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CONTENTS 06 Acknowledgments 07 Foreword CHAPTER 01 / VIETNAM 10 20 30 32 36 38 40

History Religion Social Architecture Arts & Entertainment Language Fashion CHAPTER 02 / HO CHI MINH

44 46 48 50 51 56 64

Location Getting There Fact File Climate History Development Food Culture CHAPTER 03 / DISTRICT 4

68 70 72 73 76

Location Access Overview Development Our Site CHAPTER 04 / EXISTING CONTEXT

82 84 86 88 90 94

Edges, Paths & Landmarks Solids & Voids Massing Landmarks Skylines Architectural Styles

96 98 100 106 112 114 120 126 126 134 136

Greenery Serial Visions Details Materials Pedestrian Use People Traffic Bus Routes Building Usage Atmosphere Day Diaries CHAPTER 05 / BUILDING TECHNIQUES

152 154 158

Common Techniques Less Common Environmental Strategies CHAPTER 06 / SUMMARY ANALYSIS



186 188 192

Existing Plans Potential Location Our Proposals CHAPTER 08 / PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

216 218 220 222 224 226 228 230

John Foley Matthew Riches Ellie Callaghan Kayleigh Gorman Holly Turton Jonathan Pateman Jade Reed-Williams Matthew Wall




We would like to thank Carl Meddings and Jon Bush who accompanied us on our trip to Ho Chi Minh and have assisted and guided us with this book and project since. They have made this experience one to remember for us all. In addition, we would like to extend our gratitude and thanks to the students and staff at the Ho Chi Minh University of Architecture who were very welcoming and helpful whilst we were there.



This book gives an in-depth insight into our experiences and thoughts about Zone 4, District 4 of Ho Chi Minh city. The visit allowed us to understand the cultures and traditions of a country which is very different from the UK. We have tried to put across our feelings and thoughts about the area however this only shows a fraction of the diverse lifestyle we saw within Vietnam. The book begins with a broad overview of the History and Culture of the country of Vietnam, which was compiled as a class exercise by a small number of students from each study zone and has been included in every group’s book. This is followed then by focusing into Ho Chi Minh City and then further into District 4 and our own study area. We eventually came up with possible sites and ideas for development to allow us to move into our next stage of the design process for our final design projects of our undergraduate degrees. We also included our own personal reflections of the trip as a summary of our time there.






To symbolise this new land, which stretched over both of these areas the Nguyen leaders decided to establish a connection by combining the word Nam from An Nam and the Viet in Viet Thuong giving birth to Nam Viet a close relation to what the nation is named today. Following the change a diplomatic delegation was sent to Beijing in 1802 to request authorisation for the name change, however this did not sit kindly with governor of neighbouring Chinese province Guangxi, Sun Yuting who heard the news and was troubled by the new name as he remembered Zhao Tuo’s old kingdom of Nanyue (Nam Viet) from the second century BC. Sun was alarmed by the fact that such a name could be encouragement for the Nguyen to further expand their territory by seeking to capture the nearby ancient namesake he ruled over. 

As the Nguyen clan came to power in 1802, a large delegation of clan members were sent to Beijing, then the seat of china’s Qing dynasty to obtain a new name for the kingdom. Leader Nguyen Phuc Anh was a descendant of the Nguyen clan which had captured and absorbed the southern territory of the Le Dynasty for the previous 200 years, an area at this time attributed to the Khmer empire. Following this period the Nguyens ruled over the region for a vast time and came to see it as their rightful heartland. Due to this fear he urged the emperor to refuse the Nguyens the option of changing In the late 18th century the Tay Son their name to Nam Viet, which the emperrebellion orchestrated by the arch rival of or agreed on and ordered a new name the Nguyen’s, the Trinh clan brought down “Viet Nam” rather than Nam Viet and for the royal empire, this left the surviving Nguyen Phuc to be inaugurated as King. members of the Nguyen with a sense of The emperors reasoning was based on hatred that led them to seek to re-capture the fact that the term “Viet” would come the land they believed was there’s and first to honor the territory earlier maintained designate that land there’s by way of re- by the Nguyen clan’s ancestors. branding. The Nguyens did not want to compromise With the magnitude of such a victory and the memory of what was to them once the announcement of all Le descendants their ancestral lands. These lands located wiped out preventing a coup or reclamation in the southern part of their territory were of the thrown, the Nguyen’s began ruling in an area which was believed to be home over the largest kingdom that ever existed to the Viet Thuong/Yuechang a clan menin the region. With these developments it tioned in early Chinese texts. Now it was was clear such a divine territory deserved to be combined with the region of An Nam a new name which would declare their which was previously ruled by the Le. newly expanded territory was special. 10



Despite a long period where the Vietnamese regarded China an enemy, culturally and religiously they continued to be largely influenced by China. Le emperors and their associates used Chinese-style government leadership, the influence of Confucianism in education, Chinese characters in their writing along with the traditional Chinese pagoda’s still found today in all regions of the country contribute to the impression china has had on the Nguyen’s and the country’s success. Consolidation and the extension of Vietnam happened in due part by waring against the Kingdom of Champa. From the eleventh century to the final Vietnamese defeat of the Cham in 1471 where capitals ruled by the Cham were overrun which helped the Vietnamese to seize large land takeovers of the Cham people. Through this process the Vietnamese extended from the border with China in the north southward to the Hai Van Pass near Da Nang. The Vietnamese warred with the long previously superior Khmers who had long before ruled over southern Vietnam from the Kingdom of Cambodia west of modern day Vietnam. The Khmers lived in the Mekong River Delta and were a very hardy people who put up great resistance to the Vietnamese, however were eventually defeated to the new superior power late in the eighteenth century.


The Le Dynasty (1428-1788) ended from internal and foreign conflicts. First, there was a peasant uprising, involving rival Nguyen factions, against the southern Nguyen Lords and the Trinh Lords of the north. A major rebellion occurred in central Vietnam’s Binh Dinh Province know southern Nguyen Lords and the Trinh Lords

of the north. A major rebellion occurred in central Vietnam’s Binh Dinh Province known as the Tay Son Rebellion, which dated from 1771 to 1789 where branches wreaked carnage. Due in-part to initial heavy defeats in the war with Cambodia, the Tay Son uprising quickly engulfed much of southern Vietnam in 1771. Quickly after the Tay Son brothers captured the provincial capital Qui Nhon. In 1774, the Trinh in Ha Noi decided to capitalise on the conflict after seeing there enemy vulnerable, which ended the truce through the launching of attacks on the Nguyen from the North. Trinh forces overran the Nguyen’s capital in 1774 while the Nguyen lords fled south to the Saigon territories. The Nguyen’s still fought on against both the Trinh army and the Tay Son but eventually were defeated. Following these defeats Saigon was captured in 1776 and a large number of Nguyen family members were slaughtered, except one Nguyen Anh who managed to flee to Siam (Thailand). When the Le emperor invited China to defend him, a large Chinese army was defeated by rebels in the battle of Dong Da in 1789. The ultimately victorious leader hero of Dong Da was Nguyen Hue, one of the Nguyen brothers. Earlier, in 1785, he had led Vietnamese forces to victory, also, against neighbouring Siamese (Thai). The Nguyen brothers ruled only briefly before they died, before Nom became the official language of Vietnam.

stepped into the political fore and assumed leadership filling his father’s void. The strongest of surviving Nguyen lords, he soon established himself as emperor and head of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945 and became known as Emperor Gia Long, with his first significant act, moving the dynasty capital to Hue.

With the death of Nguyen Hue in 1792, the succession of his ten-year-old son, Nguyen Phuc Anh came about as he 13

THE VIETNAM WAR The Vietnam War was the prolonged struggle between nationalist forces attempting to unify the country of Vietnam under a communist government and the United States (with the help of the South Vietnamese) attempting to prevent the spread of communism. Engaged in a war that many viewed as having no way to win, American public’s support was eventually lost for the U.S. leaders involvement in the war. Since the end of the war, the Vietnam War has become a benchmark for what not to do in all future U.S. foreign conflicts. Dates of the Vietnam War: 1959 -- April 30, 1975 CASUALTIES Estimates of the number of casualties vary, with one source suggesting up to 3.8 million violent war deaths. 195,000–430,000 South civilians died in the war.


50,000–65,000 North civilians died in the war.


The Army of the Republic of Vietnam lost between 171,331 and 220,357 men during the war. The official US Department of Defence figure was 950,765 communist forces killed in Vietnam from 1965 to 1974. Defence Department officials believed that these body count figures need to be decreased by 30 percent. In addition, Guenter Lewy, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, 14

assumes that one-third of the reported “enemy” killed may have been civilians, concluding that 444,000 may have been closer to the actual number of deaths of communist military forces.

during his tenure, communist sympathizers in South Vietnam established the National Liberation Front (NLF), also known as the Viet Cong, in 1960 to use guerrilla warfare against the South Vietnamese.

A detailed demographic study calculated 791,000–1,141,000 war related deaths for all of Vietnam.

The U.S continued to send additional advisers to South Vietnam as the fighting between the Viet Cong and the ting between the Viet Cong and the South Vietnamese continued. When the North Vietnamese fired directly upon two U.S.

Between 200,000 and 300,000 Cambodians died during the war. Prior to the Vietnam War there had been fighting in Vietnam for decades. For nearly six decades the Vietnamese had suffered under French colonial rule when Japan invaded portions of Vietnam in 1940. It was in 1941, when Vietnam had two foreign powers occupying them, that communist Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh arrived back in Vietnam after spending thirty years travelling the world.

Ships in international waters on August 2 and 4, 1964 (known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident), Congress responded with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This resolution gave President Lyndon Johnson the authority to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam. This was executed by using that authority to order the first U.S. ground troops to Vietnam in March 1965.

Post World War II the fear of the spread of Communism was heightened by the U.S. “domino theory,” which stated that if one country in Southeast Asia fell to Communism then surrounding countries would also soon fall. The reason why the U.S. decided to help France defeat Ho and his revolutionaries by sending the French military help in 1950, was to help prevent Vietnam from becoming a communist country. With help from the United States, South Vietnam carried out the election only in South Vietnam rather than countrywide. Ngo Dinh Diem was elected after eliminating most of his rivals. He was killed in 1963 during a coup supported by the United States due to his leadership, which was ultimately proved to be horrible. Many South Vietnamese were alienated by Diem 15


From 1965 to 1969, the U.S. was involved in a limited war in Vietnam. Although there were aerial bombings of the North, President Johnson wanted the fighting to be limited to South Vietnam. The U.S. forces would not conduct a serious ground assault into the North to attack the communists directly as their fighting parameters were limited, nor would there be any strong effort to disrupt the Ho Chi Minh Trail (the Viet Cong’s supply path that ran through Laos and Cambodia).

was stronger and better organized than they had previously predicted. The Tet Offensive was a turning point in the war because President Johnson, faced now with an unimpressed American public and bad news from his military leaders in Vietnam, decided to withdraw from the war.

