My posting on 21 March 2006 wondered about the tremendous growth in population of Ho Chi Minh City over the next four years. The debate among HCMC planners for planning models seems to be between high-rise housing in the inner city vs. new urban areas in the suburbs.
I advocate doing both. As much as I was uninspired by the architecture in Bangkok, it does offer one of the most plausible planning models for both positions.
HCMC is several years behind Bangkok in terms of economic well-being and development. But HCMC has much larger challenges than Bangkok faced several years ago. The population density of HCMC is 10,405 people per square kilometer in its 19 inner-city districts, while the population density of Bangkok is 4,051 people per square kilometer, [statistics from Wikipedia] and Bangkok is considered to be a very high-density city with its numerous high-rise housing towers.
Nevertheless, it is likely that developers will introduce many high-rise towers into HCMC inner-city neighborhoods over the next several years using Bangkok as a model. I say Bangkok because its high-rises are relatively spread out as opposed to the ultra-high density of buildings in Hong Kong or Shanghai. These new developments will leave much of the existing low-rise neighborhoods intact amongst the new buildings, as shown here in Bangkok.
Bangkok was able to settle new population in outer neighborhoods because it developed extensive mass-transit systems in late 90s through 2004. The subways and elevated trains make getting from neighborhood hub to business hub much easier, making it possible to live further away from the central city areas.
New buildings are then built on the road spines splitting off the transit line.
HCMC has been talking about building a subway system for years, but appears to lack the means to get it going. But if HCMC wants to develop new urban areas in its suburbs, it is going to have to figure out how to develop elevated freeways and mass transit systems in a hurry to make it possible for people to get around. In that respect, Bangkok is an excellent model for growth and development, but this model appears to be unattainable for HCMC at this time unless the government shifts priority to the achievement of this model.