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Rounded Edges: Modernism and Architectural Dialogue in Ho Chi Minh City

H. Hazel Hahn

Résumés

Il est communément admis qu’il n’existe pas, à Hô-Chi-Minh-Ville et contrairement à Hanoï, un ensemble urbain homogène représentant un style architectural particulier. C'est pourquoi cet article cherche à établir l’importance du patrimoine architectural de Hô-Chi-Minh-Ville, en montrant que la ville possède bien un ensemble de bâtiments cohérents, à la conception remarquable, construits dans des styles modernistes. Il souligne en particulier un trait unique de ces structures : le motif récurrent de courbes et de bords arrondis qui ponctuent ce centre urbain très dense. L'auteur tente ainsi de démontrer que ces bâtiments, construits entre les années 1920 et la fin des années 1970, donnent au centre de Hô-Chi-Minh-Ville un aspect unique, cohérent et frappant, parmi les plus grands ensembles architecturaux modernes existant au monde. Enfin, ce texte resitue Hô-Chi-Minh-Ville au sein de la géographie mondiale de la circulation du modernisme ; il met en lumière la dynamique interne de l’évolution architecturale de la ville au-delà de la division coloniale/postcoloniale, et révèle la continuité dans l’évolution des formes malgré les ruptures provoquées par certains événements historiques. La présence importante de bâtiments modernistes aux bords arrondis à Phnom Penh, et leur similarité avec ceux de Hô-Chi-Minh-Ville, suggère par ailleurs le rôle essentiel également joué par la circulation des formes à l’échelle régionale.

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  • 1 Thierry Delfosse, Saigon Modernist: Fifty years of Architecture, an e-book (2017), is the only mono (...)

1Ho Chi Minh City possesses layers of striking architecture in diverse international styles ranging from the mid-nineteenth to the twenty-first century. French and European styles adopted under the colonial regime (1859–1954), Art Deco from the 1920s, international modernism from the 1920s through the 1970s, and global postmodernist styles practiced in the last several decades have all made their marks. Modernist architecture of Ho Chi Minh City has received little scholarly attention until recently and is in dire, critical need of due recognition as well as preservation and protection.1 In contrast to Hanoi, whose historic center has a cohesive architectural style as it still possesses a large number of colonial-era buildings in European styles—a result of the dearth of new construction in the center over half a century from 1945 until around 1995—Ho Chi Minh City’s architecture is seen as eclectic at best and as lacking any critical mass of buildings in a cohesive, homogeneous style. This is not only because of the disappearance of a large number of colonial-era French-style villas in recent decades, but also, significantly, because the city has been influenced by a succession of international styles, including French, American, and so on, leaving it with a patchwork of styles. While an effort to preserve Hanoi’s colonial-era architecture has been gaining some traction, significant efforts to protect Ho Chi Minh City’s architectural heritage have only recently begun, mainly through a grassroots movement by the public.

  • 2 The 1946–1954 period, during the First Indochina War, saw a large migration of the rural population (...)
  • 3 Mel Schenck, “How Vietnam Created Its Own Brand of Modernist Architecture,” Saigoneer, 28 December (...)

2Much of the striking architecture of Ho Chi Minh City, unfortunately, has been fast disappearing in the last two decades. Among the destroyed, defaced, or otherwise significantly altered structures are a large number of modernist buildings. The lack of scholarly attention does not mean that modernist-style buildings have not been widely admired by residents and visitors alike. This essay seeks to establish Ho Chi Minh City’s architectural heritage as a significant one by advancing a unique argument: that in contrast to prevailing views, Ho Chi Minh City does actually possess a critical mass of cohesive, remarkably well-designed buildings in modernist styles. In particular, this essay highlights what I see as a unique feature of the modernist buildings of Ho Chi Minh City: rounded, curved corners. Focusing on an unusually large number of modernist buildings with curved corners concentrated in the city’s historic center, this essay argues that such buildings have provided, and continue to provide, long stretches of blocks of central Ho Chi Minh City with highly unique, cohesive, strikingly elegant, and graceful characteristics. These buildings, dating from the 1920s through the 1970s, not only are great examples of modernist architecture in general, but also constitute the single most unique and salient characteristic of the architecture of the city. Mel Schenck notes that Vietnamese architects and historians regard the 1940s through the 1970s as the golden age of modernist architecture in Vietnam. In this period, marked by a population explosion from 1.7 million in 1954 to 4 million in 1975,2 many of the most significant modernist buildings were constructed. The sheer number of modernist buildings built during this period, constituting up to 60% of numerous blocks of the city, also makes this a golden age.3 At the same time, earlier modernist examples from the 1920s through 1930s, found especially on Dong Khoi Street, comprise a unique set of buildings, as do modernist buildings dating from the 1940s through the 1970s. For these two reasons—great architecture and the unique ensemble the buildings constitute—in addition to reasons of safeguarding cultural and historical memory and heritage, it is imperative that they be preserved and protected.

