White Oak “Workspace” wins Hoa Mai competition in Ho Chi Minh City

In Vietnam, the ‘Hoa Mai – Apricot Blossom’ 2015-2016 Furniture Design Competition was keenly anticipated when 238 entries were submitted in the first evaluation round in December.  The competition is organised by the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of Ho Chi Minh City (HAWA) and is supported by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and Hafele. The winners were announced and displayed at the opening ceremony of the Vietnam International Furniture Fair (VIFA) in Ho Chi Minh City on March 8.

This year’s winner was a ‘Workspace’ in White Oak by 28-year-old Huynh Tan Anh Tuan; in second place was ‘Yak Table’ in Tulipwood and third was ‘Earth Table’ with a combination of Walnut, Ash and Tulipwood, so called as the tiny components were re-cycled offcuts.

John Chan, AHEC regional director, said “Acceptance of American hardwoods by the design community throughout Asia is an integral target of our promotion programme, inspiring designers and manufacturers to consider the aesthetic and environmental benefits of sustainable hardwoods from the USA.”      

The Hoa Mai Jury, consisting Vietnamese specialists, several expatriates working in Vietnam and one overseas judge from Singapore, selected a short-list of 24 entries for the final round. The three main categories were a chair or table or some form of modular furniture. The judging criteria were Functionality, Marketability, Aesthetics, Creativity and Eco-friendly. It should be stressed that the judging was not based on manufacturing quality, often outside the control of young designers. Each short-listed entrant was then required to produce a prototype predominantly in American hardwood material.

The importance of this latest competition is the engagement by manufacturing companies to close the gap between ideas and practice. The 20 pieces were prominently displayed at the Vietnam International Furniture Fair (VIFA). 

Commenting on the quality of the entries this year, Singapore-based judge Michael Buckley said “Each year we see improvements in the overall standard of entries. Of course there are always some that do not measure up and some that may be impractical, but clearly there is a will by many young Vietnamese designers to combine contemporary furniture with Vietnamese style and flavour, which will succeed commercially.”