The honor of creating “a Land of Gods”. Interview conducted by journalist David Wilson with Vu Viet Anh, design principal at TA Landscape Architecture, for ArchiExpo e-Magazine.
Danang in central Vietnam is famous for its array of masterpiece bridges. The line-up ranges from Tran Thi Ly which is designed to resemble a sail; the cable-stayed Thuận Phước Bridge which acts as an axis connecting the town to stunning Linh Ung Pagoda; and fire-breathing, 666-meter engineering marvel Dragon Bridge—Vietnam’s longest steel bridge. Giving the fiery success symbol stiff competition, the surreally spectacular Cau Vang or Golden Bridge, straddles the scenic, misty Ba Na Hills area.
The chrysanthemum-lined 150-meter walkway that opened in June (2018) is held by a giant pair of mock stone hands that evoke visions from the fantasy film The Lord of the Rings and have an epic source of inspiration.
Our team worked on the core concept, to create a Land of Gods, so the giant hands of a god suddenly pull the golden bridge out of the mountain,” says Vu Viet Anh – the design director for the firm that created the 10-finger wonder, TA Landscape Architecture, which is based in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
The hands, made from concrete, mesh and fibreglass came about through sketching, physical modelling and 3D software, according to Anh. One key design challenge that he and his team faced was great elevation—the bridge is slung up in the clouds, over 1,000 meters above sea level. Besides, the time frame was tight and his team needed to avoid compromising the beautiful natural setting: the rolling Truong Son mountain range. Hence the hands’ weather-worn, mossy appearance.
The faux-natural twin sculpture has been wildly popular—a cloud-scape selfie magnet and viral icon covered by Reuters and Conde Nast traveller which called it “insanely cool”. Time even ranked it one of the World’s Greatest Places.
The most rewarding part of the giant hands project has been the enjoyment it generates among Vietnamese and foreigners alike, according to Anh. The unassuming virtuoso is influenced by high-tech architect Norman Foster, fellow British modernist Richard Rogers and the Italian architect and engineer Renzo Piano.
“Think architecturally, act naturally.”
On whether function, durability or beauty counts more, Anh says: “Nothing is more important. They come together.” His motto is just four words: “Think architecturally, act naturally.” His hillside hands designed to meld with the landscape evoke stone ruins with roots beyond the area’s French hill station heritage.
In future, in tune with his deities theme, Anh aims to build yet another bridge, which will be silver and symbolise a strand of divine hair that acts as a connective thread to the golden structure. In Danang, it seems, the horizon is always shifting and design can never go a bridge too far.