U.S. troops fought a jungle war, a majority of the time it against the well-supplied Viet Cong. Ambushes, created booby traps were the main methods of which the Viet Cong would attack and then escape through a complex network of underground tunnels. For U.S. forces, even just finding their enemy proved difficult . Since Viet Cong hid in the dense brush, U.S. forces tended to drop Agent Orange or napalm bombs which would instantly clear an area by causing the leaves to drop off or to burn away. In every village, women and children could build booby traps or help house and feed the Viet Cong, which made it difficult for the U.S. troops to determine which villagers were the enemy. Many U.S. soldiers suffered from low morale, became angry, and some used drugs. On January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese surprised both the U.S. forces and the South Vietnamese by coordinating an organised assault with the Viet Cong to attack approximately a hundred South Vietnamese cities and towns. The Tet Offensive is known as the event where the U.S. forces and the South Vietnamese army were able to repel the aforementioned assault, this attack proved to Americans that the enemy 17

AMERICA ENTERS THE WAR Malcolm Browne’s photo of Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist Monk immolating himself in protect to the war (June 11, 1963). On 10 June 1963, U.S. correspondents were notified that “something important” would happen the next morning on the road outside the Cambodian embassy in Saigon. A lot of the reporters ignored the message, since the Buddhist crisis had at that point been going on for just over a month. Only a few journalists turned up the next day, including David Halberstam of The New York Times and Malcolm Browne, the Saigon bureau chief for the Associated Press. Đuc arrived as part of a procession that had begun at a nearby pagoda. The fighting continued in Vietnam even after the U.S. had withdrawn all its troops. In early 1975, North Vietnam made another massive ambush south which toppled the South Vietnamese government. South Vietnam officially surrendered to communist North Vietnam on April 30, 1975. Vietnam was reunited as a communist country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on July 2, 1976. In 1969, Richard Nixon became the new U.S. President and he had his own plan to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The new outlined plan by President Nixon was called Vietnamization, which involved a strategic ploy to remove U.S. troops from Vietnam, while handing back the fighting to the South Vietnamese. The withdrawal of U.S. troops began in July 1969. President Nixon wanted a faster end to hostilities, he achieved this by expanding the war into other countries, such as

Laos and Cambodia, a move that created thousands of protests, especially on college campuses, back in America. New peace talks began in Paris on January 25th, 1969, as a step towards peace. On March 30, 1972, the North Vietnamese staged another massive assault, called the Easter Offensive (also called the Spring Offensive), this assault occured after the U.S. had withdrawn most of its troops from Vietnam. North Vietnamese troops crossed over the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the 17th parallel and invaded South Vietnam. The remaining U.S. forces and the South Vietnamese army fought back.

POST WAR DEVELOPMENT Ho Chi Minh city came under the control of the Vietnamese People’s Army when the conclusion of the Vietnam War happened on 30 April 1975, among Vietnamese diaspora communities and particularly the U.S. (which had fought the communists), this event is commonly called the “fall of Saigon”, while the communist Socialist Republic of Vietnam refers to it as the

“Liberation of Saigon.” In 1976, upon the establishment of the unified communist Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the city of Saigon (including Cholon), the province of Gia Ðonh and two suburban districts of two other nearby provinces were combined to create Ho Chi Minh City in honour of the late Communist leader Ho Chí Minh. Many Vietnamese citizens still refer to the city as its former name Saigon,

particularly in informal contexts. Generally, the urban districts of Ho Chi Minh City are referred to as Saigon.

RELIGION Vietnam is a multi-religion and multi-belief country. The Vietnamese people have a timehonored tradition of practicing their beliefs. Different ethnic groups in Vietnam have different beliefs linked to their own economic and spiritual life. With the perception that every object has a soul, since the ancient time, the Vietnamese people have worshiped a large number of gods, especially those related to agriculture such as sun, moon, land, mountain, river and forest. In addition, the most popular and time-honored custom of the Vietnamese people, including some ethnic minorities, is ancestor worship and commemoration of death anniversaries. Every Vietnamese family has an altar to worship their ancestors and attaches importance to the commemoration of death anniversaries of the predecessors. Beside ancestor worship in each family and each clan, many villages have a communal house or a temple to worship the Village Deity. The custom of worshipping the Village Deity is a unique feature of Vietnamese villages.



PHOTOS: Muneeba Shaheen


BUDDHISM Began in now southern Nepal as an offshoot of Hinduism. It originated in India by Shiddharta (563-483 B.C.) or Gautama Buddha (the “Enlightened One�). Buddhism is one of the worlds greatest religions and is predominant within Vietnam. In the second century B.C, the religion was introduced to Vietnam while it was under Chinese domination and by Indian preachers who travelled by sea. It was made the state religion under the Ly Dynasty (1010-1214), and lost its status as the state religion since the Tran Dynasty (1225-1440). According to Buddhism, man was born into this world to suffer and when you free yourselves from suffering is to reach the state of Nirvana (pure happiness). The law of Karma is what determines ones individual fate as your soul would not perish after death but reincarnate into another. From the two branches of Buddhism, Hinayana and Mahayana, the latter thrived in China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. 23

PHOTO: Muneeba Shaheen

CONFUCIANISM Consists of a code of social behaviour in which man should observe to love in harmony with society and attain happiness in his individual life. It also has no church or holy book and little concern for a life a death making Confucianism more a social philosophy rather than a religion. Its base revolves around the improvement of ones moral self which requires the practice of five cardinal virtues; benevolence, propriety, loyalty, intellect and trustworthiness. Confucianism first intercepted Vietnam during the Chinese domination in the first Century. It reached its climax under the Le Dynasty and declined during the French conquest because of the influence of western philosophies. 24

TAOISM Was founded by Lao Tse and advocated a philosophy of harmony between man and man and nature. In order to achieve this harmony all forms of confrontation should be avoided and virtues such as simplicity, patience and self-contentment should be observed. Within Taoism there is communication with deities, spirits and the dead as well as Taoist clergymen claiming they could cure illnesses, alleviate misfortune and predict the future. It was also introduced to Vietnam under the Chinese domination and was Vietnam’s core religion once it regained its independence. Eventually, Taoism began to turn to mysticism and polytheism, which appealed to he common people.


PHOTO: Jade Reed-Williams

CHRISTIANITY Doesn’t play a major role in Vietnam and its culture and its presence in the country is little. During the mid- late 16th century Spanish, Portuguese and French missionaries, introduced Christianity into Vietnam. Preaching Christianity was banned mid 17th century but missionaries carried on regardless. In return they ended up being persecuted and labelled “perverse to the public order”. The French conquered Vietnam in the 19th century, using the persecution of Christians as the pretext. 26


PHOTO: Muneeba Shaeen


ISLAM The Cham people of Vietnam brought the religion to the country. It was not until the 15th century that the majority of the Champa people converted to Islam alongside their king. The Champa province was completely absorbed by the Vietnamese by the 17th century. Some had migrated along the Mekong River where the intersected with Malaysian Muslim traders and expanded there knowledge of Islam and in central Vietnam where they began to merge Islam with Buddhism and Hinduism.

PHOTO: Jade Reed-Williams

HINDUISM Came directly from India to South East Asia without undergoing any change influenced by the Chinese domination. The more southern part of Vietnam was highly populated by indianiszed Tamil Hindu kingdom. Hindus are a religious minority in Vietnam. The Marimman Hindu Temple is considered sacred by Hindu and non Hindu Vietnamese. It is rumoured to have miraculous powers giving luck and wealth to those who worship within its walls. Around 100 Chinese/Vietnamese Tamil Hindus within the small surrounding community use it. 29

SOCIAL PHOTO: Jade Reed-Williams

SOCIAL FACTORS During the period of Chinese rule and for centuries after, the social structure of Vietnam was shaped by the system prevalent in China. The vast majority of people were farmers. The governing class comprised about 5 percent of the population and was selected from candidates who had passed the Confucian civil service examinations or from influential landholding families. After the partition of Vietnam in 1954, the Communist government of North Vietnam completely changed the social structure. Private property was eliminated, and peasants and workers were given a new, if nominal, dominance in the social order. At the top of the order, functioning as the new ruling class, were officials of the Communist Party. In the South, the partition had no effect on the social structure, and it remained virtually unchanged. After the Communists won the civil war in 1975, however, they imposed the same social structure on the South as they had on the North in 1954. Since the mid-1980s a more complicated social system has developed as a result of market economic reforms. There has been an increase in the number of industrial workers, although most Vietnamese remain as farmers. 30

During the Vietnam War, the Communist government of North Vietnam was successful in limiting the country’s social problems to those directly connected with the war effort. Although malnutrition and poverty were common, corruption was rare and the incidence of drugs, prostitution, and crime was limited. Social problems have increased since the economic reforms of 1986. An increase in the amount of money circulating through society has seen an escalation in corruption. Unemployment rates are rising, especially among young people. Drug addiction, alcoholism and prostitution are becoming serious problems, especially in urban areas. Before the Communist era, the government relied on the family network to care for the sick and elderly and to provide other social benefits to family members. Under Communism, the state assumed responsibility for some of these benefits through collective farms and state-run industries that provided for the care and welfare of their employees. After the economic reforms of 1986, which essentially dismantled collective farms, farmers were expected to provide their own savings to cover the expenses of illness or retirement. People in the emerging private sector had to do the same. Although the government has reduced benefits in certain areas, it still lacks the resources to deal with many of the other social needs of the population. As much as one-third of the workforce in rural areas is underemployed, and an estimated onehalf of the rural population lives in poverty. At the same time, the availability of health care is declining. 31

ARCHITECTURE Vietnamese architecture is characterised by an amalgamation of styles. The majority of buildings can be divided into five categories - Chinese, vernacular, ethnic, colonial and modern architecture. The Chinese have imposed a great influence on Vietnamese architecture, the style is clearly seen within the palaces, pagodas and temples. The layout, orientation, statues and external elements of the pagodas are similar to their Chinese antecedents. However, the distinctive features of heavy ornamentation, lavish use of motifs and embellishments, and the distinctive roofs distinguish the style from its Chinese origins. Vernacular buildings of Vietnam are distinctive due to the large wooden framework, rather than the lightweight ‘stilt’ method used elsewhere in Asia. Larger public buildings, are typically constructed from timber. Stone and brick were reserved for the assembly of royal or significant religious buildings. Almost all vernacular structures are single-storey, with heavy flat-tiled roofs to withstand typhoons. There are many distinctive ethnic groups within Vietnam, few have preserved their indigenous architecture. The ‘Rong houses’ found in Ba Na of central Vietnam feature long sweeping straw roofs that reach lengths of thirty metres. The E-De mainly practice cultivation on burnt-over land and live in ‘Long houses’. The houses are perched on stilts and are generally elongated, the length depends on the number of inhabitants and sometimes extend over a hundred metres.


PHOTO: John Foley

TOP LEFT PHOTO: Jade Reed-Williams BOTTOM LEFT PHOTO: Quintin Lake

The colonial buildings of Vietnam are more than just a straightforward replica of French architecture. Particular characteristics of geographical and climatic conditions are relatively different; as a result, the European-style architecture had to have certain changes in order to harmonise Vietnam’s conditions. The General Post Office and the Town Hall in Ho Chi Minh City are good examples of the French colonial influence. 33

Today, spiralling land values have placed a premium upon height, narrow houses are built on small patches of land rise as much as seven or eight stories to overtake the neighbours. They are often built in a strange pastiche of French architecture with ornate balconies, cupolas and decorations fashioned in concrete and cement decorated with pastel coloured paints. The addition of high ceilings, ceramic tiled floors and large windows reflect the climate, but the extensive use of wrought iron screens and shutters on windows, and metal gates and doors, are the response to a high level of theft. Outside the towns and cities, public buildings tend to be functional rectangular buildings with little architectural merit. The glass and concrete high-rise towers, malls and office blocks of Ho Chi Minh City tend to be closer to mainstream international traditions. PHOTO: Jade Reed-Williams


PHOTO: Jade Reed-Williams

Despite the extensive architectural history, few buildings in Vietnam are more than a hundred years old. In Asia they do not venerate old buildings. Even in the recent past, when a house, a temple, or a pagoda fell into disrepair, it was either knocked down and replaced, or extensively renovated. In Vietnam if a building is described as ‘old’, it is meant that its original purpose has been preserved on that site, not the building itself. Recent exposure to organisations with a mandate to conserve tangible cultural relics has led to a greater concern to retain the original integrity of old buildings, unfortunately most of the skills and knowledge obtained by the crafts people who originally built them have been lost. 35

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT WOODBLOCK PRINTS A famous traditional Vietnamese folk art, it is was an artwork popular between peasants historically. The paint tends to be made from natural and organic materials and then applied to the carved wood stamp and this is ten pressed onto the paper repeatedly to form a print. The paintings typically symbolise or show good luck; dreams coming true or simple folklore tales. VIETNAMESE SILK PAINTINGS This is one of the most popular forms of art in Vietnam. It mainly consists of paintings made on a silk canvas. Originating from the ancient tradition of drawing and then painting on rice paper, it is favoured due to the ‘mystical aura’ often achieved by the medium used. The silk paintings typically tend to show views of the countryside, landscape shots, pagodas and also depict historical events with an emphasis on softness and elegance. CALLIGRAPHY Calligraphy is otherwise known as ‘Thu Phap’ in Vietnamese. ‘Thu’ means script and ‘Phap’ translates as rule therefore the meaning of Thu Phap or calligraphy is the rules of writing. Originally using just 43 Chinese characters, it has a long history throughout Vietnam however now tends to use a Roman based script. Traditionally, on special occasions such as Tet, people would go to the local village teacher who could practice calligraphy to create tgem a hanging often of poetry, folklore saying or single words.


