Tall Towers: Saigon’s Race to the Clouds

Real Estate - Saigon/HCMC: May 21, 2018

Saigon’s skyline is defined by a few standout tall towers concentrated in District 1. Peering over Ho Tung Mau street is the city’s third tallest tower, the 40-storey Saigon Times Square. Nearby at the half-moon of road around the Tran Hung Dao warrior statue is the Vietcombank Tower Saigon, the second tallest tower in the city and the seventh tallest tower in the nation.

At 258 metres, Bitexco Financial Tower comes in first. It is about 100 metres taller than third place and about 50 metres taller than Vietcombank Tower Saigon.

Though, all that may soon change.

Even accounting for all the planned towers in Ho Chi Minh City, Bitexco Financial Tower will still remain among the tallest structures in the city, but the incoming Ben Thanh Towers at 235 metres and the 195 metre-high Saigon One Tower are formidable competitors. The city’s iconic lotus-shaped tower will eventually be dethroned for tallest tower by the 461-metre Landmark 81.

Not only will it be the tallest tower in Vietnam, but the tallest in Asia by a petty amount: the development that currently holds that title is Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas Towers, which will be a mere 20 centimetres shorter than Landmark 81.

But when will these towers be finished? What exactly will the skyline look like when it’s done?

Let’s dive deep into Saigon’s towers and gaze into the future.

Ben Thanh Twin Towers

The Ben Thanh Twin Towers project—not to be confused with the Ben Thanh Tower Condo, which has the Air 360 Sky Lounge at the top—will one day be two daring spires designed like a pair of postmodern sculptures overlooking the roundabout in front of Ben Thanh Market.

For now, however, it’s a walled off plot of half-laid foundation and dirt.

Bitexco Group began the Ben Thanh Twin Towers in 2012. They were planned as a 55-storey mixed-use development: the majority of the space would be dedicated to condominiums, but the tower would also be the home of office and retail space.

towersImage source: images.millenin.com

Total investment at the time was about $400 million. The project was expected to be completed in 2015.

The conceptual design seems a little haphazard, but the building’s planners have actually designed it with intentional symbolism.

The project’s two towers symbolise the popular Vietnamese symbol of two dragons. This well-known iconography depicts a pair of entwined dragons circling towards a sun. It’s a common image at pagodas and other prominent cultural locations, like the Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural. The dragon is frequently associated with flight, ascendance and progress.

Similarly, important Vietnamese sites like Ha Long Bay have incorporated the word dragon into their names (the Vietnamese word long means “Dragon” in English).

A popular Vietnamese saying: Rồng gặp mây translates to “Dragon meets the clouds,” meaning something is in a favourable condition.

The project’s two towers will reach 235 metres and 225 metres—touching the clouds, indeed.

When Will It Be Finished?

The project is now expected to be completed in 2020, according to Bitexco Group’s website.

A Bitexco group representative confirmed the new timetable for #iAMHCMC in a phone interview, but wouldn’t go into more details on why the project has been delayed for as long as it has. They noted that builders have nearly finished the basement portion of the Ben Thanh Towers.

Empire City

Also arriving in 2020 is the Empire City project. This 14.5-hectare city-within-a-city development features a shopping mall, an office campus and a 5-Star hotel. The crown jewel of the development is an 88-storey building that will lord over the new development named Empire 88.

towersImage source: lonelyplanetwpnews.imgix.net

For now, the building’s planned height will make it taller than the in-progress skyscraper that’s also vying for the title of tallest tower, Landmark 81. However, the Empire 88 will top out at 333 metres, significantly less than the 461-metre Landmark 81.

It’s not only height that defines this tower, but also a groundbreaking design that brings green elements into the project. And we’re not talking about solar panels or sustainable materials.

The name “Sky Forest” comes from the buildings’ use of actual trees and plants about two-thirds of the way up the Empire 88 building. At this height, the building will have five square-ish platform shaped floors jutting out of the building that will be covered with living plants and trees.

Dubbed the “Sky Forest” by the architecture firm leading the design Büro Ole Scheeren, the international architecture firm unveiled the proposed design last November.

towersImage source: cdn.wallpaper.com

Concept drawings show the Empire 88 tower along with a group of three towers arranged around the terraced public space rich with plants and trees. The architects said they wanted to capture the feel of Sapa’s iconic, terraced rice paddies. The architects have planned a multi-tier, stacked park with graduated platforms. Viewed from above, the space might mirror something like a fingerprint with the platforms’ edges creating continuous lines that wind through the three Empire City towers.

When will it be finished?

The Keppel Land-led project expects to open its first residential properties in the second quarter of 2020.

The 88-storey tower should not be too far behind.

Keppel Land reports that 680 units within the Empire City project have already been sold to prospective residents.

Landmark 81

The Landmark 81 tower had been scheduled to “top out”—the phrase used in skyscraper construction where the highest element has been constructed—in May. But builder Coteccons hit that landmark 45 days ahead of schedule by giving Ho Chi Minh City an architectural asset now taller than the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. With the 61-metre spire at the top of the building, Landmark 81 stands at 461 metres, about 10 metres taller than the Malaysian towers.

The 81-storey tower is the centrepiece of the Vinhomes Central Park project in Binh Thanh District.

While it remains under construction, developers have been quick to point out that this will not only be the tallest building in Vietnam but the 23rd tallest in the world.

towersImage source: en.vinhomestancang.co

The Vingroup-owned, US$1.5-billion tower is being built with a cinema, indoor skating rink, gym and clubhouse for residents, including a pool, gym, spa and outdoor lounge. Residents will be able to choose from apartments with up to four bedrooms.

The architectural design appears like a cluster of bars consolidated around a tall steeple. The result is a building of staggered heights facing towards the Saigon River. On their website, Atkins, the British architecture firm who designed the project calls it “modern and unusual,” a symbol of the rapid ascendance of Ho Chi Minh City. Retail developments will be the base of the building.

towersImage source: ccr.vn

Even before the building is completed, the development had already amassed awards. Landmark 81 garnered the “best residential high-rise development Asia Pacific” at the Asian Pacific Property Awards 2016. “Atkins is proud to be involved in this award-winning project for Vingroup, as it represents a new benchmark in high-quality, sustainable, high-density, vertical living. This building type will be particularly important as Asia moves forward,” said in remarks reported in a press release created concurrently with the award.

Video source: DC Film

When will it be finished?

The project appears to be on track to finish construction by this year. When completed, it will be only one metre shorter than the Lakhta Center in St. Petersburg, Russia, the 22nd tallest tower in the world. It will be less than 10 metres taller than the 24th placeholder, the Changsha IFS Tower T1 in Changsha, China.

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