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[Photos] Saigon's Rapid Evolution in Pictures

Saigoneer is a proud media sponsor of the third edition of TP. Ho Chi Minh: MEGA City, released earlier this month. The compact and concise photo book explores urban development, landscapes and people in Vietnam’s largest metropolis, documenting the rapid changes currently transforming the city. With the support of the Goethe Institute as well as funding from Audi VietnamTP. Ho Chi Minh: MEGA City is divided into six chapters, each covering a major theme related to Saigon’s urban development.

Over the coming weeks, Saigoneer will provide readers with a glimpse into each of the book’s chapters. For the full publication, you can find TP. Ho Chi Minh: MEGA City at bookstores across the country.

Pham Van Dong Street, 2013 and 2016.

Change Over Time

In recent years, Ho Chi Minh City has witnessed many substantial transformations of its physical fabric. Three major changes can be identified.

The first is the dynamic development of a modern skyline with an impressive concentration of new high-rise buildings erected by national and international companies in the city center. The most iconic among them would certainly be the Bitexco Financial Tower, with its notable shape, its helicopter platform with the Vietnamese flag; and the Vietcombank Tower, whose purist design is reminiscent of a classic Manhattan skyscraper. Other renowned buildings include the blue-glass steel construction of the Vincom Center with sail-shaped flourishes atop each of its twin towers, the massive Times Square Building or the AB Tower, home to HCMC’s most famous night club, Chill Skybar, on its roof terrace. Despite these steps towards modernity, some people are resentful that the proliferation of high-rise buildings in the city center is coinciding with the demolition of French colonial buildings, thus causing HCMC to lose its architectural heritage in the course of modernization.

Massive urban spatial expansion is the second striking feature. Recent urban development has already expanded across administrative borders, particularly in the western and eastern parts of the city. The most prominent example of urban spatial expansion is certainly Saigon South, a new urban area south of District 4 and District 8. Over 500,000 people are expected to live within this mixed-use urban quarter in the future. Remarkable development has already taken place over the past decade, visible in the Phu My Hung new city center, built by a joint venture company from Taiwan, in particular. The photos in this chapter illustrate the densification of the built environment as well as the rapid growth of vegetation.

A third feature is the implementation of major infrastructure projects such as the erection of new highways and bridges and the development of a new central business district on the Thu Thiem peninsula. The construction of the Vo Van Kiet Highway, supported by Japanese donor organizations, is another prominent example. Infrastructure projects were accompanied by the demolition of marginal settlement areas along the canals, therefore it cannot be denied that the local population suffered from evictions and only meager compensation in some cases.

All in all, however, it can be said that the urban development projects significantly enhanced the quality of life for the overwhelming majority of the mega city’s inhabitants. These projects added new green, leisure and commercial spaces, high-quality residential units and new traffic infrastructure which eased prevalent congestion.

Ba Son Shipyard, 2003.

Ba Son Shipyard, 2014 and 2016.

Metro construction, 2013 and 2016.

View of Binh Thanh District, 2013 and 2016.

House in Nha Be, 2013 and 2016.

Cau Mong, 1991 and 2016.

The Rex Hotel.

View from Thu Thiem Bridge, 2010 and 2016.

A revamped public park.

One of Saigon's revitalized canals.

Michael Waibel is a German social scientist and the editor of TP. Ho Chi Minh: MEGA City as well as the photo books Da Nang: COASTAL City and Hanoi: CAPITAL City, which earned him a Bui Xuan Phai Award earlier this year.

[Photos courtesy of TP. Ho Chi Minh: MEGA City]