THEATRICAL ARTS Historically, the first documented performance was during the Le Dynasty era (980-1009) however, although there was no documented evidence to show earlier performances may have taken place, it does not mean that they did not. Traditionally, is no use of stage props or scenery within Vietnamese theatre. There is only a simple mat on which the actors will perform with an audience on all four sides. During the 20th century and the times of the French colonisation, the French influenced Vietnamese theatre and it conformed closely to the concert styles that had been learned in Paris. They attempted to eliminate traditional Chinese songs and melodies leading to the development of ‘cai luong’ (renovated theatre). However in the 1920s, the Chinese influence returned to the new renovated theatre style and throughout the 1930s, the style strengthened further. WATER PUPPETRY Originating in the 12th century, water puppetry is a famous symbol of Vietnam. It is considered a visual art in the country and suffered a lack of popularity during the 20th century and it nearly died out however the Vietnamese people saved it by fighting to try and preserve the art as they wanted it to show off their culture. It is now primarily performed as a tourist attraction to show off the rich history and culture that Vietnam has to offer.

TRADITIONAL MUSIC The Vietnamese have a strong passion for music; they often use it to express their feelings, as encouragement for one another and to educate others of Vietnamese traditions. The principle behind all Vietnamese music is 4 main words; chan, phuong, hoa, la (true, straight, flowers and leaves). When they perform, the often start with a selection of greeting songs followed by a main song repertoire and then end with a farewell song. Many of their music performances are often pieces of dramatical art as many of their folk songs, locally known as Xoan songs, are stories within themselves. Some common instruments used within the music include dan tranh (16 string zither), a trong (drum), dan nguyet (similar to a banjo) and dan nhi (2 string fiddle). The main genres of music within Vietnam are still very traditional with folk songs being very popular and religious/ceremonial music also playing a big part in the country’s culture. However other genres can include modern, Western and traditional/modern hybrids of music.


LANGUAGE The official language of Vietnam originated in the North of the country and it is the native language to around 75 million people. Vietnamese speakers can be found throughout the world mostly in Eastern and Southern Asia but also in Western Europe, America and Australia. It is also officially recognised as a minority language within the Czech Republic. Deriving from the Mon-Khmer branch of languages, the language has been around for approximately 3000 years after communities in the northern Red River and Ma River Deltas came together and created a shared language, which was then known as Viet-Muong. In Vietnamese, each syllable has one of six tones which can completely alter the meaning of a word and it also has one, two or three of 11 distinct vowel sounds which makes it a very complicated language to learn. The language borrows about 60% of it’s words from the Chinese language and many Han words have been ‘Vietnamized’ to such an extent that many Chinese people are unaware of their Chinese origins. An example may include ‘Tien’ (money) or Mùa (season). Due to the French colonisation, there has also been a few French influences on certain words within the language.


FASHION Traditionally, Vietnamese fashion uses natural fibres such as hemp, silk or cotton as the materials are fine and light making them perfect for the tropical climate. Historically, royal regulations and the government dictated what colour your clothing would be for example, men only were allowed to wear brown, black, grey or whilst brighter colours were used for other classes of people. The most common costume for men was brown clothing with turbans or wooden shoes/sandals, women wore the ao dai and topped this off with the famous conical hat. However more recently, Western influences have changed fashions slightly and often women nowadays wear dresses and skirts whilst men wear shirts and trousers on a daily basis. Due to the large moped culture within Ho Chi Minh City, many local women will often wear loose trousers over or under their dresses to allow them to ride on mopeds and many locals also wear face masks to protect them from the high amounts of pollution they are exposed to on the streets. These contain a carbon filter to help clean the air that they are breathing in and as they have grown in popularity, they now come in various sizes and can be highly decorative too. PHOTO: Holly Turton


THE AO DAI The most traditional form of clothing in Vietnam is the Ao Dai, it is the national dress of the country. First seen in around 1744, it has been modernised over the years to fit the different fashions. Made of synthetic or silk fabrics, the dress is designed to keep the wearer cool against the Vietnamese climate and the choice of fabrics mean it is quick drying making it a practical outfit for everyday. Generally worn by women, it is not unusual to have the Ao Dai for men. It’s form is a free flowing tunic dress made of long wide trousers that lightly brush the floor and a gown that extends to around the knees with splits in either side to allow the wearer to move freely about. Often, the Ao Dai is tailored to the individual owner in order to make sure it is the perfect fit. The colour of the Ao Dai can tell you a lot about the wearer’s age and status. Younger girls would wear pure white and the tunic would fully cover their body in order to indicate their purity. Older, but unmarried girls would start to wear light, soft pastel shades however only married women can wear the ao dai in strong, rich colours and usually on top of black or white pants. Although rarely seen in places of manual work, the Ao Dai has become the most preferred form of dress for formal occasions.

THE NON LA The conical hat is one of the most famous symbols of Vietnam. Traditionally made from huge leaves stitched together using bamboo sticks with straps made of silk, they are worn across the country. Women particularly wear the hat nicknamed the ‘Poetical Leaf” as they believe it helps them to become more elegant and delicate and the hat gives shelter to their blushing cheeks in the same way as a flower would be protected from the sun, rain or rough wind. The Non La is not only used as a hat but can be used as a fan against the summer hear, a container for vegetables or even as a bowl to hold water when passing a well. People even say that young couples veil their kisses behind the traditional conical hat during dates. The shape of the hat has evolved over time and different people wore a different shape for example hats with broader rims were reserved for women whilst men wore hats with a higher cone. TOP LEFT PHOTO: TOP RIGHT PHOTO:







LOCATION Ho Chi Minh City can be found in the South East of Vietnam. Prior to the Vietnam war, the country was separated into North and South and Ho Chi Minh (then called Saigon) and was the capital of the South. The city sits 19m above sea level and covers an area of 2095km2 which is just 0.63% of the whole surface of Vietnam. To the South of the city is the South China Sea which has a coastline stretching 9 miles. The city is divided up into 19 districts which are then further split up into wards and our study area can be found in District 4 which is found in a triangular piece of land, bordering the Saigon River and District 2 to the northeast and District 1 to the north-west and then District 7 and the canal to the South. District 4 is split into 15 wards.

however Ho Chi Minh is a major terminal for many of the train routes that go through the country and the city has two major stations; Sóng Than and Sài Gòn whilst the Reunification Express links Hanoi in the North to Ho Chi Minh city. BY METRO There are plans under development for an extensive metro system called the Ho Chi Minh City Metro and the first line is currently under construction and expected to be completed by 2019. This first line will connect Ben Thành to Suoi Tiên Park in District 9, with a depot in Long Binh however there are also plans to connect District 1 later on to District 4 meaning the metro will create another link to our site.

GETTING THERE Ho Chi Minh city is a major city within Southeast Asia and therefore is well located and served by good transport links making getting to the city or specifically District 4, relatively easy. BY AIR The city has it’s own airport located in the central ‘Tan Binh’ district of the city named Tân Son Nhat International Airport. It is the largest airport in Vietnam, handling around 15.5 million passengers a year.

PRIVATE TRANSPORT The main way that people would get about within the city and get from District 1 to District 4 would be by use of car, motorbike or taxi. There are often motorbikes offering ‘hug taxi’ services where the passenger would sit on the back of the moped. Taxis within the city run off a meter and as of January 2016, a taxi from District 1 or Bin Tanh to the study area in District 4 would cost you around 35,000VND (approximately £1.16).

BY RAIL Rail transport is not fully developed yet in Vietnam and accounts for just 0.6% of passenger traffic within the country 45



CLIMATE Situated at the south of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh sits in a wet and dry tropical climate. With Vietnam being such a long and narrow country the climate is completely different throughout. When compared with cities in the north (like Hanoi) which enjoy cool temperatures of around 15oC, Ho Chi Minh’s average temperature, which rarely dips below 21oC and sees highs of 39oC is sweltering. In the south the year is divided up in to 2 seasons; rainy and dry which occur from May to November and December to April respectively. The rainy season features short but extremely heavy rain fall on a daily basis and is often referred to as the ‘monsoon season’. The bursts of rain clear up quickly which leads to higher humidity in this season. During the other half of the year which is the dry season the city sees barely any rain as the heat rises to averages of around 33oC. (Vietnam Online, n.d) During the heavy rain fall in the previously mentioned rainy season there is often flooding and due to its low height above sea level and its poor flood defence infrastructure, the city is ranked in the top 10 cities to be affected by climate change. Climate is crucial to our study as it has a heavy influence on the way we design buildings especially when compared to the climate we’re most used to designing for; the temperate weather in the UK. The climates impact on the architecture

in Vietnam is evident in the completely contrasting buildings to those we are used to seeing. Responding to intense heat and regular flooding are two major obstacles in the design process for our design projects in Vietnam.





The photo above was taken around 1920. Again, this photo was taken by the Mong Bridge except this time it was taken from District 4 looking towards District 1. At this point in time, District 1 wasn’t as commercial and high rise as it is now. A common factor in old photos of the Saigon River is that it is used to store boats, whereas today they are mainly found going down it as opposed to stopping there.

In comparison to today, the only remaining features are the Mong Bridge and the Banque de l’Indochine. All the remaining infrastructure has been built overtime and is mostly high rise, turning District 1 into what it has become today. The amount of greenery in District 1 has reduced as well, although there is some present, it has been mostly replaced by buildings.



Mong Bridge:Constructed in 1893-1894. Photo taken around 1902.


Mong Bridge: Photo taken from same angle in 2016


DEVELOPMENT OF HO CHI MINH CITY The name of the city has been through a number of alterations. It began as Pret Nokor, a small fishing village. In 1690’s the name was changed to Gia Djnh. The French changed it to Saigon in the 1860’s. And it ended with Ho Chi Minh in 1975, named after the late leader.

Ho Chi Minh City is positioned on the bank of the Saigon River and creates the means to educate and employ it’s inhabitants. It is amongst the fastest flourishing cities around the globe with a growing population currently being at just over 8 million. The first colonists, taking advantage of the free fertile soil, decided to settle in the South. Before Saigon was established in 1698 by the Nguyen Dynasty, it was nothing but a vacant province of Cambodia. French culture undeniably impacted the architecture of the Nguyen Dynasty. The two markets were constructed around that period, leading to a major expansion and progression of the area.

FIG 1: Map of Ho Chi Minh, 1799


FIG 2: Old aerial photograph showing District 4, (n. d)

To protect the land from a hostile takeover, the Dynasty started making plans for the assembly of the Citadel in 1790. Ironically, the structure was destroyed in a rebellion and a considerably smaller one built in its stead. The smaller citadel was demolished by the French to protect themselves from the Vietnamese invaders. The style was reminiscent that of the Vauban Style, favoured by the French Architect - Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban. Growing popularity of the Cho Lon (The Big Market) led to the construction of the bigger reinforced concrete structure by the Chinese merchant Quách Đàm(who named the market after himself) It was aimed to hold more traders and crowd and is presently known as Bình Tây Market. 55

FIG 2: Sketch of Ho Chi Minh, 1804


FIG 3: Dong Khoi Street during French rule

FIG 6: Area around Notre Dame before development.

FIG 7: Street in 1975

FIG 4: Cau Mong, 1975

FIG 5: Saigon River


In 1874, Saigon came to be the capital of the District One and Cho Lon when the French declared authority over the entirety of South Vietnam and named it French Cochin China. The area underwent major alterations, such as construction of the Port on the Saigon River in 1861. This made trading and operations between Europe and Vietnam significantly simpler. The development was supervised by Herbrard, a famed architect. Seeing the opportunity to improve Saigon he mainly concentrated on the framework, such as water way and railway systems. The architect further developed urban industrial zones by positioning manufacturing near the port and warehouse district. This optimised movements to and from the district, as well as cut the expense. Economic deficiency prevented Hebrard’s plans to be further carried out. The development was slowed down and the area only saw short term improvements.

