Lùng Tám is a small village located in the northernmost province of Vietnam, Ha Giang. The village con- sists of 200 H’mong families and is considered the regional center of the seven surrounding smaller villages. In 2001 Ms. Vàng Thị Mai started the ‘Lung Tam Linen Textile Cooperative” offering work opportunities for women in the surrounding villages. Today the cooperative has 130 members engaged in the different steps of producing batik textiles, but aim to reach 400 women within the next years. The cooperative has expressed the need to have a space for community activities such as cultural events, training classes and community meetings. They also want to develop a showroom for village products and to use the building as a center for local tourism. The community has organized themselves into a core group of 12 women from the cooperative that will reach out to the other cooperative members to facilitate and engage in design workshops to plan, design and eventually coordinate the building of the new cooperative building.
Collectively with the members of the cooperative we will identify, discuss and develop a strategy that is based on the findings we make in the village. The first three steps: (1) Learning, (2) Questioning and (3) Making are aimed at shaping a common language that will be used in the following steps: (4) Design, and eventually the (5) Construction phase.
Step one is about learning from the place and the people and to establish a platform to discuss collectively. The purpose is to clarify what values and perspectives are important to the community, which will form the basis for all future discussions. It is to identify the way they see their relationship to the environment and their work. Step two will then question, discuss and develop these findings to make a connection between their values and their future plans for the new cooperative building. The aim is to explore ways in which their values, experience, life and work can shape the design and build process. To test these ideas, step three is about building of a sample structure using the materials, techniques and values identified as important or of value to the community. This prototype intervention helps to identify ‘who knows’ the local techniques and materials, and ‘to what level do they know’. Through steps one to three, a common language for designing and construction is created, informed by the context (step one), discussions (step two) and the making (step three).
Step four is to collectively define the program of the building, construction techniques and materials that best suits the values that the community has identified. Those who have shown special interest or capacity in the previous steps would take on central roles in guiding the rest of the members of the collective through the design process. Step five is about designing, using the ‘common language’ to define everything from the use to zoning of programmes, composition of space, choice of materials etc. Designing the building together is important to incorporate the previous findings, but also for each member of the cooperative to take ownership of the process and the outcome. This will ease mainte- nance and management of the building in the future, and build a sense of self achievement amongst the members and the organization as a whole. The final step before handover is the construction. This is an opportunity for on-site skill trainings and exchange of existing skills and knowledge. Families of the cooperative members will be encouraged to take part in the construction as well to equip them with necessary knowledge and skills for future maintenance of the building.