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Vietnam’s most famous furniture designer: Quasar Khanh

Quasar Khanh, a designer from another galaxy 

The pseudonym (pen name) « Quasar » refers to a « star that shines from millions of light years from us » and reflects perfectly the gap between his creative talent and the era he lived in. This Vietnamese engineer, inventor and designer had talent and inspiration that was unparalleled at the time his genius flourished at the end of the 1960’s.

 

 Quasar Khanh   A true visionary, he never doubted when his creative impulses were out of the frame of the established norms and theories of his time. He was often referred to as a “mad scientist” and frequently perceived by the scientific community as free electron that bothered more than a few scholars of his time. In the world of design, he turned the tables and redefined industrial and product design in the 60’s with his audacity and extravagance.Quasar Khanh id
     

Philippe Starck actually worked for Quasar Khanh when he made his first steps in the world of design. At the time, Quasar Khanh had launched his collection of inflatable furniture. Philippe Starck wrote a very emotional tribute to Quasar Khanh which will be published soon in a biography of this exceptional figure. He clearly refers to Quasar as being a master, light years from his peers, while Starck could only watch, breathless, from below. Jacques Séguela one of France’s most famous copywriters, has also written a very touching tribute to Quasar Khan (click here to read it in French on his official website).

Quasar Khanh, a designer that symbolises the pop culture of the end of the 60’s and is one of its most iconic figures.

Quasar Khanh was born in 1934, in Hanoi, Vietnam. His birth name was Nguyen Manh Khanh. It is only when he married the French fashion designer Emmanuelle in 1957 that he adopted his pseudonym Quasar.

The end of the sixties was his most successful years in terms of notoriety as his creative spirit peaked. One of his most notable creations was his range of inflatable furniture “Aerospace”, whose original pieces are being exchanged and bought by knowledgeable collectors today. Despite health issues, in 2012, this insatiable inventor was still developing and registering innovatory and audacious patents from his home in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam at the age of 78.

His prolific mind’s curiosity spanned many diverse domains, from ships, to planes, architecture, cars, furniture design and many others.

Quasar Khanh studied in Paris where he graduated with an engineering degree at the most prestigious academy at the time (Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées) in 1959. Quasar always balanced his academic skills as an engineer with his creative talent as a designer, both of these assets rocketed forward by his spirit of inventing new solutions to old problems. He is recognized by his peers as being simultaneously an engineer, an inventor and a designer.

During his career as an engineer que worked at the Société Générale d’Entreprises, the biggest civil engineering company of the time before he became part of the presitigious engineering consulting firm Coyne and Bellier.
While he was working on the project of building the biggest multiple arch dam in the world at the time, under construction in Canada, the Manicouagan 5, he was faced with a considerable problem: mercury and lead were predominant in the construction materials. As he sought an alternative for these toxic materials as well as the pressure they implied, the idea of using compressed air began to take form in his mind, this idea was applied later to his inflatable furniture range.

Using compressed air in this civil engineering project, two inherent properties of this element become very apparent to Quasar, the strength and the transparency. Thanks to his unconventional approach, air becomes a building material and he will become passionate about seeking new ways to use this element. Quasar Khanh will develop in 1967 the first complete range of inflatable furniture. The « Aerospace collection » will be the result of his passion and will mark a revolution in the world of design at the end of the sixties.

Quasar Khanh, a pioneer in the creation of inflatable furniture who revolutionized the 1960’s

The « Aerospace collection » will become an icon of the pop culture at the end of the sixties et will be exhibited in 1969 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs of Paris and the Triennale de Milan.

Quasar Khanh inflatable furniture, Vietnamese designer Quasar Khanh Chesterfield inflatable sofa
Quasar Khanh, collection Aerospace Chesterfield inflatable armchair, quasar khanh, Vietnam
Chesterfield Sofa Quasar Khanh Quasar Khanh, collection Aerospace 3
Aerospace Collection, 1968

Photo credits

-Khanh family archives

– Mick Jay for the Velvet Galerie, directed by Mr Benoit Ramognino.

– Benoit Ramognino for the Velvet Gallery.

