Hundreds of scooters weave their way through the new high rise commercial district
Antonio has just returned from a break in South East Asia and like all Planners on a visit to new city, place, or in this case a far –flung country, they have an instinct to observe what’s built around them. Antonio tells us about Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam….
Ho Chi Minh City, commonly known as Saigon, is a city in southern Vietnam famous for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War. Walking around the chaotic city was fascinating being a town planner; despite being a typical bustling city of South East Asia, there is an abundance of French colonial architecture, including Notre-Dame Basilica, made entirely of materials imported from France, and the neoclassical Saigon Central Post Office.
Held back by a half-century of war and poverty, you can really feel that the city is charging forward with gigantic plans for urban expansion and development. With plans for a new port and a new airport, for bridges, highways and an underground system and for an urban makeover of high-rise buildings, the city has clearly embarked on an ambitious program of urban renewal.
I learned there are 400,000 cars on the roads on a typical day, along with three million small motorbikes/scooters. 92% of travel in the city is done by personal vehicle (mainly motorbikes which carry 3 or 4 people!) This has terrible consequences for air pollution and you often see pedestrians wearing pollution masks (I did!). The government would like to change this pattern and has embarked on building an underground to facilitate amore sustainable mode of transportation.
The ghosts of the past live on in buildings that one generation ago witnessed a city in turmoil, but now the real beauty of the former Saigon’s urban collage is the seamless blending of these two worlds into one exciting mass. However, urban regeneration hasn’t yet reached all parts of the city; many still live in overcrowded conditions and poor quality housing.
Luckily the evolving urban form is constrained to the city of Ho Chi Minh itself…an hour’s drive south takes you to the Mekong Delta, a vast maze of rivers, swamps and islands, home to floating markets, pagodas and villages surrounded by rice paddies. The urban sprawl seems a long way away (but I suspect that some form of Green Belt policy like we have in this Country will be needed sometime to keep it this way! ) Talking about the NPPF, back to working on the removal of a condition on a house in the Green Belt.