HCMC Dining Guide

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Living Spaces

I recently came across a documentary series by Al Jazeera called 'Rebel Architecture', which profiles several architects from around the world who are fighting to change the way their respective societies think about and imagine the spaces they live in. One of the subjects is Vo Trong Nghia, a Vietnamese architect who has risen to prominence over the last few years thanks to his distinct structures that strive to incorporate natural light and ventilation into their design. He provides a scathing critique of the dominant style of urban Vietnamese residences - 'tube houses' that are narrow and tall, while offering up what he believes are viable alternatives. One of my favorite scenes comes when Nghia visits the potential investors for his proposed 'vertical farming city' - the businesspeople exhibit typical myopia and complain that the buildings are unlike anything Vietnamese are used to. His counter-arguments are fantastic. The 25-minute video is well worth a watch:

This is a topic that is close to my heart, as I've written about green buildings twice for AsiaLIFE, here and here. Since I first moved to Saigon in 2010, it has been impossible not to notice how much worse the environment has gotten. More cars and motorbikes means more exhaust fumes; countless trees have been cut down for construction projects; and development has eaten away at drainage basins and green areas. This past week has included some of the worst rain-caused street flooding I've ever seen here, and that's expected to only get worse in the future. Nghia provides a refreshing view on the need to rethink the way Vietnam is developing. If the investors in the video are any indication, he has an uphill battle ahead of himself, but people are beginning to change their minds here. I have huge respect for this architect, as it's still quite rare to see someone go against the grain in Vietnam. Hopefully more people like him make their voices heard.


  1. Hi mike, what is going on over in d7 ? Could you update the development over there. Thank you

    1. There's a lot going on - plenty of high-rise apartment complexes going up. I just haven't had a chance to out there to take any pictures yet. And yea it floods there, just like most other places in the city.

  2. Does it flood much over in district 7 Mike? I know that area was a swamp.