“The best way to predict the future is to design it,” wrote Buckminster Fuller. A self-taught designer in Hanoi definitely embodies this adage. Here Christina Vo profiles Pham Kieu Phuc, founder of Module 7, an interior design company established in Hanoi in 2002. Pham reflects here not only upon her approach to furniture design but also upon her life philosophy. “There is no safe way to grow up and satisfy oneself,” Pham says, “We have to take risks, and it’s important to learn about ourselves. To ask ourselves – what is missing in our lives? What makes us inspired and motivated?”
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Perusing through Module 7 on Xuan Dieu Street in Hanoi, a customer could mistakenly feel that they were in a store in Copenhagen, Stockholm or Amsterdam given the refinement, simplicity, and sophistication of the furniture.
When I lived in Hanoi, I was fortunate enough to befriend Pham Kieu Phuc, the designer and founder of the store and design consultancy. We spent many hours together discussing life, projects, and creativity. She even introduced me to meditation and to a sangha in Hanoi, practicing Buddhism in the tradition of the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh.
I often listened to Phuc in amazement as this creative and entrepreneurial woman—with no formal design training—shared with me her ideas about furniture design and establishing a creative community in Hanoi.
Amidst the rapid social and economic change in Vietnam, there’s a struggle within Vietnamese culture—as with any developing economy—to maintain the traditional beauty, alongside the rapid pace of economic development. For most people in Vietnam, it is the time for forward movement, for development, for progression.
Phuc, on the other hand, is one of those rare individuals, who seems to be in harmony with her work, rather than moving at the pace of her surrounding environment. She aims to be in touch with the design process and with the local artisans who produce her products. She believes that ethnic craftsmanship embodies reflection, meditation, and inspiration. Working with these artisans, seems to bring her closer to her own truth as well.
“Good design is a piece where you can’t add or take out any element. It’s just enough, and I find this in most of the ordinary objects made by the ethnic minorities. There is a permanent search for beauty in their lives, and I think in our modern life, we lose a little bit of this creativity,” she told me.
I asked her how she had the courage to start her own company in a field she knew very little about. “There is no safe way to grow up and satisfy oneself,” she said, “We have to take risks, and it’s important to learn about ourselves. To ask ourselves – what is missing in our lives? What makes us inspired and motivated?”
“The answers will come by themselves once we slow down and start to see things clearly,” she continued.
Phuc is certainly one of the few people I’ve met whose work embodies who she is as a person. Her designs reflect her search in life—for happiness, beauty, peace, and balance.
I hope that Phuc’s design philosophy can somehow be infused in the development of Vietnam—as the country tries to balances the traditional and the modern, while maintaining its essence.
Christina Vo is a San Francisco-based writer. She studied public health at UNC Chapel Hill and social and public communications at the London School of Economics. After living and working in Vietnam for a number of years, Christina happily calls San Francisco her home. Currently, she is a writer for the UCSF Foundation, and is working on her first book.
Pham Kieu Phuc is a self-taught designer and founder of a Module 7, an interior design company established in Hanoi in 2002. Her philosophy of design is the essence of things—a bridge between handicrafts and contemporary design. Using local materials and traditional craftsmanship, the company aims to bring forth a movement in contemporary Vietnamese design. Module 7 is at 83 Xuan Dieu in Hanoi, Viet Nam, and can be reached by phone at 011 84 4 3719 7247, by email at email@example.com, by Facebook or by Twitter.
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