Painter Huynh Tan Phat

Born in Binh Dai – Ben Tre, Huynh Tan Phat was a remarkable architect who left an indelible mark on Vietnam’s architectural landscape. A man of early intelligence and talent, Phat’s journey towards greatness began with his enrollment in the architecture department of Indochina Fine Arts College in Hanoi, where he emerged as the valedictorian in 1938.

After gaining valuable experience working for the French office of Chauchaon Architects in Saigon, Phat had a burning desire to establish his own architectural practice. In 1940, he opened the first Vietnamese architect’s office on Mayer Street in Ho Chi Minh City. Not only did he compete fairly with French architectural firms in terms of price and build quality, but he also triumphed over proud French architects, winning first prize in the Indochina Exhibition Market design competition at the Tao Dan campus.

A Legacy Carved in Stone

Villa No. 7 Le Duan
Villa No. 7 Le Duan, designed by Huynh Tan Phat

Phat’s architectural genius was evident in the design of many villas in Saigon before 1943. These villas, still standing today, exude timeless beauty and are perfectly adapted to the hot and humid climate of the south. Notable examples include Villa No. 7 Le Duan, Villa No. 151 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, and Villa No. 6 Nguyen Huy Luong.

Beyond Architecture: A Champion for the Motherland

Phat’s dedication to his country extended beyond his architectural achievements. Before the August Revolution of 1945, he served as the editor of the Youth newspaper and played an active role in the Tien Phong Youth movement. He championed the use of the national language and provided famine relief in the South.

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When the August Revolution broke out, Phat’s talents extended to designing and leading the implementation of the Ky Dai project. This monumental 15-meter-tall structure, featuring the names of 11 people, stood proudly at the Nguyen Hue-Le Loi intersection. It was a testament to the spirit of the revolution.

A Life Devoted to the Motherland

Phat’s unwavering commitment to his country continued throughout his life. Despite being elected to the first National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1946 and serving as an alternate member of the Standing Committee, he found himself imprisoned by the French in the Saigon Grand Prison during the Indochina War. Determined to contribute further, he later joined the war zone and became a key figure in the Southern Administrative Resistance Committee. Additionally, he served as the Director of the Southern Information Department, directly overseeing Radio Voice of Saigon-Cholon Freedom.

Honored and Remembered

Huynh Tan Phat and Bui Thi Nga
Huynh Tan Phat and Bui Thi Nga in the Tan Bien war zone during the war against the US to save the country.

In recognition of his contributions to the field of architecture, Huynh Tan Phat was posthumously awarded the Ho Chi Minh Award in 1996. His architectural works, such as Noi Bai Airport, Hanoi National University of Education, Hanoi Children’s Palace, Ho Chi Minh Museum, and Hoa Binh Theater, continue to stand as testaments to his immense talent and aesthetic sensibility.

Despite his monumental achievements, it is worth noting that Phat never built a house for himself or his family. Instead, he dedicated his entire life to the service of the Motherland.

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For more information on the legacy of Huynh Tan Phat and other fascinating stories, visit Caravansarai.