French-Era Colonial Vs Modern
Most people who responded to the survey agreed that French-era colonial buildings should be preserved: 64% strongly agreed and 24% agreed.
One reason listed is that these buildings are a part of what makes Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi different from other Southeast Asian cities.
Looking to the future, 51% disagreed with the statement that, the more our cities look modern, the better, 18% strongly disagreed and 12% didn’t care.
A practising architect in Vietnam, who wanted to remain anonymous, commented: “Among the decision makers and even the general population, there is a general belief that modern towers are proofs of prosperity.”
Comments on our poll suggested that while people don’t mind modern buildings, they wanted to see a balance of architectural styles.
Too Much, Too Fast
It seems as if construction never stops in Vietnam’s big cities. So, we included the following statement in our survey for feedback. ‘I’m happy with the types of buildings being constructed where I live’. 43% disagreed, and 24% agreed. The additional comments told a more detailed story.
One respondent said: “Some buildings are just big blocks, not really attractive.” However, the majority of commenters were not concerned with the type of building. They were more worried about the number of buildings and the rate at which they are being constructed.
The architect we spoke to said: “The main motivation behind the current pace of construction is profit.”
Choosing environmentally sustainable options is a concern for many countries. A high 76% of responders strongly agreed, followed closely by 18% who agreed, that environmental sustainability should be a priority for Vietnam’s urban planners.
“Currently, it is not high on the priority list amongst the developers and the city planners. I do not see how it will change in the near future,” said the architect.
There was also comment that advocates an increase in green spaces and greater awareness of environmentally sustainable options. Said one person, “Environmental sustainability is the way of the future. If Vietnam doesn’t start doing this better, population pressure combined with swelling middle and upper classes, will lead to a very dirty and depleted country.”
The biggest question in terms of split opinion was in response to the statement that motorcycle parking ruins the aesthetic appeal of buildings. 27% disagreed, 23% strongly agreed, 20% didn’t care, and 19% agreed. People cite both the convenience and the nuisance motorbike parking has within their life.
Additional comments suggested the main concern is not so much to do with the aesthetic value, but the practical elements of life that are affected by using a motorbike.
But when it comes to looks, respondents suggested that parking them underneath apartment buildings would be better aesthetically. If parking garages aren’t constructed, then what is the alternative?
As one respondent said: “If not on the side of the street, then where?”
We asked respondents if they strongly agree, agree, don’t care, disagree or strongly disagree to the following statements:
1) French-era colonial architecture should be preserved
2) The more our cities look modern, the better
3) I’m happy with the types of buildings being constructed where I live
4) Environmental sustainability should be a priority for Vietnam’s urban planners
5) Motorcycle parking on the pavements ruins the aesthetic appeal of buildings where I live
“We can be happy with modern, while keeping the old”
“Too much, too fast, too much dust”
“I’d love to be able to walk”
“I’d love to be able to walk a kilometre — even half a kilometre — on a sidewalk without disruption...”
“[Motorbikes] makes the flair”
“Parking my motorbike in your reception area will look worse…”
— 9 in 10 people believe that French colonial architecture in Vietnam should be preserved
— However, only 18% thought that the more modern our cities look, the better
— This resonated with the type of buildings being built. Three fifths of respondents say they are not happy with them
— Likewise, 95% of respondents feel that environmental sustainability should be a priority for urban planners
— As for motorbike parking on the side-walk, two fifths of people feels it ruins the aesthetic appeal of buildings where they live
Photo by Francis Xavier
To read the other articles in this series, click on the following links: