Saigon’s Visual Identity, Who and How

Saigon is expanding at breakneck speed. In order to learn more about what might happen, what will happen, and what should happen, Oi spoke with a number of informed, invested, and expert sources on Saigon’s progress, development and identity.

Our expert panel:

Andrew Currie
Co-Founder & Managing Director of
OUT-2 Design & Workplace-Asia

Lam Dang
Legal Consultant

Matthew Young


Matthew: Generally speaking, the private sector moves quickly, but is much more focused ‘on the city block’ than ‘on the city.’ The public sector tends to take longer, but also tends to do the right thing for the city. When the two come together in public-private partnerships, it usually works quite well, with arrangements that favor both, like giving land for development at favorable cost and then the development raises value of the area. These models balance private interests with civic requirements, and are necessary sources of funding.

Lam: I believe these public-private partnerships could work well in District 5’s renovation plans. The business community seems to be particularly geared for such arrangements.

Andrew: In terms of opportunity, one great thing about Saigon is that, particularly with the outer districts, you can just get on and build your project. That is why I expect the outer districts to develop more dynamically and quickly than the center. But my point was more that there is none of the delay that you experience from planning commissions and related agencies in other cities outside Vietnam. This is a great advantage for young architects, as they can actually get work built. It accelerates their career development, and it accelerates the development of a new architectural identity for Saigon – created by local architects. The new generation of Saigon architects are well traveled and educated. They are patriotic, they have great ideas, and they also have access to a world of solutions and interpretations. What they don’t have is hard experience, and as long as they can be properly mentored, then a decade out they will have valuable experience and perspective – which is well-timed, as a lot of the big development projects will come up around the time they are reaching their full potential. And their buildings will be at least a decade old, so the best built will have separated from those that were just well-publicized.

Saigon 3 - ARY (OiVietNam-3N)

So I am generally positive about the future. The one real concern is there needs to be a clear path to contribution from all stakeholders – small as well as large. Right now there is little public communication going on, even among architects, and we would love to be more engaged in a grand urban vision.

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