Giac Ngo!

When I last attended the World Architecture Festival in 2013, in Singapore, I was particularly charmed by the work of a new crop of Vietnamese Architects. One firm who’s work caught my attention was Vo Trong Nghia architects who work closely with nature, all their buildings have one tenet and that is to include nature in any form. In a primary school the earth climbed up gradually up to the roof, while in another residence plants are welcomed on every floor, in yet another project, the architects made punctuations in the roof to make way for the branches. Readied for the world of architecture in Japan Vo Trong learnt in full to pay attention to details, much in the way every turn in a building is paid incessant attention in the country known for mega projects in scale and wonder. All of the firm’s projects pay a special ode to nature and make every effort to make the space liveable if not very special. But one need for the staff to comply with every single day is singularly impressive and that is to meditate. The staff of Vo Trong Architects is required to meditate for an hour when then turn in to work and then an hour when they are ready to sign off. Meanwhile coming in to work at 8:30 AM and signing off at 5:30 is a requirement while the hours in meditation are counted as working hours. This is remarkable in a world where working hours are meticulously timed and no single minute of wasted time is tolerated in a work-force.

Vo Trong, himself believes that any amount of accolades or credits will not amount to anything substantial unless ofcourse he attains enlightenment. And though he works like any other architect, with tight deadlines and unrelenting clients he manages to keep his psyche all calm and contended. It all started when he visited a Vipassana course and found inner peace, then regularly attending their programs he only insists that his staff meditate employing any kind of meditation, not bound by the Vipassana program. This is insists will bring out the best in his staff and in effect is best for his office. An insight that is shared by the government of the Kingdom of Bhutan. In Bhutan the criminal offenders are known to be sent off to meditation camps instead of using the rod unsparingly. This comes from a belief that people are by nature full of goodness and to only bring the good-naturedness of a person to the forefront one needs to harness the niceness through meditation. There are architects, read Amanda Levete, who insist that the office me walked on barefoot, or architects who play music at work, like Daniel Libeskind, or architects who work out of parks, and then there are those who do not believe in working out of an office or a set zone per say and literally work out of anywhere, and all of them are excessively creative building upon their creativity in their own way. If enlightenment was the goal of our lives, then these creative professionals reach the path of enlightenment through their work, a job that requires a head in the clouds with feet planted firmly in the ground.

Meditation in itself is a fabulous way to calm the mind down, and a calm mind is innovation’s hotspot for great ideas can hardly take root in a muddled or befuddled mind. It is singularly lauded as a guaranteed way to enlightenment, Buddha was enlightened under the Bodhi tree during his hours of meditation. During meditation the brain activity, literally the monkey mind’s activity is reduced to a minimum. The colourful palette of imagination is sprung upon mostly when the mind is bored and definitely when the mind is not caught up in the perils of living. There is much to know when the brain can whistle and relax, the possibilities then are truly endless. All great inventions are made by people who know how to take a chill-pill, for the worry-warts possibly die of analysis-paralysis! While the Dalai Lama has said that sleep is the best form of meditation, then can we pave our way to enlightenment through sleep?

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