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North American hardwood design pieces undergo the judges’ scrutiny during the recent 12th ‘Hoa Mai’ Furniture Design Competition In Vietnam.
12th “Hoa Mai” Furniture Design Competition In Vietnam Highlights American Wood

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam– The Furniture and Handicraft Association of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), founded 22 years ago, has completed its 12th open furniture design competition entitled “Hoa Mai” – named after a tree with spectacular yellow flowers very popular during Lunar New Year in Vietnam, recently passed. The competition, with the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) as Platinum co-sponsor, has spanned several months with the resulting shortlist and winners displayed at the Vietnam International Furniture Show in Saigon in March. 

Most popular material was American Tulipwood, followed by White Oak combined with a few contrasting non-wood elements in some cases.

Speaking before the award ceremony Nguyễn Quốc Khanh, Chairman of HCMC Handicraft & Wood Industry Association (HAWA), said, “We cannot expect to create generations of designers in just two to three years, so we always knew this was a long-term project. However, we are now beginning to see much more commercially viable designs coming through to a more international level.” He paid tribute to AHEC’s long-term support of this important initiative by HAWA, to which John Chan, AHEC’s Regional Director, promised continued help through the U.S. export promotion program. 

Nguyen Thi Phuong Linh (right) won top honors  with her Tulipwood design.
The call for entries, made nationally across Vietnam to young designers, had been launched during an AHEC seminar at the VietnamWood show last fall. A panel of local and international judges assembled in Saigon in January to narrow down the entry of 152 designs from 124 applicants to a shortlist of about 20. The entries were required to be original and predominantly wood, with hardwood material facilitated by AHEC on behalf of the American hardwood industry. At that point seminars at the Saigon offices of the Design Association of Vietnam and also at the offices of co-sponsors Häfele were presented by international furniture designer John Kelly from New York, joined by hardwood specialist Michael Buckley from Singapore.

In March, Nguyen Chanh Phuong, General Secretary of HAWA, was among a number of HAWA furniture manufacturing members that formed the basis of a final judging panel of 14, including Huynh Quang Thanh, Chairman of the local Binh Duong Furniture Association, Hyunh Vanh Hanh and Nguyen Chien Thang. Several academics from the School of Architecture judged together with Uyen Huy, Chairman of the Fine Arts Association of Ho Chi Minh City. The international judges, Buckley and Kelly, were joined by John Chan from Hong Kong. The judges were unanimous in their decision for the 1st and 2nd prizes, but deliberated on the 3rd prize and five ‘honorable mentions’.  Judging criteria was based on functionality, marketability, aesthetics, creativity and eco-friendliness. All agreed that the standard of entries for this completion is improving. 

Winner of VD20 million (US$950) was a set of Tulipwood stacking stools by Nguyen Thi Phuong Linh of Linh Design.  Second, was an extensive set of children’s furniture in unstained Tulipwood, designed for use in many different lay-outs. A retro-Danish inspired design for a stained American Oak glazed table narrowly took the third prize.

Speaking to the participants, Chan congratulated all the shortlisted entrants for their efforts and talked about American hardwoods as providing solutions for designers. Buckley stressed the importance for designers to understand the material with which they work and said that the uniqueness of wood, especially American hardwood will often reward good designs.
Pictured is the runner-up design at Hoa Mai. A retro-Danish inspired design for a stained American Oak glazed table narrowly took the third prize.

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