The Power of Partnerships: How can a small Architecture Firm in Portland, Oregon be a Valuable, Collaborative, Partner in Vietnam?

Vietnam does not have a shortage of architecture firms. In cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, there are a number of quality firms, whether operating as outposts of multinational firms or Vietnam-based. However, there are still many under-served communities throughout the country.   

When Tuan Vu was a child, the walls of his family’s small tube house in Hanoi were his drawing canvas. His early design efforts understandably upset his parents, but he had dreams of one day designing something that would contribute to the environment around him.

Today, Tuan is a Partner at Propel Studio in Portland, Oregon. He’s part of the team that has built an international reputation for engaging with communities to design creative solutions for the challenges they face.



Many architecture firms say they take a “collaborative approach” to design. For Propel Studio, success is defined by collaboration. They are small and nimble; the exact characteristics that have allowed them to be valuable community partners from the Foster-Powell and Montavilla neighborhoods of Portland to Aridagawa, Japan.

For underserved communities in Vietnam, a firm that values relationships and research, cultural understanding and honesty before a project even begins, can be the perfect partner.

Propel Studio’s innovative designs and expertise in high performance architecture combined with their dedication to understanding local culture allows them to partner well with firms in locations across the globe.

Long-distance collaborations are not without their challenges. Language barriers and time zone differences, logistical hurdles and technology restrictions can all stand in the way of a successful partnership, but Propel has proven to be up to the task. Their experience in Pan-Pacific working environments and multi-cultural makeup break down communication barriers. Their size and flexibility give them the ability quickly co-locate, when necessary.

The one factor that makes Propel Studio a valuable, collaborative partner for firms and communities in Vietnam and beyond is their commitment to a shared vision; one that focuses on the environmental, economic and social sustainability of a community.

According to Tuan Vu, “We’re not looking for a project to be on the TV news. The most satisfying thing is to see a client smile or people using the space the way it was intended to be. It’s great to contribute something contextual, something that’s a good addition to the community.”