team is extremely professional when it comes to responsiveness, client exchanges, and payment’s promptness.
Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?
To colleagues/ participants: I would encourage other colleagues to join a competition to not only provide them the expected monetary prizes but also the sense of accomplishment to conquer a challenging project. For example, in one of my projects “Wine Stone New Concept” I got 3rd prize but I much appreciate the first prize entry and I very much enjoyed this competition.
Based on my experiences, I would encourage my colleagues to not feel discouraged for whatever reasons they fail a project. I can understand the disappointment and frustration for architects like myself to drain out our energy and time to complete an entry, just to learn that you fail. Sometimes I found myself regretting that I did not follow clients’ requests. Other times, I refused to follow clients’ ideas and I won. My conclusion is that regardless of whichever path you are aiming for; please don’t hesitate to score your concepts/designs on how satisfied and happy you feel with them.