GroupGSA has appointed Thien Duong (pictured top) as the new studio head of its Ho Chi Minh City office, as the firm seeks to assert its position in the region.

Duong, of Vietnamese Canadian descent, will supervise more than 200 international experts in urban design, architecture, landscape architecture and interior design and will work closely with the firm’s studios in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Duong joins GroupGSA with nearly two decades of experience as an architect and project manager in Vietnam. Director of the Vietnam Green Building Council, Duong is also a Chartered Architect with the Royal Institute of British Architects, having lived and worked in the UK before returning to Vietnam. The new studio head has overseen various hospitality and high-end residential and commercial projects over the past 25 years.

Duong compares Vietnam to a sleeping tiger, which is full of potential development opportunities.

“If you look at its cities, Vietnam is about 10% developed compared to other Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia or even Thailand,” he says.

“Vietnam has a growing middle class with a young, educated and hardworking population. Of Vietnam’s 100 million people, more than 74% are of working age.

Thien says foreign investment is booming, with Vietnam poised to take advantage.

“It’s a very exciting prospect and one that excites me. Over our lifetime, with the huge scale of developments needed, I think Vietnam is one of the places that needs culturally thoughtful architecture and innovative sustainable designs.

GroupGSA Director Lisa-Maree Carrigan said the changes herald an investment in growth and diversity for the company as it seeks to reposition itself as a global practice in Vietnam.

“With Thien leading our studio in Vietnam, we will realign our operations as a true global practice to leverage our global expertise in a new era of growth,” she said.

“This is an exciting next step for our practice which aims to improve the collaboration and engagement of our global experts with local intelligence and nuance for the benefit of Vietnamese projects.

Sam Tran will join the Ho Chi Minh studio as associate director, having previously trained as an architect at the firm’s Sydney studio in 2016-2018. Martin Nguyen will also lead the studio’s landscape architecture team.

“Sam knew we had a studio in Vietnam and wanted to join a practice where he could ride and come back and make a positive contribution in his home country of Vietnam,” Carrigan said.

“We are delighted to announce that Sam has returned to GroupGSA under new leadership.”

Establishing its presence in Vietnam in 2014, GroupGSA has amassed an impressive portfolio of market-leading large-scale hotels and condominiums, as well as high-end residential, hospitality and educational design projects. She now employs over 50 people in her Vietnamese studio.

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