Thang Do, a vigorous advocate for downtown San Jose, nationally recognized architect and Vietnamese American community leader who described himself simply as “an architect and an entrepreneur,” died last weekend. He was 62.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo broke the news of his death in a Facebook post: ”Many of us lost a friend this weekend, and the community lost a giant. Thang Do bestowed beauty on our city with everything he designed at Aedis Architecture, with a passion for sustainability and for telling each community’s unique story.
“Thang’s own story was remarkable, having escaped the Vietnam War to build an incredible life and family—here with his wife Grace Liu—always giving back to the community. I will miss Thang’s kindness, thoughtful insight, and friendship.”
Thang Do led Aedis Architects, a San Jose-based architectural firm that specializes in the design of educational institutions, for 30 years.
More recently, he purchased a historic building with a damaged foundation and meticulously renovated it into the SoFA Market, an urban food hall which he operated in San Jose’s SoFA Art District as well as The Fountainhead Bar, an architecture theme bar located within. His architectural firm maintained offices on the top floor.
He was active in the efforts to revitalize downtown San Jose, and served as chair of the San Jose Planning Commission, board member of SPUR, the San Jose Museum of Art and the Housing Trust of Silicon Valley and member of San Jose Architectural Review Committee, as well as a member of the Rotary Club of San Jose.
In a short biography for PIVOT, the national The Vietnamese American Progressive Association, Thang Do said he was “a committed urbanist and environmentalist.” His architectural work embraced sustainable design practices, such as the Aedis Architects’ office, a LEED Platinum-certified corporate headquarters. He was named in 2017 to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows.
In addition to Vietnamese and English, Thang Do spoke Italian and French, and also some Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.
He lived in Saratoga with his wife and four children.
In a statement, PIVOT said the association “mourns the passing of their beloved member and well-respected community leader, Thang Do.”
“Thang Do was a friend and a dedicated leader who contributed countless hours toward empowering the Vietnamese American community to understand how public policy and politics affects our lives,” the group said. “He drew strength from his lived experiences as a refugee, a loving husband and father, a community builder and brilliant architect, and a talented linguistic artist, and used it towards volunteering countless hours of his time to write, translate, and speak out on behalf of our PIVOT cause.” “He put so much heart into everything he did. He enjoyed spirited discourse, connecting and learning from others, and using his superpower of translation,” PIVOT reported.
He was praised for his design and assistance to build the Vietnamese American Service Center. “He built more than just buildings – he built community, across generations and geography,” PIVOT said in its statement. “He taught many about the love of the Vietnamese language and culture. He reminded us through his own actions about what it meant to love family, community, and justice.”
“He did not just care so much for so many others, he acted to help them in so many ways, within and outside of PIVOT,” said PIVOT President, Dr. Tung Nguyen. In addition to being a co-founder of PIVOT, Thang served as an active board member who was instrumental in Vietnamese language strategies, including VietFactCheck, a nationally-recognized effort to fight misinformation.
“As we grieve his loss,” the association said, “let us keep his family in our hearts, and remember what he stood for. Let us continue the work for a just America in his loving memory.”