FIG 6: Map of Ho Chi Minh, 1961 (Showing District 4)


FIG 7: District 4 as seen today from the Bitexco Tower

The lodging for the French was created by Hotel Cosmopolitan, built it 1863. The villas and a construction of the first major road which established a connection to the river followed shortly after. The town underwent more alterations with the introduction of the noteworthy constructions. Such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, Majestic Hotel, the Post Office and many others. The Mรณng bridge still existing today was built in 1893 by Levallois Perret. It connects District 1 and District 4. The town has been expanding rapidly and in 1931 Saigon and Cho Lon were unified under a new name Saigon-Cholon. During the WW2 period the France surrendered to the Nazi-Germany and the remainder of the French people were repelled by the Japanese Forces. When the war was lost in 1945, the Japanese Military abandoned Vietnam and it was taken over by the Viet Minh forces, hence gaining independence and shortening the name to Saigon. The American War left Saigon considerably ruined in 1975 and the name of the city was altered one final time to Ho Chi Minh City.

HOUSING DEVELOPMENT The layout consisted The original shop of three compartments houses included called ‘gian’ in a row, courtyard spaces each facing the street. at the centre of the building.

PRE 1800

The layout consisted of three compartments called ‘gian’ in a row, each facing the street.

POST 1800

MID 1800’S



The tubes houses that you see today are taller and longer, but they remain a slender footprint with a high occupational density.

Rural migration into the city and rapid urbanisation led to a shortage of housing. Makeshift dwellings were added to the rear of the buildings.

Because land was so scarce, they began filling in the courtyard spaces as well, reducing natural light and ventilation.

This typology was further built up with additional stories and even extended back further into the streets blocks. Most of these houses were rebuilt in the same manner that they were before, but with modern updates and variations, like flat roofs or French Colonial details.

SKETCHES Jonathan Pateman INFORMATION: Sourced from the Internet (Lam, 2011)

The makeshift additions became permanent extensions to the houses, elongating the buildings into ‘tubes’.


More recent developments in Vietnam’s food landscape come from other countries, mainly France and India. During the French colonization Vietnamese food traditions were also impacted, especially in the south. The French brought with them a lot of their food including; bread (which remains popular in the form of the banh), garlic, sauces and butter. One of the other main countries to have an influence over Vietnamese food culture is India. Their Due to Vietnam’s close proximity to water curries and spices were also adopted by it has, throughout history, developed the south of Vietnam through trading and a cuisine based around seafood. The are still a part of the cuisine to this date. seafood is regularly eaten with fish sauce The most popular dishes available in the and is Vietnam’s main source of protein. city are Pho (noodle soup), Banh (baguette One of the other main sources of food sandwich) and Com Tam (sticky rice) and comes from the fertile fields that surround can be found in most restaurants and the Mekong and Red River Deltas, these street vendors. provide the perfect conditions to grow rice, fruit and vegetables. The Vietnamese diet consists mainly of rice, noodles, seafood, fruit and vegetables. The main cooking methods include; steaming, simmering, braising, grilling, broiling, stir-frying and deepfrying. The foods and methods of cooking them are used due to their freshness and minimal handling and using them in a way which “showcases their natural goodness” (Wolf, R, n.d).

On the flip-side of this the country has very little grazing land which causes a lack of meats like beef making chicken and pork the most prominent meat sources. Usually meat is traded for copious amounts of rice and vegetables. PHOTO: Matthew Riches


PHOTOS: Ellie Callaghan






LOCATION Ho Chi Minh is divided in to 24 districts, each of which claim to have their own overriding function. Our study is based in district 4, a triangular island surrounded by rivers and canals, which are mainly used for housing. With the district’s close proximity and good connections to districts 1 and 7 and cheap land value, district 4 has become an area densely filled with cheap housing. Whilst the centre of the district is dense, the edges are more spread out. This is due to the rivers and canals around the edge of the district which provide space for ports which bring with them economic benefits and result in a more modern, high-rise and less dense building layout.


OVERVIEW District 4 is an inner city district separated from District 1 by the Ben Nghe canal. It is densely populated and overall a very residential area. The area has several different features and is changing everyday and is an area of Ho Chi Minh that is redeveloping rapidly. The area has a port that borders the Saigon river and here there is a small harbour zone where many older, historical warehouses are located. This area has a very westernised feel to it with a number of gyms and higher quality buildings. The river front here is sealed off from the rest of the district by harbour activity however


the harbour is currently being relocated towards the sea towards other harbours in the Hiep Phuoc and Nha Be district. Typically, District 4 is characterised by its bustling and very traditional Vietnamese street life. It is well known within the city and between residents for its large market and many road side restaurants which give the area a distinct atmosphere. The area is dominated by extremely small streets and high density buildings and these dominate the western side of the area. Along the canals and in the south western part of the district, there is evidence of slum developments.

Due to its central location within Ho Chi Minh city, the area suffers from very heavy traffic and at many parts of the day, traffic is predominant in many parts of the district and this therefore tends to have a negative effect on the genius loci of the place. Although the district is located along the Saigon River, the original water networks of small creeks and canals that would have once dominated this area are nowhere to be seen and they are hardly recognizable if they are anymore. Very little surface water actually remains in the district today.

HISTORY AND CULTURE District 4 didn’t really develop from rough land to what it is today until the start of the 1900s and developed mainly due to the port being located within the district meaning due to it’s proximity to the port side, our area Zone 4, was one of the first zones to develop within the district. The port was founded in 1860 under the French called Saigon Commercial Port. The French conquered the region during the previous year and many European style buildings appeared around Saigon Port. In 1975 after the end of the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese People’s Army took control of the port and although the city is now named Ho Chi Minh city, the port is still referred to as Saigon port.




This is an old photo of District 4 taken in 1946. The photo was taken from District 1 by the Mong Bridge. As you can see in the photo above, the Mong Bridge is still fairly underdeveloped. Its primarily used now as a footbridge. However in 1946, vehicles were allowed to go across it. Something else which is worth noticing is the number of boats that are sat on the Saigon River.

This photo was taken from the same angle but in present day. In comparison to the old photo, the amount of boats that are stored along the river has reduced due to the development of the Saigon Port in District 4. The most noticeable change in District 4 has to be the amount of infrastructure now found there. Back in 1946 there was a very small amount of high rise buildings where as now they are very common.











The boundaries originally set for us on the site were to stretch across the main roads, both north and east of the site. However, we decided the main roads and the barriers in between them acted as a divide and separated our site from the other side of the road. We therefore cut down the site on that side due to its disconnection from the community feel provoked by our area. On the other hand, we did extend the site slightly on the other side. We allowed our site to extend into the adjacent area,

especially the narrow alleyways that connected. The main streets of District 4. We felt it shared the same character as our site as a whole and possessed some interesting aspects that we felt were worth exploring. We also wanted to include the port in our site as we felt it was an important part of District 4. As it was some distance away from our area though, we decided not to go into much detail as we felt that should be dedicated to places in our assigned area more.





EDGES, PATHS & LANDMARKS The edges of the study area are determined by the traffic routes. The major path and edge of the study area is the main road Nguyen Tat Thành this is a double lane road connecting district 1 to district 4. Hoàng Dieu is another main route, the large amount of traffic on the road defines the boundary of the sites edges. There are two major landmarks within the study area, the unused water tower is situated on the corner of Nguyen Tat Thành and still acts as a meeting point for locals and visitors. The Saigon industrial tower is also a landmark within our site due to the contrast in architectural style and its status of hierarchy. The major node is the junction between the two main roads Nguyen Tat Thành and Hoàng Dieu. This junction sees a constant flow of uncontrolled traffic that intertwines during timed intervals. The path that connects the two roads Hem 15 Đoàn Nhu Hai and Hem 37 Đoàn Nhu Hoi together and is the heart of the community. This focal point is a node used by pedestrians and mopeds. The minor paths are also situated within this part of study area and is one of the main circulation routes. The edges of the study area are determined by the traffic routes. The major path and edge of the study area is the main road Nguyen Tat Thành this is a double lane road connecting district 1 to district 4. Hoàng Dieu is another main route, the large amount of traffic on the road defines the boundary of the sites edges. There are two major landmarks within the study area, the unused water tower is situated on the corner of Nguyen Tat Thành and still acts as a meeting point for locals and visitors. The Saigon industrial tower is also a landmark within our site due to the contrast in architectural style and its status of hierarchy. The major node is the junction between the two main roads Nguyen Tat Thành and Hoàng Dieu. This junction sees a constant flow of uncontrolled traffic that intertwines during timed intervals. The path that connects the two roads Hem 15 Đoàn Nhu Hai and Hem 37 Đoàn NhuHai together and is the heart of the community. This focal point is a node used by pedestrians and mopeds. The minor paths are also situated within this part of study area and is one of the main circulation routes.


SOLIDS & VOIDS The map (opposite) of our area shows how extremely dense it is (as is most of Vietnam). Another element common to Vietnam is the regular use of tube houses as we mentioned previously. This high density, when combined with the common use of mopeds, has resulted in narrow streets which get even tighter the further in to the heart of the block. It important that we look in to the massing and build-up of the area were studying. This allows us to make our buildings size, scale and massing be suitable for the location it sits in.

06AM This image shows the shadows cast in the area in the morning (6am). You can see that most of the streets are shaded at this time of day due to the scale of the buildings and narrowness of the streets.

12PM Now the map shows the shadows at midday. The wider streets in this image have been washed with sun now that the sun is at its highest point. The alleys which come off of the streets are still shaded and remain in the shade all day long.


As the sun sets in the west the shadows come back and cast over all the streets again. The pattern is fairy similar to what happened in the morning only the shadows cast over the area are lower as the shadows are coming from the residential buildings. 82




This section cuts through the residential part of our zone. It shows how low the buildings are in this area when compared with the ones in the distance (lighter colours). This section best shows the patterns of our area, as the buildings go further back (towards the port) they get taller. SECTION 01

The second section slices through the centre of our zone, which is the more mid-rise area. These buildings are mainly used for commercial purposes as well as residential purposes. SECTION 02

This section shows a cut through the corporate buildings. They are not only much taller but also considerably wider when compared with the residential buildings in section 01. SECTION 03 85


XÓM CHIEU MARKET The main shopping place for our study area. The market is not the tallest building but it is one of the most lively.

HO CHI MINH MUSEUM Stands out as a building which has lots of green space surrounding it. It is designed to be used by tourists and doesn’t quite fit in with the general build up of the area.




A large blue mass pokes through the skyline of out study area. The building is not a social place, but we felt it was a prominent building in the area.

Due to its height, the water tower becomes one of the key landmarks in the area. Lots of the locals will often use it as a meeting point.




HOANG DIEU This image shows the skyline along Hoang Dieu Street. You can vaguely see how to the right of the image the buildings are higher due to the ports influence on the area however it is hard too fully imagine due to perspective. Due to the planning laws of the past, which put a tax on how much street frontage you take up, the buildings are very tall and narrow. This has creates a strong rhythm along the street.




NYGUEN TAT THANH This image shows the more built-up elevation. You can see how at the centre of the elevation the buildings are considerably larger, both in height and footprint. The patterns along this road are much more fragmented to those on Hoang Dieu Street, the inclusion of high-rise building is more random and less patterned along this axis and the regular pattern of building width is no longer apparent.



In terms of building typologies, our assigned area has a vast array of architectural styles. This was one of the factors that immediately attracted us to the site in the first place. Our first impression of the site was that it was divided up into 3 areas. One half mainly consisted of corporate buildings, the other was small businesses that are run by the community. The rest of it was for residential use placed on top of the corporate, community buildings. I think the extreme variety in architectural styles present within our area can be most epitomised by the fact you have both high and low rise buildings within such a small space. The lack of consistency in building levels is extremely noticeable, especially when the faรงades and materials of each building are so different from the last. In one instance, you had a modern corporate building, next to it was a Buddhist temple and then wrapped around it was a concrete building primarily used as a garage.