– Erik Peltier for Gallery 47 directed by Mr. Marc Mineray

 

These audacity reflected in these timeless items still garners admiration in 2013, you can purchase original pieces of this collection at the Velvet Galérie (Paris).

The emblematic « Aerospace Collection » became one of the milestones of furniture design was exhibited in museums around the world and can still be found at the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris) and the MoMa ( The Museum of Modern Art, New York

An inexhaustible genius, Quasar Khanh created inflatable living spaces

The expo « Inflatable Structures » was presented at the Museum of Moder Arts of Paris in 1968. The organizers aimed to exhibit all aspects of this concept : the technical inventions, practical applications and artistical expressions. The editors of the magazine Utopie were the instigators of this expo and they predicated a future which would be underlined by revolutionnary advances in architecture, urban planning and public transportation.

All exhibits were revolutionary inventions having inflatable structures as their common denominator. Quasar Khanh was of course, a central attraction within this expo.

     
  maison gonflable quasar khanh   
  Inflatable cylcindircal home developed by Quasar Engineering, 1968Source : Thesis of Pierre Lebrun at the Université Lumière de Lyon 2  

 

     
 Inflatable home by Quasar KhanhFamille Quasar Khanh   Quasar Khanh maison gonflable 2 

Quasar Khanh and his family in the same inflatable home
 
Photos from the archives of the Khanh family.

 

Quasar Khanh, a prolific inventor, light years from his contemporaries

Quasar Khanh created a transparent cubic urban vehicle, the Quasar Unipower (also known as the « Cube Car » or the «Quasarmobile»). 13 units were produced in the United Kingdom between 1967 and 1968. The unusual shape of this motorized cube seduced medias and film directors of that period as they realized its potential as a marketing and promotional asset.

The French magazine “Elle” used it while carrying out surveys across the country in 1970 and it also appeared in various movies such as « Elle boit pas, elle fume pas, elle drague » with Mireille Darc behind the wheel. Other French personalities were seen in movies or magazines steering this unusual vehicle : Marlène Jobert, Sim, Bertrand Blier, Didier Haudepin et Corinne Le Poulain.

         
   Quasar Unipower 1    Quasar- Emmanuelle- Atlantique and Othello Khanh in the Quasar Unipower 1972  
         
   Quasar, Emmanuelle, Atlantique et Othello Khanh in the Quasar Unipower 1972    electric-car-quasar-khanh  

The huge advance this creation had over its time had a sweet and sour effect for the admirers of this brilliant inventor. Despite its success in the world of movies and fashion at the time, it arrived to early to be the object of a solid commercial launching so it was condemned to remain forever the mythical invention of an eccentric creator.

Quasar Khanh, the inventor of the bamboo bicycle?

It is uncertain to affirm that he created the first bamboo bicycle ever but when Quasar Khanh was putting his mind to the task of creating a new method of urban transprot that would be in harmony with nature, he assembled a bicycle made of bamboo, called the “bambouclette”.

bambouclette, bamboo bicycle by Quasar Khanh

Though many perceived this idea as frivolous, we can now affirm, in 2013, that using bamboo to produce high-performance bicycles with, in some aspects, better results than carbon-fiber bicycles, is now a reality.

Quasar and Emmanuelle Khanh, a couple whose artistic legacy continues to inspire in modern times


Quasar Khanh and his wife, Emmanuelle Khanh (model, fashion designer and creator of the glasses that carry her name today) were a couple where creativity and artistic audacity were permanent ingredients of their everyday life.

The famous “Emmanuelle Khanh” glasses are timeless and are worn by stars in show-business as well as on catwalks around the world.

         
   Lady Gaga wearing Emmanuelle Khanh glassesLady Gaga wearing Emmanuelle Khanh glassesPhoto credit: lunettesde.com  

Emmanuelle Khanh glasses worn by models at the «Who’s Next» fashion show for the 2010 spring/summer season.

 

Quasar Khanh lives in Saigon and his son, Othello Khanh, a movie producer and director, perpetuates the family’s artistic tradition.

         
  Quasar and Othello Khanh     Emmanuelle and Othello Khanh  
   
   Emmanuelle and Quasar Khanh with their son Othello, photos published in Vogue, February 1969.

