SAIGON (1954-1960)/ 15. Further Points of Study | Conclusion
Following our investigation on the urban issues generated by this population influx, there are several ambitious yet unsuccessful attempts by the RVN government to combat the social issues by urban planning. Within the historical period, Thu-Thiem, the area now named as District 2 in Ho Chi Minh City, often emerged to be the central crown-jewel of the new city. Thu-Thiem, a lowland area filled with swamps and patty field, locates at the opposite site of the river from the old Saigon city centre. The area was regarded as a tabula rasa by planners, who applied their contemporary urban planning to the new land.
There are three plans created after the refugee influx, each with different aims and backgrounds. The first one, proposed by the Doxiadis Associates under the RVN’s commission, mainly aimed to research on methods that could relocate the urban population, who were previously housed in poor slums condition. The team selected Thu-Thiem as the location of this pioneer project to test these prototypes. This resulted in a less dense, suburban plan, with housing types designed for the population’s needs. However, due to budget constraints and changed need of the government , the plan was scrapped by 1970s.
The second plan, by Wurster Architects, and Planners Bernadi and Emmons (WBE), regards Thu-Thiem as an extension of the existing city centre. Highways were laid in a way that assimilates the waterfront of the river, connecting different land use zones. In spite of the lack of public spaces, the size of city blocks are more comparable with the old Saigon urban fabric. The plan, however, was not adopted after the Fall of Saigon, marking the start of Communist rule in the South.
The third and a more recent plan,developed by the Sasaki Associates from US, was commissioned by the HCMC government as an effort to reenergise the development of HCMC after the national Doi Moi (Renovation) policy. The plan put more focus on the nature aspect of Thu-Thiem, and created view and ventilation corridors within the district. From the plans, the increasing attention to natural conservation and sustainability can be observed.
We believe this can be a starting point for further study on Ho Chi Minh City’s urban growth. These urban plans, despite their incomplete status, can reveal important views and ideologies of the government towards the city and urban planning.
Conclusion: Saigon (1954-1960): Migration as a Major Force in Urban Growth
As we discussed in previous posts, the effect of the refugee influx of 1954-1960, caused by fear of the Northern population and larger political struggles behind the scene, has huge effect on Saigon. In the face of this crisis, government officials and their foreign allies were forced to stand up to this challenge. Foreign support programmes, lead by US advisors as well as local officials, were set up. They devised a resettlement programme in three stages, in spite of their quick response of the problem, had their problems that hindered such process. As a result, the population influx’s effect to the urban growth of Saigon is evident and continual. More specifically, the resettlement of these refugees have expanded the urban area of Saigon, enlarging the urban area to the size of Ho Chi Minh City as we know it today. Moreover, it marked the origin of many existing urban issues of the city, including the overcrowding and the traffic issue. Some of these issues can still be observed nowadays.
In conclusion, our study on the refugee influx of 1954-1960 traced some of the city’s issue to such a significant event occurred during the brief rule by the Republic of Vietnam in the city. It also showed how the urban developing process, in spite of the efforts of architects and planners, can be hindered by external causes such as continual warfare and bureaucratic incompetence.