GREENERY Greenery is a rather sparse element within the city of Ho Chi Minh, and District 4 more so. Within our specified zone of District 4 we found that there were continuous, deliberately planted slim, tall trees along the North West, North East and South West roads, which also act as the boundaries of our zone. This continuous planting design acts as a way to divide up the vehicular and pedestrianised zones, as these “zones� then merge within the access streets which connect the North and South main roads, with no distinct vehicular or pedestrianised space, therefore causing the greenery to become sporadic and inconsistent. Some residential properties within the zone, along the 2 access streets running through the block, had adopted small trees and planting pots for what we assume are put in place to both form of shading and also to give the users the sense of a more rural location.

PHOTO: Ellie Callaghan












These series of sketches show a walk around Zone 4 in District 4. The drawings are to show different elements of the Zone that we have studied, for example: the Style of buildings, the different types of buildings and also the people who live and work in the area.














In Vietnam, most masonry finishes like brick, marble and slate are thin veneers that have been adhered to the structural wall of the building. Despite the relatively inexpensive nature of these finishes it gives the building a sense of class and wealth. These appearingly luxurious finishes are mostly found on ground and eye level around the entrance to the commerical level of the building.



Different fabrics and textiles are used across the study area as their flexible and lightweight properties make them ideal to erect and fold away throughout the day as activities and routines change. The main material is a stretched PVC tarpaulin used in sunshade canopies and awnings to shade and shelter building openings, street vendors and the street seating/dining areas.



Concrete seems to be the material of choice among Vietnamese architects since it gives stability, versatility and lightness to the appearance to the buildings. Throughout the city, and indeed District 4, the skyline is dominated by concrete structures and is the material that is dominating current and future construction with continuous developments and experimentation to improve its manufacturing and technology attributes.



Metal is another frequently used material in our study area. It is typically seen and used in structural members, security and safety gates/railings and of course in the cladding. Its naturally weathered qualities of corroded and patina finishes allow it to fit into the characterful and continuously evolving urban environment of District 4.



As materials in Vietnamese culture have a significant stigma attached to them that dictate a certain level of class, wealth and social power- glass is mainly seen on governmental and corporate buildings, predominately banks. These buildings show their hierarchy and social status through the use of their large glass curtain wall frontages. These aren’t a good environmental consideration but this leads to using expensive mechanical ventilation and climatic adaptation instead of passive designs seen in less well off areas in the District.


PHOTO: Rooftop Landscape of Low- cost Corrugated Metal Roofing Panels. (Riches, 2016)

It is difficult to find traditional Vietnamese architecture in our study area due to its development after Districts 5 & 1 and the expansion of the port, meant District 4 is conceived from more contemporary Vietnamese architecture, construction and materiality such as concrete framed, brick infill and rendered or veneered finished tube houses. The street-scape tends to have a rather neutral colour palette with the main materials of light coloured concrete, grey metallic corrugated sheeting and the grey-scale tones of marble and slate, stone finishes. Even the rendered and painted faรงades are predominately neutral and pastel colours. The main colour is a sandy yellow that is influenced by the French Colonial architectural style. Similar to most other countries like the UK, the more vibrant colours tended to come from the corporate advertising and signage within the area. The materiality used seems to change from floor to floor, more so on the ground floor than the others. As the ground floor is used for trade purposes it is frequently refurbished and renovated. The second, third and continuing floor are generally residential, so normally is less appealing as more attention is focused on the ground commercial units, as it is this that is mostly seen by others passing by at eye level. As a result, more costly materials tend to be used at this level, especially around the trade entrance. This is to do with the cultural belief that many Vietnamese people hold, that materiality of buildings indicates the wealth and social power within. This may be an indication to why less sustainable and environmentally friendly materials, that are more traditional and vernacular to the area, are less apparent in our area, unless you visit the slum dwellings riverside to the Saigon River. The rooftop image captured above our area in District 4 demonstrates how less expensive materials and construction is adequate as long as neighbouring buildings or passer-bys cant see them. The rooftops are a different site to the more luxurious and polished surfaces found at street level. 109








PHOTOS: Locals were happy to pose for the camera Holly Turton


PHOTOS: Children playing self-made games in the streets. Holly Turton

STREET GAMES When in the area in the late afternoon in to the evening one of the prominent things was the amount of children in the streets. Once they returned home from school they take over the streets of our study area; eating, running, cycling, playing football and other more obscure games. This is a series of photos showing a small group of children playing a self-invented game involving a flip-flop, a bottle and a pattern drawn in chalk on the floor. The children are in a safe area here due to the openness of the street yet they are still in close proximity to several houses full of local parents and people of the tight knit community.


TRAFFIC There is a large contrast in traffic intensities within the study area. The primary roads surround the perimeter of the study area, the traffic is dynamic and high intensity. Nguyen Tat Thành is the main route that connects district 4 to district 1. The secondary roads account for the routes within the study area and the traffic is a lower intensity. The main corporate route of the study area has a small amount of vehicular traffic (cars) and mopeds. The street parallel has no cars passing through and only mopeds and pedestrians pass through. The road that connects the two together has less traffic again and is used as a crossing from one to another, the alley ways have even less vehicular traffic used as a route to houses or the orphanage. The map shows that the high intensity areas of traffic are indicated in red, and the lower intensities of traffic are indicated in orange. The main node is the large junction formed by Hoang Dieu and Nguyen Tat Thành which is the main traffic route from district 1. The water tower is the main landmark within the area and is located on Nguyen Tat Thành.


PHOTO: Matthew Riches



There is a heavy traffic circulation on the roads, which have been marked out as the boundaries of the zone we investigated, which are the roads North West, North East and South West surrounding the zone. There is also very little pedestrian circulation specifically on the North East road, as many motorcyclists use the pavement in times of heavy traffic as this is a convenient way of getting around. However, the pedestrian circulation increases on the roads North West & South West, which incidentally have less vehicular traffic, instead of using the busy and dangerous pavement to the North East, pedestrians would rather use the access roads that cut through our chosen zone. Moreover, there is also a lot of pedestrian circulation particularly on the North West road as builders working on the block opposite exploit the cafÊ’s on this side as it is close and convenient. Therefore the roads cutting through this zone are largely used for access, shared with both the pedestrians and vehicles, with the more vehicular designated zones to the outside of the block.

PHOTO: An image showing the busy traffic on the main road as seen from the quiet community streets. Matthew Riches


BUS ROUTES The bus system in Ho Chi Minh City covers most destinations within and nearby the city with 152 routes. Buses in Ho Chi Minh City can be realized by the white cover with a light green strip. The price for bus ticket fluctuates between 3,000 and 10,000 VND, depending on the distances and the type of bus. There are a few bus stations in Ho Chi Minh city centre like the Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station, Mien Dong Bus Station, Mien Tay Bus Station and the Cholon Bus Station. From these bus Stations you can get a bus to many of the tourist attractions in the area, as well as a route to the Airport. The two bus stops near Zone 4, are part of a looped route which takes people back and forth to District 1. Stopping at Ho Chi Minh city centre and the Benh Thanh market.


PHOTOS: A series of images showing the interior and exterior of busses in the context of Ho Chi Minh. Kayleigh Gorman



Throughout our area there is a diverse range of building uses. From small 2 storey houses with family run cafÊs to highrise corporate offices run by large-scale companies and everything in-between. The variety of building usage in our area is an interesting part of the character and atmosphere of the area. Towards the edges of our site the buildings seem to get more corporate in how they are used, especially towards the east (where the port is). When looking at the land-use of the buildings it feels necessary to link back to two key points which have an influence on this how people use the area; traffic and surroundings. The traffic is one of the key drivers in how the buildings function as the moped culture is a huge part of Ho Chi Minh’s landscape. Around our block lies three major roads; Hoang Dieu, Ngyuen That Thanh and Doan Nhu Hai. With this intense rate of traffic comes custom, this means businesses along these main roads are more likely to make more profit and hence the types of stalls and shops along these 3 roads are different to what you find on the inside of the block. The other major influence on how people use buildings is the close links with district 1 and the port. The economic benefits of the port seems to have filtered in to the area surrounding it along the eastern edge of our site. Buildings are taller, newer and used for more corporate means, similar to the buildings on the northern side which have filtered through from the booming economy seen in district 1. This difference in how the buildings are used and the contrasts in traffic levels creates a series of different atmospheres around out site.

FOOTPRINT ANALYSIS This graphic shows all of the buildings from our area re-arranged in to groups which are determined by how they are used. It shows trend in how much area the individual buildings take up and how many of each building there are. For example there are only 20 corporate buildings but their footprints take up more space than the 22 food and drink vendors and the 33 residential buildings.



PHOTO (above): Every inch of floor space is used for cycle storage. Matthew Riches PHOTO (right): Upstairs for living, downstairs for working. Matthew Riches


This page shows 2 sections through two contrasting types of buildings which we were allowed entry to during our time in the area. They show the basic build-up of the layouts of rooms, as we weren’t allowed to take any pictures of the interior of the houses we used sections to show the Corporate – Saigon Industrial Corporation (left) This image shows a section through a more corporate building. The scale of this building in terms of both height and footprint juxtaposes the norm for the area. The main difference between this buildings in terms

of use is that it every level is private or at of the culture of Vietnam in terms of how the building functions and interacts with a least semi-private. community. Residential – Planning Documents Company (below) This is a section of a house in our study area which a family allowed us to visit. It shows how on the lower level the building is used for commercial purposes whereas the upper levels are used more privately. When designing a building in this area it is important to consider to what extent the design relates to the community and the connection at street level is a crucial part

IMAGES: Sections drawn from memory of 2 contrasting memories we visited. Matthew Riches


PHOTO: A rarety in our area; the Buddhist Temple. Matthew Riches

CULTURAL BUILDINGS Our area seemed to act as a very functional area. Filled mainly with housing, food stalls, bike sheds and all the necessities for people of the area to be able to live. In our area the only cultural/community based building is the Buddhist temple. This is important in terms of future developments during the analysis. Does the area need more cultural buildings for the community? Or don’t people want this in the area, do they have amenities in the neighbouring parts of district 4?



Every thing so far in this chapter has been measured and factual, but when you combine all of the measurable things an atmosphere is created. In an attempt to define patterns in our area throughout the day we decided to turn our study area in to four ‘zones’ based on their overriding atmosphere. These zones were chosen by analysing the data we have found so far, but their boundaries were defined by how we felt on the site and where we felt the atmosphere shifted. CORPORATE ZONE To the east there is a corporate zone, defined by tall buildings and a low volume of traffic. Due to the design of the building the usage is disconnected from the street level which creates a quiet atmosphere at street level. COMMUNITY ZONE To the west of this zone lies the community zone which is named due to its friendly, inviting atmosphere. This is where the local business run; selling fresh food and drink for the residents. The people, whilst curious, are welcoming of visitors like ourselves. 132

PERIMETER Around the perimeter of our study area are the main roads, which create a completely different atmosphere as the rushing traffic has a huge impact on the landscape. The high traffic levels make the businesses on these edges hugely profitable due to advertisement and hence the types of owners are completely different to those on the inside. RESIDENTIAL ZONE The fourth and final zone is the residential zone which has a much more private atmosphere. This is for 2 main reasons; the narrow alley ways which create a daunting space and also the lack of commercial usage which give people who don’t live there no reason to go down there. For outsiders, like ourselves, the space was especially formidable as we caught defensive stares from the people who lived in these areas.



06:00 – Whilst the rest of our area is fairly lively, the corporate area remains baron of activity.

08:00 - Around this time people from all over Ho Chi Minh are arriving to work at the high-rise offices in this area, pedestrian and vehicular traffic pick up however it still isn’t particularly busy. PHOTO: Locals start to leave for work. Matthew Wall

10:00 – Like most of the day once the working day has started the corporate area becomes quiet again, only the odd car or moped that is either cutting through or making a delivery to one of the businesses. PHOTO: John became the entire population of the corporate zone’s quiet public space. Matthew Riches


12:00 – Pedestrian activity picks up during lunch time with the workers making their ways in and out of their offices to grab lunch. This isn’t a significant amount of traffic as people go over to the communal zone to eat their launch.

18:00 – By this time the barriers come out to close of the office blocks from their surroundings. This alters the atmosphere drastically as it makes a clear distinction between public and private, making the large businesses seem more in control than the locals.

