VietropolisSaigon‘s transformation into a mega city
Once a French colonial town and known as the pearl of Southeast Asia, now the biggest city in Vietnam and the country’s financial center, Saigon (a.k.a. Ho Chi Minh City) is transforming itself into a mega city – and it is growing fast. Within the last couple of years the population is estimated to have risen beyond 10 million. The old cityscape has already been altered by a number of skyscrapers, but what else is to be expected when a metropolis is changing so fast and so profoundly? In 2010, I visited Saigon for the first time. Small stores and street kitchens lined the streets, emitting smoke and steam and the scents of exotic food. Yet even back then, high-rise buildings were cropping up along the main roads, indicating the impact that lay ahead for the city in the years to come. Since then, I have been visiting Saigon to document its transformation. The change is not only happening in terms of architecture, but also regarding society and culture: capitalism seems to have taken root after all.
The people’s traditional way of life, worshipping the bonds of family, is being replaced by individual aspirations for wealth and consumption. Everywhere, street kitchens are being torn down in order to erect modern high-rises, where banks and companies are doing their business and where a growing middle class can satisfy their shopping needs. Saigon is densifiying. At the same time, many inhabitants have been forced to move to the city’s outskirts, where real estate prices are lower. New neighborhoods are growing rapidly and organically, often only loosely regulated by the city authorities. Increasing traffic demands fast solutions, often at the cost of tearing down old structures. Where does the city end? Where does it begin?
Will Saigon, through the process of its further development, be able to preserve its character?