Chaotic Design Can Be Beautiful

Finding beauty amidst chaos

can sometimes be tricky; especially if you’re like me and you revel in organization, order and cleanliness.

I learned to be more open minded about my surroundings during my travels through Southeast Asia mainly because this is not a part of the world that understands the value of personal space. Sometimes the simplest of procedures such as buying a guava off a street vendor can result in a violation of one’s personal bubble (by North American standards). I never took the shoving and pushing personally – after all, everyone just wants to get ahead, to be first and to get by (also a very different mentality than North America); and you can see this in the way people walk, how they interact and most importantly, how they DRIVE.

I will never forgot the most chaotic experiences I had while in Vietnam any (and every) time I had to cross the street. Have you ever had to cross a major street in big-city Vietnam that is void of stop lights, stop signs or sidewalks? It’s a challenge, that’s for sure.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of an intersection that I recorded from the second storey of a nearby building (imagine crossing the street here!):

That’s right, people. A simple procedure that we usually partake in every day became one of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of my day.

As you can see, the abundance of motorbikes and scooters that swerve around each other and weave in and out of traffic are doing so all at the risk of smashing into one another, and yet, I only witnessed a single accident (between a car and a gentleman on a scooter) during my three weeks in Vietnam. Not too bad considering how reckless and chaotic the traffic system (or lack thereof) seems to be.

Clearly we can learn about the value of organized chaos, and learn to look beyond the unknown, scary elements of surprise and embrace the unusual, the uncomfortable and the unfathomable. The same can be said for design.

These videos of chaotic Vietnamese street life remind me of the Bearscave Meeting Room Interior. This space used to be a shop but has since been converted into headquarters for a computer firm.

This crazy, chaotic interior somehow seems balanced and in the chaos. (Image courtesy of

The meeting room ceiling treatment intends to translate the chaotic power of an uncontrolled energy; “a wood vortex out of a natural disaster.” Just like the dozens of scooters that go whipping by in the streets of Saigon and Hanoi, it seems as though the ceiling element to this space has an uncontrollable sense of movement and power (which is a very difficult expression to capture in an interior).

The Bearscave project is located in a covered alley in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris, France.

Shown from a different angle, the Bearscave Meeting Room is in a league of its own. (Image courtesy of

Shown from yet another angle, this is truly a unique interior. (Image courtesy of

Speaking of chaotic design that still emulates a sense of harmony and beauty, check out these classic beauties:

Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain is arguably one of the weirdest, most chaotic feats of architectural mastery. (Image courtesy of

Frank Gehry's Dancing Building in Prague, Czech Republic, is an eye-catching example of chaotic design at it's best. (Image courtesy of

Antoni Gaudi's chaotic Casa Batllo in Barcelona, Spain, stands out like a stubbed toe...but it's curvy walls, and unique patterning remains breath-taking. (Image courtesy of

Will Alsop's Ontario College of Art and Design building in Toronto, Canada is surely a chaotic example of refined, surreal design in a city that is only recently becoming more open-minded to avant garde design and architecture. (Image courtesy of

While each example is completely different from the next in terms of chaotic qualities (calculated and compacted vs. free-formed, curvaceous and flowing), there is one strong commonality: sometimes beauty can be born out of chaos…whether we’re talking about the calculated madness of the traffic in Vietnam or the calculated precision of the weirdness of architecture, both cases of chaos are worthy of reflection.

Now in case you were wondering how we actually managed to cross the street, you are in luck. I have video footage of myself trying to dodge oncoming vehicles that seem uncomfortably too close for comfort.

Hope you enjoyed this rather unusual Passport To Design post today – the comparisons between the travel and design aspects of this reflection are a little far-fetched, but I just had to share these ridiculous videos with you and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to squeeze in a peek of the Bearscave Meeting Room too!

Thanks for reading :)

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  1. I love the analogy and the post – well done! I’m shocked that there aren’t more accidents but I guess you learn how to manoeuvre through the craziness if you live there – and even if you travel there.

  2. I love looking at both sides of the story, so I really enjoyed this post. Chaos can be beautiful. But also, it feels like there’s something about the chaotic power in the designs you’ve shown that hints at our dominance over randomness.

  3. Those videos are crazy! I was worried for your life in the second one!

    That office that you featured is so cool! I have never seen anything like it in my life! And, as I mentioned before, I love the OCAD building!

  4. Thanks for the comments, Vanessa, Swail and Shannon! I’m glad you enjoyed the videos – just a glimpse into a strange facet of my everyday life in Vietnam :) I thought the Bearscave was a crazy space too. It’s inspirational to me though I can’t figure out why exactly. Maybe because it’s so unusual and yet so well done. The space is balanced, the interior is interesting and I can imagine spending time there – all characteristics of GREAT DESIGN! Thanks for reading!

  5. Love this post! (I’m a maximalist at heart) Gaudi is one of my absolute favorites! Have a great weekend!

  6. Thanks, Justina :) It was a little more of an abstract (and dare I say chaotic??) post in itself…glad you enjoyed it!

  7. I love getting to see video in this post. Thanks for sharing such truly personal experiences. You allow us a glimpse into a part of the world that many might never have a chance to see. Great post!

  8. There is nothing more personal that my “panic face” at the end of that video – glad you enjoyed it :) I had a great time traveling Vietnam and I loved taking videos, I just wish I took more.

  9. Tania, amazing images I love your thoughts ! Great site.

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    Art by Karena

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