20:00 – After 8pm not much changes until the next day, the area remains extremely quiet and is extremely formidable during the night. We found often drunk locals would sit here during the night and acted threatening to passers-by.


DAY DIARY: PERIMETER In terms of the traffic in our area, there is a constant flow of traffic constantly filling the streets. At all points in the working day, the traffic is always at a consistent level and it is always a difficult task crossing the roads. The two times it peaks are at rush hour. These typically being at around 9 o’clock and 5 o’clock. Down the narrow streets that go through our area, it is mostly mopeds and the occasional car that pass through. At the peak times, they pass through at around 10-11 a minute whereas at the more quieter times there are around 6-7 a minute. Most vehicles that enter our area are driving through to cut out the main roads and therefore save time whereas others are either parking up or entering their homes.

PHOTO: Traffic rushes past on Nyguen Tat Thanh, the main road through District 4. Matthew Riches




05:00/06:00 - Around this time the majority of locals are out, they are preparing food for breakfast, getting ready for work, school. IMAGE: People head to work whilst others prepare food for the day ahead. Matthew Wall

07:00 - Workers and children are out in the streets having their breakfasts from one of the local cafĂŠs. As workers start to turn up the amount of scooters arriving increases as there is a lot of cycle parking in this area. IMAGE: Locals line the sides of the streets; eating, chatting and getting ready fro the day. Matthew Wall


08:00 - Once most of the residents have left for work the streets become quieter and calmer but there is still lots of activity. People cooking, cleaning and socializing are the most common things you will see during this time. IMAGE: Two local men socialize between peak times. Holly Turton

12:00 - midday is one of the busiest times of the day for this zone. People come out of their offices and businesses for a bite to eat at the local food vendors and people are passing through here on their ways to the main market in the area. IMAGE: The blue shirt-wearing buisness people come down from the heights of their offices to eat at the local cafes. Matthew Riches

14:00 - Children start returning from school around this time, making the place much more lively (see activities for more info). IMAGE: Two children liven up the atmosphere of the community. Matthew Riches

16:00 – People have now returned from work, the atmosphere of the community is nearing its peak. Although most people are inside at this time the openness of the buildings are. IMAGE: Locals populating the street in the evening. Matthew Riches

18:00 - Local businesses including the food stalls are now shutting as people are home from work and have eaten. IMAGE: A man closing his stall. Matthew Riches

20:00 - By this time people are settled down, having a drink and socializing. Women sit in the streets chatting, men sit on the balconies drinking and playing card games. This continues in to the night and children stay inside watching television before going to bed. IMAGE: A woman sleeping outside her house in the evening. Matthew Riches


PEAK During meal times the street becomes

OFF PEAK After 5pm shops start to close

NIGHT TIME During the night time (8pm - 5am) the streets are quiet and daunting.


The residential area, with its tall and narrow alleys, creates a more private atmosphere. The shadows cast from the buildings make the area dark and the types of activity that happen down here make the place seem very eerie. The diary is a very basic one for the residential area as the activities which happen here are consistent throughout the day; cooking, cleaning, playing board games and watching television. The only thing which changes is the amount of people doing these things. In the morning (before people head to work) and at night whilst people socialize the area is busy as people are in and around their houses and people are out cooking meals whereas in the day time, during working hours, the streets are very quiet. It’s quiet, intimate and defensive atmosphere stem from a mixture of both the build environment and the people who inhabit this area. They aren’t used to seeing non-locals in this area. For us as a group this meant we didn’t feel like this was an area we could venture in to very often, and certainly not an area in which we could take photos as it felt very private.

IMAGES: Two images showing one of the entrances to the alleys throughout the day. Matthew Riches

IMAGE: Looking out of the alley shows the difference in atmosphere between the residential and community zones. Matthew Riches





1. CAST IN- SITU CONCRETE FRAME Concrete framed construction is widely used across Vietnam, where cheap materials and labour make it more economical than steel alternatives. This is The current and most typical form of construction seen in District 4, Ho Chi Minh City shown in the image captured in Figure 1. vare structures comprised of reinforced concrete with brick infill plastered finish walls. Due to the simplicity of the overall structure as well as the inexpensive nature of local 2. HOLLOW BRICK INFILL labour and materials, these buildings are rarely retrofitted, instead are completely deThe clay hollow brick are structurally stable molished to make way for new construction. due to the ‘cell-like’ structure that gives it strength. The grooves, or ribs found on the side of the bricks help mortar, plaster and stucco adhere to the surface. 3. STEEL REINFORCEMENT The tall and narrow statue of the typological Vietnamese ‘tube houses’ typically require structural reinforcement as a result of its tall thus load bearing form. Figure 2 shows where a building has been removed and set back in District 4, the steel reinforcement is left exposed on the neighbouring building, leaving an unsightly defect. 4.THINSET MORTAR The exterior finish, in this case, terracotta tiles are fixed to the mass concrete wall using a thinset process. This thin coat of dry- set mortar adhesive is applied using a trowel for an even but roughened adhesive texture to ensure a flat and stable bond. 5. EXTERNAL FINISH The most common finishes across our study area in District 4 was either an applied render (plaster/stucco) or some sort of tiled or veneered finish (Figure 3). This is a cheap yet effective way to have a more decadent finish. This type of finish is also applied internally in some cases to disguise the cast concrete or plastered over brick infill walls.


FIG 1: Concrete frame structure

FIG 2: Exposed steel reinforcement, Pateman

IMAGE: Gap between buildings showing the common construction methods, Jonathan Pateman

FIG 3: Tiled external finish


HARDWOOD TIMBER FRAME The preferred construction material in traditional Vietnamese architecture was locally and sustainably sourced timber. The choice of timber used, especially within the slum areas of District 4 depends mostly on local availability, price and suitability for the construction needed. The most frequently used timbers are acacia, eucalyptus, jack-fruit wood and ironwood. However, concrete frames are becoming much more popular due to their strength and durability, making the traditional construction methods less apparent to see in Ho Chi Minh, especially across District 4. CORRUGATED METAL PANELS Corrugated steel is probably the most iconic of all building materials used in squatter settlements. It is a versatile product as it is strong, watertight, easy to cut, and above all cheap. There are drawbacks however due to its thinness; it has zero insulation capacity, leaving the interior virtually fully exposed to the fierce tropical sun, and in the rainy season, steel roofs are extremely noisy. But, the emblematic value of corrugated steel in squatter settlements lies in the fact that it is indicative for the poorest ways of creating shelter yet offering relief. Its simplicity shown in Figure 1 is what makes the material so special. SELF- TAPPING SCREWS Cheap and reasonably accessible metal roofing screws are designed to penetrate the surface of the metal panels by drilling and tapping a hole in the wooden support structure which will hold the screw in place, fixing the metal panels to the structural frame. EPDM rubber washers below the roofing screw head seal the gaps between the screw head and the metal panel to prevent water leakage through the roof. A weathered example of this can be seen in Figure 3. SOFTWOOD TIMBER BATONS The cross supports are typically formed from either plywood panels or offcuts of wood/anything available at performing the same function. They tie together and provide adequate fixing surfaces to allow the screws to bond the metal panels to its structural frame. Most materials used in the construction of shanty houses are derived primarily from what’s currently available and whether it is cost effective or not. This is why most shanty houses, like those stilt houses in District 4 (Figure 2) are constructed from cheap and massproduced materials, not necessarily environmental or sustainable ones.


IMAGE: section detail through typical shanty house along Saigon River in District 4 (Pateman)

FIG 1: Shelter before aesthetics (Le, 2014)

FIG 2: Basic stilt house construction (Le, 2014)

IMAGE: Living on the edge. Water side community habitat in district 4, Ho Chi Minh (Le, 2014)

FIG 3: Image detail expressing materiality, Pateman


Understanding commonly used construction techniques used in our study area is important to know as it uncovered the: • Need to update and possibly experiment with new methods of construction that are more sustainable and locally sourced as good precedents to alternative construction methods. • Materials available along with the construction methods and technology, in order for a deeper understanding and knowledge into what are the most suitable construction techniques and materials to be utilised. • Relationship between the use of materials and their equivalent social status and beliefs linked to each. Typically, less locally available and sustainable materials are preferred as these materials dictates wealth and social power, an interesting and important part of Vietnamese culture.





PASSIVE LIGHTING Due to its geographical location, Vietnam has great access to abundant source of natural daylight. To take advantage of this, internal surfaces are generally covered in light reflective tones that allows daylight to enter deep into the building. It not only determines the quantity but also the quality of light provided by internal reflection. Vertical voids like skylights and open courtyards are an effective means to get daylight deep into the building from above, as there is a lack of light availability due to the back and sides being blocked by neighbouring buildings. The open plan permeable floor plan reduces the obstructions on light penetration, allowing it to reach further back into the buildings long footprint. These passive lighting considerations reduce the occupants reliance on artificial light and thus the amount of energy consumed.

IMAGE: Sketch of typical tube house with rooftop vertical void to let light penetrate the building (Pateman, 2016)


EVAPORATIVE COOLING Evaporative cooling is an energy efficient and passive alternative to mechanical cooling that provides effective natural cooling in somewhat dry climates, thus making the environment more comfortable to inhabit. An evaporative cooling system requires simply the addition of water or of moisture for cooling the living spaces. If a roof is sprayed with water, like the green rooftops that are watered, evaporation cools the roof surface, encouraging the dispersal of that internal heat into the atmosphere. Another natural means to evaporatively cool the buildings internal spaces is through plant evapotranspiration. As plants leaves lose moisture through their pores, the surrounding air around the leaf is cooled. Vegetation needs to be strategically planted in the path of cross breezes so that cooled and humidified air can be distributed throughout the building, evidential in the vegetative facade. Night purge cooling is an indirect heat loss process that exposes bodies of water or mass walls, acting as a cold storage, to absorb the heat accumulated by the interior spaces throughout the day and then releases that heat to the night sky. This climatic response and design consideration consequently provides natural cooling for the buildings occupants. (Vo, 2013).

IMAGE: Sketch of high thermal mass concrete modernist building in District 4 (Pateman, 2016)


Basic Horizontal Overhang

Canvas Canopy

Horizontal ‘Scrim’

SOLAR CONTROL Vietnam is exposed to plenty of solar radiation, which, if not handed carefully, can easily exacerbate the thermal stress on the buildings occupants. It is clear that practitioners in Vietnam and countries of similar climatic conditions design to eliminate unwanted solar heat gain, which would in turn reduce the overall energy consumption for space cooling. Solar control strategies known to us today such as radiation intercepting glass, sunshading devices provide the most efficient performance, while remaining competitively cost effective. Vertical fins, horizontal overhangs and egg crates are commonly seen sun- shading devices across District 4 and our study area. The solar control devices, in particularly the horizontal louvres are seen protecting the roof voids, controlling the exposure to solar heat gain whilst allowing much essential light to reach deep within the buildings volume.