« Fire, Sand and Metal », a collection by Quasar Khanh for those that seek exceptional handmade furniture

We would like to thank the Khanh family for the privilege of showcasing the creations of Quasar, an artist we admire very much, on our site.

The collection of furniture by Quasar Khanh that we display is focused on the his creations made in molten aluminum, molded in sand and polished by hand. Each piece is numbered and his signature is engraved to ensure you purchase a unique collector’s item. Follow this link to see our collection of Quasar Khanh’s designer furniture available online.

     
   Furniture production, Quasar Khanh Vietnam  
  Signed and numbered, each piece is unique. The handmade production of the Ronda armchair in one solid aluminum piece, without welding is an exceptional feat that reflects the astounding quality of this furniture range, now available online in Vietnam.  

Quasar Khanh, an inexhaustible genius born in Vietnam

Despite two brain haemorrhages, Quasar Khanh, engineer, inventor and designer that some even described as Einstein’s rival, is a resilient character and was still registering patents in 2012, at the age of 78.

Thank you Quasar from all of us that you continue to delight to this day with your unbridled genius.

         
   Quasar Khanh inventor   Quasar Khanh, Einstein’s rivalPhoto: Far Eastern Economic Review, 2003  
         

 

Quasar Khanh, vietnamese designer

 

This biography of Quasar Khanh has been made in collaboration with Imagineoutlet.com

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8 Responses to Vietnam’s most famous furniture designer: Quasar Khanh

  1. Maurice -

    July 3, 2015 at 5:57 am

    Khanh’s inflatable living space was so much cooler than the yerts people “glamp” in today. He came up with so many amazing pieces, and yet I can’t seem to find any of them in production today. I’d totally make an Apollo chair the center of my living room if i could just find one.

    • Imagine Vietnam
      Imagine Vietnam -

      July 3, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      Hello Maurice, we only stock the metal collection, if you want to order an item from the inflatable collection, try velvet-galerie.com they are located in Paris.
      Great to know a fellow enthusiast of Quasar Khanh!

  2. Quasar Khanh fan -

    July 27, 2015 at 11:35 am

    thanks for your in-depth article and biography on Quasar Khanh

    • Imagine Vietnam
      Imagine Vietnam -

      October 23, 2015 at 10:08 am

      Thank you! It is comments like this one that made all the effort worthwhile and naturally we are big fans of Quasar Khanh too. Our aim was to make it the most comprehensive and entertaining read on somebody we admire very much 🙂

  3. Lee ainslie -

    October 21, 2015 at 12:26 am

    I have a bambooclet in my home What year were they made and what are they worth in decent shape Thanks Lee

    • Imagine Vietnam
      Imagine Vietnam -

      October 23, 2015 at 10:11 am

      Wow, that sounds like you have a real interesting piece at home. We would be unable to estimate its monetary value or the year of production, sorry to say. However, given the fact that we have been contacted by curators of big museums, the interest for Quasar Khanh and his legacy is very well alive. Good luck!

  4. Laura -

    March 28, 2016 at 6:25 am

    My grandparents had the inflatable orange see through pouffe. I don’t know when they got it or where from. I expect it was bought so my Nan could put her bad leg up. It was such a nice thing for a small child, very comfy to sit upon and light to move to sit near the TV. I used to bounce it about and my Nan told me off! Eventually it developed a leak and Granddad tried to repair it. I can remember him and my Dad looking to see if he could open the seal to pump it up, but this proved impossible. Granddad was of the make do and mend era, he could fix TVs and install phones but not blow up the pouffe! I felt sad because I liked it. Yesterday, I saw an episode of “Rising Damp” a BBC sitcom in which Rigsby gets new furniture on tick to impress his lodger but has it all taken away while trying to chat her up! One of the items was a Turquoise blow up pouffe which led me to look it up. My Uncle was tickled pink when he saw the photo of the orange pouffe from velvet galerie. Thank you Mr Kanh!

    • Imagine Vietnam
      Imagine Vietnam -

      March 28, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks for sharing Laura, we enjoyed reading your story 🙂

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