In order to prepare one's personal vision for the urban design and development of a city, one must have a good sense of what his/her city currently is. The description of one's personal image of his/her city is important as a means to determine differences in perceptions of images. While I might find TP. Hồ Chí Minh to be a very stimulating intensive environment, my neighbor might think that TPHCM is currently too messy and chaotic. It is these differences in perceptions that are important to lay out and explore in order to determine the basis for change in the environment that people can agree upon and make happen.
This is my image of Ho Chi Minh City at this time, tempered by my memories (and photographs) of Saigon past in 1971-1972.
To me, the inner-city HCMC is a very vibrant busy commercial center overlain directly on family houses, villas, and apartment buildings.
As a result of this mixed use, HCMC to me is an extremely intensive urban city -- intensive with people, smells, sound, color and light that is unmatched in most modern cities of the world. Yet HCMC is a modern city, with most of the amenities we usually associate with modern cities, such as department stores, shopping centers, high-rise office buildings, and transit systems.
And HCMC has so far avoided ripping out its past of old colonial buildings that set the urban fabric for the downtown districts of Saigon.
Over time, people found plenty of holes in the fabric to insert small houses and commercial stores. Then over the past couple of decades, developers have found holes in this fabric or cleared enough small houses to allow them to place higher-rise buildings. But the mix of people living and working and shopping together in one place remains.
Although there are several 20-to-40-story high-rise buildings spread around the city, the city on the whole is primarily composed of buildings from 3-to-8 floors.
It is interesting to me that the skyline of Ho Chi Minh City has not changed that much from its war-time Saigon days. This aerial photograph taken by me in 1972 shows somewhat the same scale of development existing today.
Contrast the old photo with this recent photograph posted by Jaroslaw on the online skyscrapercity.com Vietnam forum:
Rather than a large increase of high-rise towers, the density of the overall fabric has been increased -- the average height may have increased from two or three stories to five stories.
The more recent high-rise buildings are spread around the city and have not been clustered in one area, except for the downtown hotels between Hai Bà Trưng and Đồng Khởi Streets.
So for me, my image of Ho Chi Minh City of the past, present, and future, is a mixture of uses within a fabric of commercial and residential structures that is constantly evolving rather than replacing itself wholesale. This results in neighborhoods of mixed uses and types, styles, and sizes of buildings.
The results may be a little jarring sometimes,
but that provides visual interest and energy that is highly stimulating and provides places for the differing needs of people. To me, that is the measure of a vital creative city.