IMAGE: Drawing of horizontal ‘scrim’ that shades the roof deck and glazing beyond (Pateman, 2016)


Perforated ‘Jali’ Vents

Operable Openings

Permeable Open Plan Interior Layout

NATURAL VENTILATION Natural ventilation, as traditionally employed in the vernacular, is an excellent alternative to reduce dependence on mechanical cooling, thus reducing the buildings overall energy consumption, to achieve thermal comfort and to maintain a desirable indoor environment. Single sided and cross ventilation is a dominant ventilation technique that occurs when the indoor and outdoor temperature differentials and wind movement are present, the simple act of opening operable windows and doors is sufficient enough cool interior spaces. These interior floor plans minimise partitions in order to enable air to move across the interior rooms from inlet and outlet openings. However, as compared to mechanical ventilation, it is impossible to guarantee consistent performance from natural ventilation due to the unpredictable nature of numerous driving forces. In addition, in the context of Vietnam, rapid urbanization rate propagates tightly clustered developments with increasing building heights, which negatively impact the percolation of wind through the urban area. This, in turn, exacerbates the gravity of urban heat island effect and ultimately exerts a more intense thermal stress on buildings occupants. IMAGE: Sketch of openings to encourage ventilation and controlled to the occupants preference (Pateman, 2016)


ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL Ho Chi Minh City is facing pollution issues. From the blanketing smog, where Vietnam ranks amongst the top ten countries with the worst air pollution as identified by the 2012 Environmental Performance Index, to the poisoning of its waterways as the city continues to develop and modernise. As with most problems there are people developing solutions to the issues being faced- some basic, some creative, but all with the intentions to build a greener future, not just for the city, but also the country. In the building and construction sector in particularly, certifications are being more commonly used as the future of Vietnamese architecture is green and passively design orientated. There is a push to use more locally sourced, sustainable and environmentally friendly resources developed with new technologies. There are two principal certifications that denote green design- LEED and LOTUS. Well- known Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nhia is supporting this as he is quoted explaining, “Green architecture helps people live harmoniously with nature and elevates human life by embracing the powers of the sun, wind and water into living space. If the current way of thinking does not change, sooner or later citizens will actually live in concrete jungles. For a modern architect, the most important mission is to bring green spaces back to the earth.�




STRENGTH 1. Heart of the Community 2. Communal Street 3. Connection to the port 4. Characteristic Vietnamese Tube Houses

The link between the commercial and corporate lines forms a ‘H’ section that our study group refers to as ‘the heart of the community’ and provides an accessible boundary between the two sides. On this road, locals socialise and provide small business to passing traffic in the form of cafés and little street food stalls. During peak times of the day, this street becomes overwhelmed with human activity which gives the study area a rich sense of belonging in a very close knit community.


1. Heart of the Community 2. Communal Street 3. Connection to the port 4. Characteristic Vietnamese Tube Houses

The link between the commercial and corporate lines forms a ‘H’ section that our study group refers to as ‘the heart of the community’ and provides an accessible boundary between the two sides. On this road, locals socialise and provide small business to passing traffic in the form of cafés and little street food stalls. During peak times of the day, this street becomes overwhelmed with human activity which gives the study area a rich sense of belonging in a very close knit community.


STRENGTH 1. Heart of the Community 2. Communal Street 3. Connection to the port 4. Characteristic Vietnamese Tube Houses

The port provides district 4 with a direct to trade from overseas and also serves as a docking area for larger tourist vessels. The surrounding water enables local fishermen plentiful room to catch produce. This feature that is located within a 2 minute walk from our study area provides a large scope of expansion and commerce as well as a number of important links to other surrounding districts and areas.


1. Heart of the Community 2. Communal Street 3. Connection to the port 4. Characteristic Vietnamese Tube Houses

Traditional style Vietnamese housing supplies a suitable living space that is affordable for most Vietnamese families on the upper floors of buildings and allows for a commercial ground floor, typically a family run business. Unlike the larger corporate buildings that use expensive environmental systems, traditional tube houses utilise natural ventilation and shading methods to counteract uncomfortable climatic conditions, keeping living costs down to a minimum value.


WEAKNESS 1. Disconnected & Unwelcoming Corporate frontage 2. Lack of ground floor ‘Green’ spaces 3. Scooter garage parking interupts the heart of the community 4. Poor Building Conditions

The corporate frontage of establishments such as financial businesses are a stark contrast to what exists in the area of study, mostly traditional style Vietnamese tube housing of tall narrow structures interlaced with each other seamlessly. As well as an unwelcoming site to locals that represents power and wealth, the large glass frontages encourage poor environmental factors in a heavily climatic orientated zone.


1. Disconnected & Unwelcoming Corporate frontage 2. Lack of ground floor ‘Green’ spaces 3. Scooter garage parking interupts the heart of the community 4. Poor Building Conditions

The heart of the community is a crucial cross link between the commercial, residential and corporate divide in the study area but is hindered by a large volume of traffic that passes through the zone and stationary bikes parked in the lower floors of homes.


WEAKNESS 1. Disconnected & Unwelcoming Corporate frontage 2. Lack of ground floor ‘Green’ spaces 3. Scooter garage parking interupts the heart of the community 4. Poor Building Conditions

The heart of the community is a crucial cross link between the commercial, residential and corporate divide in the study area but is hindered by a large volume of traffic that passes through the zone and stationary bikes parked in the lower floors of homes. This can create a dangerous environment for the local children who enjoy playing on the streets close to home. Although this is seen as a problem to most westerners, the influx of bike traffic throughout the day presents small business to local commerce.


1. Disconnected & Unwelcoming Corporate frontage 2. Lack of ground floor ‘Green’ spaces 3. Scooter garage parking interupts the heart of the community 4. Poor Building Conditions

The heart of the community is a crucial cross link between the commercial, residential and corporate divide in the study area but is hindered by a large volume of traffic that passes through the zone and stationary bikes parked in the lower floors of homes.


OPPORTUNITIES 1. Trade from passing traffic 2. Welcoming point into communal heart 3. Green space or alotment 4. Potential new landmark or iconic building

Our study area in District 4 is situated right on the perimeter of a highway that links District 1 and District 7 together. The volume that passes on a daily basis is enormous with many commuters stopping off at small food outlets and cafĂŠs before and after work. With such a busy road running parallel to our zone, it presents a great opportunity to take advantage of passing trade.


1. Trade from passing traffic 2. Welcoming point into communal heart 3. Green space or alotment 4. Potential new landmark or iconic building

The corner plot at the entry of line of life is currently occupied by a double story structure that looks and feels out of place. The opportunity to turn this section of our study into something that welcomes locals and tourists into the heart of the community could lift the area from what is currently covered by mostly private spaces into a location of interest with a diverse and multicultural background.


OPPORTUNITIES 1. Trade from passing traffic 2. Welcoming point into communal heart 3. Green space or alotment 4. Potential new landmark or iconic building

Ho Chi Minh is a densely packed city and our study area is no different from this, yet in reality the lower class zones tend to be overly crowded in what is almost an ‘urban forest’ than zones of wealth where open green spaces can be accommodated for. We found that the local community in our area would greatly benefit from such an open space in which to socialise and for children to play away from the dangers of traffic. Small allotments could also be built for local produce that would instil a sense of belonging in the area.


1. Trade from passing traffic 2. Welcoming point into communal heart 3. Green space or alotment 4. Potential new landmark or iconic building

Sitting adjacent to the road linking Districts 1 and 2 together is a plot that sits on the edge of our study area overlooking both the port and skyline iconic of District 1. We depicted that a statement building that would present itself as an icon would encourage passing trade to visit which in turn could bring revenue to the local families living in the immediate area.


THREATS 1. Expansion of future 2025 masterplan 2. Inland flooding (caused from plans and development in District 2 & 7) 3. Road used as a cut through during rush hour traffic 4. Unwelcoming passages

With future plans to develop District 4’s outer perimeter and dockside edge, the impact on local communities will be huge; removing houses and family run businesses, destroying the current stable infrastructure. With the addition of high-rise apartments comes the loss of local culture and landmarks such as that of the large water tower, visible from the neighbouring District 1. As a result of this, the identitiy of a considerable portion of District 4 wil be lost to development that is not considered overly beneficial.


1. Expansion of future 2025 masterplan 2. Inland flooding (caused from plans and development in District 2 & 7) 3. Road used as a cut through during rush hour traffic 4. Unwelcoming passages

Districts 2 and 7 are the outermost districts of Ho Chi Minh bordering the Saigon River that flow into the South China Sea and due to their low level positioning, act as a natural flood plain. With constant development taking place in these districts, which are now formally considered the westernised portion of the city, excess water has been forced to seek more porous ground conditions further inland rather than flowing into the river naturally through subsurface run off.


THREATS 1. Expansion of future 2025 masterplan 2. Inland flooding (caused from plans and development in District 2 & 7) 3. Road used as a cut through during rush hour traffic 4. Unwelcoming passages

Having pointed out in previous analysis, our area of study runs parallel with what is considered to be the busiest road in District 4, linking District 1 to District 7 which inevitably causes large traffic build up during rush hour times in the day. Due to this, a significant flow of traffic moves through the narrow communal street of the study area in avoidance of delays and travel time. This poses danger and creates disruption to the local community that live and work there and the children who play on the roads.


1. Expansion of future 2025 masterplan 2. Inland flooding (caused from plans and development in District 2 & 7) 3. Road used as a cut through during rush hour traffic 4. Unwelcoming passages

Our group study area in District 4 is an eclectic mix of busy, open roads that are bustling with human activity and dense passage ways that wind into the hidden extents of the local community. All of these nodes seamlessly merge into one vast network of public and private spaces that interpret either a welcoming or unwelcoming vibe. Whilst the conjunctions of dark passages seem to be part of everyday life for locals, they are somewhat intimidating to a foreign perspective.






WATER SAFETY MASTERPLAN Protection against flooding in district 4 cannot wait for the ring dike to be finished. Already today considerable damage occurs and with increasing investments for long term action is necessary. Flood protection can be increased on the short term by creating a medium sized dike around district 4. When the larger ring dike, including tidal gates, around the city is finished the smaller local dike will still have a function. By creating the small dikes, extra storage capacity is added to the canals along the district. RIVER FRONT MASTERPLAN The areas along the Saigon River in district 4 are developing rapidly. The harbours and warehouses are being relocated towards the sea making prime river front locations available. With the development of Thu Thiem on the opposite site of the river and the close vicinity of district 1, the district 4 river-front will become a key location for potential high-rise buildings; such as residential accommodation. The buildings constructed on the riverfront could be developed as partly lowrise and partly high-rise; a mix between modern, iconic buildings and restored old warehouses bringing charm to the area. By leaving spaces open between will act as a natural ventilation corridor and will be a cooling system for the remaining parts of the district. A new road and bridge is also proposed which would connect district 4 with district 1 and will serve as a new icon for the city. In 2025 many more vehicles will run through the city, and especially through district 4. It is proposed that an eightlane road will be integrated in the design

of the multifunctional dike to alleviate the adverse impacts of increasing vehicular traffic. This would leave space for car or motorbike parking on top. GREEN SPACES PLAN Urban redevelopment can be planned to increase water storage areas in the district. A district park will be created in the western part of the district. Remnants of old creeks will be upgraded for storage of excess water, which would possibly be re-used. Each neighbourhood will have its own park with the dual function of water storage during rainy days and a place to cool down during hot climatic periods. MARKET STREET MASTERPLAN Street life, markets and roadside restaurants are the urban amenities that will be preserved in district 4. These amenities attract residents and tourists to district 4. The market will be relocated to a new location to create space for dense urban redevelopment. The market street will be multi functional; beneath the street level, large rainwater storage areas will be constructed to help manage flood water as well as adding restaurants, cafĂŠs and possibly more housing. TRANSPORT MASTERPLAN In the future transport could be restricted from certain parts of the city as it urbanises and gets increasingly busier. A metro line will connect district 1, 4 and 7. Additional urban density will be created by high-rise office or residential buildings, which will act as new transportation corridors.


CHOOSING SITES MONETARY VALUE This map highlights the buildings we thought we felt were of little monetary value; mostly determined by the quality, age and appearance of the buildings.

COMMUNITY VALUE The second way we looked at our area was by assessing how much value the buildings have to the community. Most of the buildings highlighted on this map are cut off from the community. Many of them are the high-rise buildings with their fences shutting them off from the area.


OVERLAP This map shows the overlap between the two sets of maps, buildings where they both have poor monetary and community value. These sites were very obvious places to develop although there weren’t many potential sites, a new strategy was needed.

OUR SITES The end result seemed to come from choosing the worst of the two types of issues (monetary and communal values). We did this as if one of the values are missing you can provide added value in both of these respects. By chosing what we felt were the worst quality sites we felt you could add more value to the area.








SITE 03 187



SITE ATTRIBUTES - Sits along the main route connecing districts 1,4 and 7. This resukts in both loud noises and also a lot of exposure to passers by. - Unobstructed views over the edge of district 4 in to district 1. - Has potential for a landmark building which could be seen from dictrict 1 and whilst traveling through. - Site is dissconnected from the community in our study area. - Sits on a corer site, faces on to 2 different roads.

IMAGE: Photo montage showing the location of our site. Matthew Riches




EDUCATION CENTRE One of the potential projects we thought would work well on this site is an education centre, which would take the form of a high-rise building. Run by a big business for the locals too use it could bridge the gap between the contrasting corporate and local people in the area. The education centre could teach many different things, our main thoughts were; crafts, technology and food lessons.

