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Exploring the Green Oases Hidden Inside D5's Old Apartment Buildings

Spare some time one slow afternoon for a stroll around District 5’s old apartments, and one might discover many interesting things — it could be a hidden residential area amidst a labyrinthine hẻm, the architectural beauty behind moss-covered buildings, or some mini hanging gardens spanning the open, sun-drenched hallways for all to see.

Read the original article in Vietnamese here.

Recently, Ở đâu cũng chụp — a photography blog on Facebook specialized in documenting everyday Saigon life — released a photo album giving us a glimpse into the peaceful, verdant plant paradise that is Chợ Quán Apartment, located in a small hẻm on Trần Bình Trọng Street in District 5.

Through his camera lens, photographer Văn Nguyên has captured some very poetic shots of this historic building: stairways coated in a striking layer of ocher-colored paint in between gray, concrete walls; petite potted plants forming neat, green lines across the long hallway; tamarind trees bearing heavy fruits, their leaves protruding into the open-air corridors as if to entice passersby.

When asked by Saigoneer about the source of inspiration for the photo album, Văn Nguyên said in Vietnamese: “It was just one of those typical photo walks, a usual occurrence for me. On every trip like this, I always try to introduce viewers to some corners of Saigon through my photographs. After spending an entire afternoon wandering the apartment’s corridors, I’ve managed to capture some really good shots of the surrounding greens and urban scenery.”

Besides the tranquil green-filled vistas, the photo collection also showcases the charm of the modernist apartment. From the stairways designed for good airflow and spacious hallways allowing inhabitants room to relax and create their own green spaces, to the distinctive paint palette — these elements are evidence of the building’s original architect’s careful consideration for Saigon’s scorching hot and uncomfortably wet climate.

Văn Nguyên elaborated on his love for the city’s numerous apartments from past eras: “I have a lot of affection for Saigon, and I love the city’s nostalgic places and things, from old signboards to timeworn flooring, and especially there are still many apartments with old, yellow walls. They always help me understand more about Saigon; about the life, traditional customs and everyday routine of the people; and about the modernist architecture style.”

Take a look through this urban oasis through the lens of Ở Đâu Cũng Chụp below: