Saigon’s Ready-made Neighbourhoods
The Changing Face of Community
The bulldozers and cranes have retired for the evening but their hulking forms remain stationed in front of residential developments all over Saigon. They’ve become a permanent part of the city landscape, as the projects they cater to climb ever upwards into the skyline. The urban population in Vietnam has multiplied and so has the need for housing, prompting a wave of condo developments to be erected all over the city. But as older buildings are demolished, the communities surrounding them are often dispersed as well. How are ideas about neighbourhoods being restructured to conform to this progress?
Image source: reatimes.vn
Shifting Times, Tastes
In the past, communities were made up of social networks centred around resources, such as land for agriculture or water for the fishing industry. As Tom Vanderbilt explained in an article for Wilson Quarterly, “In late medieval Marseille [...] quarters—in essence, neighborhoods — were important sites of social identity, oriented largely toward one’s profession”. Traditionally, HCMC has organised itself in a similar way. There are streets filled with one type of product or artisan—spice streets, woodworking streets and small hems populated with merchants selling only lightbulbs are the norm, at least for now.
In other parts of the city, the modern day neighbourhoods have become more fluid. They are often made up of a number of different services, like markets or street eateries, combined with the residents and merchants themselves. The community identity is created almost by accident by the haphazard elements that populate the defined area.
In recent neighbourhood developments in Ho Chi Minh City little is left to such chance.
Contemporary complexes have become self-contained communities—not only places to live, but spaces with schools, hospitals, shops, gardens, and community areas where residents can congregate, celebrate and connect. They’re ready-made neighbourhoods, so to speak.
Each aspect of the community is a thought out part of the development. The new residences are a love song to steel and glass—modern skyscrapers that are built higher and higher in hopes of selling better views to their potential occupants who are spoiled for choice in today’s market. According to Duong Lanh’s case study “Housing Development in Ho Chi Minh City”, there are currently 1,007,021 new housing units in the city, and real estate trend tracker Mansion Global writes that “We’ll have 5,000 more luxury units coming online by 2020.” An abundance of competition makes it necessary for real estate developers to rethink what potential residents want in order to remain relevant. A current trend for luxury developments is to create a more centralised community setting.
Vinhomes Central Park, a residential complex finished in 2016, boasts on its website that it is “modeled after a small city”. Within the walls of the compound, there is a VinSchool, a Vinmec hospital branch with “over 600 examination rooms”, a massive park and a Vincom commercial and activity centre.
One Vinhomes Central Park resident who requested to remain anonymous explained her experience:
“In the morning I wake up and drop my daughter off at school. Then my son and I grab a snack at the bakery and head to the park to meet up with other moms who live nearby. All of these places are within five minutes of my tower. I never have to leave the complex if I don’t feel like dealing with the outside traffic and chaos. In a way, I’ve become more of a Vinhomian than anything else. This is my world now.”
Vingroup is not the only developer interested in creating this type of lifestyle. Singaporean property developer, Frasers Property, is projected to create another community-minded complex called Q2 Thao Dien, which according to the publication Vietnam Economic Times, will be completed by 2021, just in time for the expected finish of the metro linking D2 to D1.
Video source: K-Royale Flycam
Q2 Thao Dien’s website promotes its “uniquely designed shared spaces [which] will entice and encourage a social community where neighbors become friends. . .” These shared spaces include rooftop gardens, a “floating gym” and corners dedicated to playing chess and other games with neighbours.
Though smaller in scope, The Vista An Phu was created with a similar philosophy. The towers were designed in incorporation with serviced residences at the Somerset and the commercial space at the Oxygen. These three elements provide the residents with long- and short-term accommodation, office spaces, shops and even a preschool.
“As a mother, it has been very easy to develop friendships at The Vista. The playground and community areas provide a space for families to mingle,” resident Ruth Hammond said reflecting on her experience at The Vista An Phu. She spoke to at the Starbucks Coffee located within the complex.
The special events on the weekends also create an opportunity for people to meet up.” She also emphasized the convenience of being able to send her son to kindergarten, catch up with her friends over coffee, pop into the supermarket, stop by the bakery and head to the gym all without leaving the building.
Image source: s-i.huffpost.com
While these developments may not solve all of the challenges associated with increasing urbanization, their success provides some insights into the kind of interactions some buyers and renters are craving. The need to intelligently develop Ho Chi Minh City’s urban landscape is essential, but on a human level, there is also a desire to hold on to the values of a neighbourhood, even in the midst of a metropolis, even if that neighbourhood arrives fully formed and with a marketing plan.
Banner Image source: saigonmysteryvillas.net