IMAGE: Photo montage showing our proposal for a education centre. Matthew Riches



SITE ATTRIBUTES - Site 2 is positioned to the heart of the study area and is well connected within the community. - Currently used as parking, the development may result in a loss of business. -This site links the corporate and community zone. For Site 2 we discussed building ideas like; a food market, residential, and green space (similar to our other proposals). IMAGE: Photo montage showing the location of our site. Matthew Riches




SITE ATTRIBUTES: - Sits on the boundary of the corporate and community zone. - Low traffic levels on surrounding road. - Surrounded by highrise offices and hotels on either side and 45 story buildings line the rear of the site.

IMAGE: Photo montage showing the location of our site. Matthew Riches




COMMUNITY CENTRE We felt that this place, situated in the heart of the community was highly suitable fro a community centre. We felt the area really needs something for the community. We are unsure at this point what the exact function of this building would be however we feel the function should be centred around the community.

IMAGE: Photo montage showing our proposal for a community centre. Matthew Riches




SITE ATTRIBUTES - The Buddhist temple site at the edge of the site, this could be opened up or improved. - The site goes right through the block linking the corporate atmosphere with the community atmosphere. - Sits around some oddly places buildings in the glass tower to the left of the temple and the white concrete structure which are not fitting with the community of this area. - The Street that the large site is located on has a variety of architectural styles, which could be influential or opposed. - The site is located on a busy communal street; the chosen typology of the site will have an effect on the people and street life of the community. IMAGE: Photo montage showing the location of our site. Matthew Riches





IMAGE: Photo montage showing our proposal for an allotment space. Matthew Riches




IMAGE: Photo montage showing our proposal for a mixed use public space. Matthew Riches




SITE ATTRIBUTES - Surrounded by large buildings of around 4-5 stories. - Sits near the end of the road and is one of the first sites you see on the street. - Traffic in this area is moderate but quiet during working hours of the day.

IMAGE: Photo montage showing the location of our site. Matthew Riches




HOUSING We felt it would be a good idea to add extra value to the existing buildings by adding houses to the top of the existing garages, providing more space in the already dense city. We felt these precedents were suitable as they add even more colour to the area but in a more contemporary and sensitive way.

IMAGE: Photo montage showing our proposal for housing. Matthew Riches




COMMUNITY GARDENS This sketch photo montage overlay of the Austrian pavilion designed for the Milan 2015 expo is an airy and elevated structure that provides shelter and shaded public space which is lacking in the area. Its reasonably quiet surroundings compared to other parts of the city make it perfect for an open plan marketplace or community space. This could become the new heart of the community that is safer than the cut through area (Site 02). The modular structure matches the geometric blocked nature of the surrounding context. Based on the idea of communally grown produce, the vegetative potted faรงade aims to bring together the community in a permeable structure that invites all in, potentially bringing together the seemingly divisional relationship between the corporate and residential communities.




JOHN FOLEY Prior to this vacation I would have classed myself as a fairly cultured traveller, apart from seeing most of Europe I have also been to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In terms of a cultural challenge however, it wasn’t too hard to acclimatise as nothing was too drastically dissimilar to what I was already used to. In terms of Ho Chi Minh, almost every aspect of the place took some time to get accustomed to. The obvious ones being the chaos on the roads or the heat. Handling the roads became a skill in which we developed over the time being there as for the heat, that did limit our ability to work. The main things I noticed about our zone within District 4 was that the orphanage, which is considered to be an important part of the community within our area, was tucked away down a small alleyway. Considering it is for such a significant building, I presumed it would require more space than it had been given. Something else I noticed more and more as time went on was the children. Typically the children in our area, lived in extremely close proximity. Presumably so the parents could keep an eye on them while they played. The nature of the games they played as well was something I noticed. Usually they would kick a shuttlecock to each other or run around, mainly in the streets where it was extremely dangerous due to the high volume of mopeds and cars driving through the area. When we went back at night, I discovered the same activities happening then. As the businesses had all shut down for the night, the children would come to play in the streets and make the most of the empty spaces while they were in that state. Although we had heard the streets in District 4 were unsafe at night, this really 212

fascinated me as to why the children were still allowed to play out, even though their houses were close by. In terms of the experience I had during my time at Ho Chi Minh, I would definitely say it has been one of my favourite times away. Everything from the landmarks, to the food, it is a time I have certainly valued highly and now I’m back, I greatly miss.


MATTHEW RICHES Before setting off to Ho Chi Minh I had been told a lot about the place and its culture and I feel now, as I reflect on what was an amazing trip, that the whole place was everything I’d expected it to be only the intensity of everything has been amplified. The smells, the heat, the traffic, the noise, the density, the scale and the contrasts were all so extreme when compared to the UK. It was, for me, completely overwhelming yet totally exciting. I think if there was one element to this exhilarating city that I would want to take back home with me it would have to be the food. Not only did the local cuisine taste amazing but there was a huge amount of pride taken in their food culture. Street food was cooked on nearly every street corner for everyone to see. Using fresh, vibrant and healthy ingredients and it felt like a performance when they made the meals in front of you, something I’m sad isn’t as common in England. Meal time in Ho Chi Minh seemed like one of the main social parts of the day, a time when people from all backgrounds would meet up to chat, eat and be happy. This type of lifestyle really resonated with me and it all felt very natural. Oh, and the Vietnamese coffee isn’t too bad either! The whole field trip has been a mind blowing, eye opening experience and one which I am hugely privileged to have been a part of. It has made me take a step back to look at the way we go about doing things in the UK really look at our culture from a new perspective.



ELLIE CALLAGHAN My initial thought of Ho Chi Minh City was about the traffic and road system, as there was little time given for pedestrians to cross roads, and pavements were shared with moped users in times of heavy traffic; therefore it was a huge shock for a person coming from such a built up country with a very thorough infrastructure, to one of the busiest “developing” city’s in the world. After spending three weeks in Ho Chi Minh, I was in awe of how happy and grateful the Vietnamese citizens were, as some were very much stricken by poverty and had very little materialistic possessions. It made me realise just how lucky we are in the Westernised world, as we have many things we take as a given and don’t give it a second thought, but yet some people have barely anything and are so grateful for what little they have. This really reinforced how greedy the Western civilisations are, and how we don’t need more, but in fact need to look to these people to learn how to be fortunate for what we already have. I have chosen this as my favourite photo because this was the best day we spent within Vietnam; visiting the Mekong Delta. It was very peaceful and serene, escaping from the hustle and bustle of the city for just a while. This is certainly a memory I will never forget, and I feel very grateful for having the opportunity to visit this fantastic place.




KAYLEIGH GORMAN On the Vietnam Field Trip, there were many highlights that made the trip very special. Not only was it a new and exciting place to visit, I was with my best friends; learning and experiencing Vietnam with them. Although we did have an agenda to do an Urban Study exercise, it was still balanced and we had many days to ourselves to do fun activities. These activities included things like; going to the Mekong Delta, visiting the Water-park, walking around the City zoo, as well as visiting historical buildings like the Jada Palace and the Independent Palace. Vietnam is a totally different place when comparing it to the UK and this field trip definitely opened my eyes when it came to looking at different people and different cultures. Many people in Vietnam own their own business as well as live in the same building; they also drive around on motorbikes and care little for money and glamour. Although they have crazy and busy roads, their life styles are very laid back and slower paced than the UK. Being in Vietnam for three weeks gave me the time to observe and watch people there and I think this will help me greatly when it comes to the design process of this project. This field trip has given me a quick taste of Asia and I feel that I now have a desire to explore more places like Vietnam.


HOLLY TURTON If I could describe my first impressions of Vietnam in one word, it would be ‘mental’. Everything was so different to anything I had experienced before and it was overwhelming at first. The city just seemed to constantly move and nothing really seemed organised or had any kind of plan whatsoever. The traffic took some getting used to, as did the heat however after about a week of settling in, it became normal and I really started to love it and realise that although there wasn’t necessarily organisation there, the city worked and really felt cohesive. The one thing that really struck me in Ho Chi Minh was the attitudes of the people in the city. Firstly, their working attitudes were something to aspire to, I was amazed how you would see people getting up to go to work at 4am in the morning and I would pop to the shop at 1am some mornings and people would still be working. Also, everyone just seemed so kind and happy to help, if you smiled at them then they would smile back and this is sadly something I think sometimes the UK tends to lack. The children and their attitudes and way of life really made me question life back at home, they seemed so happy just to play in the road with a bit of chalk and some old cans and there was not a phone or iPad in sight, it struck me just how humble and content with life that the Vietnamese were and this was really nice to see. It was also nice to see generations of families staying and working together, again this is a concept that has tended to be lost over the years in Britain and it was a really nice way of life. 220

One problem I did notice in Vietnam was the attitudes towards women and the difference in education and lifestyles between men and women. I think Vietnam is still developing as a country however and as these developmental changes occur, then I think women’s rights will improve. Overall, I think going to Vietnam has been one of the best experiences of my life and it has really opened my eyes to the wider world and made me question cultures more thoroughly. I loved the way how in Ho Chi Minh, nothing was hidden, everything happened out on the streets for all to see and although some parts of this i.e the killing of animals for food preparation, it was also refreshing in a way that the people were so open.




Every venture out onto the streets of Ho Chi Minh City was an overloading sensory experience that, at first, was rather overwhelming as the seemingly chaotic environment formed by a composition of irregular architectural streetscapes, fused together by tangled webs of cables with unruly motorised traffic passing from all directions was pure anarchy to say the very least. However, as each day passed, experience, respect and understanding grew for my surroundings and what had initially appeared hectic and frantic, slowly turned out to be just an alternative approach to living that an unaccustomed bystander could simply misinterpret as not being the organized chaos it is in reality. Without this characterful organized chaos, the city would lose its identity that makes it unique and special. For me, it is this controlled mess of imperfections that captures the spirit of Saigon, as well as the hearts of those who visit.



JADE REED WILLIAMS Visiting Vietnam was an amazing experience, although settling into big city life proved difficult. The heat, pollution and sheer volume of traffic was a complete shock to the system. But once we had formed a strategy for crossing the roads and followed the locals regime by avoiding exposure to the sun during the hottest period of the day, we minimised the length of time we would stand road side waiting to cross and the intensity of the heat became much more bearable. The people of Vietnam are friendly yet gratified, we were always made to feel welcome wherever we went. Poverty is an issue within the city but I found it moving to see such happiness from people who had so little, and how thankful they were all that they had. I enjoyed viewing the vast city from the sky deck of the Bitexco Tower, the views were breathtaking as the sun began to set. I was rather content in the unfamiliar silence, as the city that never seems to sleep persisted below. I would like to one day go back to Vietnam, and have the opportunity to explore the incredibly interesting country. In particular I would like to take a boat trip along Ha Long Bay, walk along the Sand Dunes of Mui Ne and visit the rice terraces of Sa Pa. 224




Ho Chi Minh City is a vibrant and cultural city where one may struggle to find a lack of uniqueness and pride within such an idiosyncratic region of Asia. You would be hard pressed to miss out on the influential characteristics it has to offer and as a Westerner, was not failed to be impressed by its individual qualities. An intriguing factor that was blatantly instant to recognition was the eclectic mix of polar opposites in the city. Traditional Vietnamese housing and low rise businesses sat at the forefront of view with a multitude of empowering glass commercial structures sitting just behind in the background. One of the most recognisable features of the city was the management of telephone wires suspended on telegraph poles that in some vivid stretch of the imagination mimicked the hectic roads and small passage ways and interstices that run between them. All of this became less obvious as time passed by and eventually developed into a natural responsiveness to the natural environment. Although the intriguing insight into the way the Vietnamese people lived their lives continues to inspire those fortunate enough to make a visit. In what seems complete chaos and impracticality to us is a finely balanced way of life to the local communities that above all else, provide an environment that thrives.




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Ho Chi Minh - Urban Study  

An in-depth analysis and insight of the culture, context and built environment of District 4, Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Minh - Urban Study  

An in-depth analysis and insight of the culture, context and built environment of District 4, Ho Chi Minh.