  • 4 Vũ Hùng Vit, “Preface,” in Lê Quang Ninh and Stéphane Dovert (eds.), Saigon 1698-1998, op. cit. (n (...)
  • 5 Trương Ngc Lân, “Die Geschichte der Modernen Architektur in Vietnam,” ARCH+, no. 226, Autumn 2016, (...)

3This essay, moreover, seeks to re-locate the place of Ho Chi Minh City on the world map of the circulation of modernism by emphasizing the internal dynamic of the city’s architectural evolution, which transcends the colonial-postcolonial divide. This, in turn, disrupts the well-entrenched periodization of Vietnamese history: not only the colonial-postcolonial divide but also the periodization of the historical narrative of political events such as colonization, the rise of communism, revolution, independence, and the Vietnam War. Rather, this essay emphasizes the evolution of forms that reveal a distinct continuity in spite of major event-based ruptures in history. Scholarly discussion of architecture in colonial and postcolonial Vietnam have invariably followed an event-based periodization. In the pioneering survey of the architecture of Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon 1698–1998: Kiến trúc/Architectures, Quy hoch/Urbanisme (1998), Vũ Hùng Việt divides the architecture of the city into three main styles—“national traditional style,” “Indochinese colonial style,” and “contemporary style that appeared since the 1960s”—and adds that with numerous new constructions in the city, the architecture of the city has been “considerably diversified and enriched.”4 A similar periodization is offered by Trương Ngọc Lân in a recent article on modernist architecture in Vietnam: the colonial period, the First-Indochinese-War period (1945–1954), the period of partition (1954–1975), the postwar period (1975–1986), and the “Doi Moi” (Renovation) period.5 Such periodizations make sense insofar as a chronological understanding of architectural history is necessary to grasp a much-needed overview with historical contexts. At the same time, such practices can obscure patterns that transcend event-based divisions in architectural history.

4One such pattern has to do with the question of who built and designed what in which style. While monumental buildings during the colonial period were designed primarily by Frenchmen, beginning in the 1920s numerous colonial-style villas were built by wealthy Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese. And the majority of modernist buildings from both the colonial and postcolonial periods were designed by Vietnamese architects, such as Ngô Viết Thụ who designed the Reunification Palace (completed 1966) and Trương Văn Long who designed the University of Architecture (completed 1972). Designs of recent notable skyscrapers, on the other hand, have been commissioned mainly from foreign architects. This pattern shows that Vietnamese architects and property owners were pivotal across the colonial-postcolonial divide in creating architectural forms with recurring features through various metamorphoses of forms. Re-evaluated here are assumptions underlying ideas regarding the significance of Asian cities that favor the maintenance of historical centers—such as Hanoi’s—while overlooking patterns of dynamic architectural evolution as exemplified in Ho Chi Minh City.

  • 6 “Les immeubles Art Déco du cours Jean Jaurès à Grenoble,” architecture-art-deco.fr, 20 January 2016 (...)
  • 7 In Singapore numerous curved buildings in the Streamline Moderne style were built in the 1930s in t (...)
  • 8 Books devoted to the topic of curved façades or corners are rare. References to such themes are sca (...)

5In discussing Modernist styles well known to be truly global, what is emphasized here is circulation, and in particular regional circulation, rather than notions of influence from the “West” that still predominate. Curved corners recurring in Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, Bauhaus, and other Modernist styles can be seen in cities as varied as San Francisco (the Maritime Museum, 1936); Los Angeles (the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant, 1939); San Juan, Puerto Rico (The Normandie Hotel inspired by the ship S. S. Normandie, 1942); London (the Daily Express building, 1932); Paris (certain of Le Corbusier’s buildings); Grenoble (the cours Jean Jaurès)6; Tel Aviv (on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its Bauhaus architecture); Shanghai (the Normandie apartment building, 1924); Singapore (Streamline Moderne buildings in Tiong Bahru district)7; Mumbai (the Empress Court building, 1938); Napier, New Zealand (on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its Art Deco architecture); and numerous others.8

  • 9 On modern architecture in Tel Aviv see Nitza Metzger-Szmuk, Des maisons sur le sable : Tel-Aviv, Mo (...)
  • 10 For some examples of such houses see Adrian Tinniswood, The Art Deco House, New York, NY: Watson-Gu (...)

6However, it is easy to notice distinct and recurring local and regional features. The significant presence of modernist buildings with curved corners in Phnom Penh, the closest major city to Ho Chi Minh City which was also a part of the French Union of Indochina until 1953, as well as similarities in forms between the modernist buildings of the two cities, suggests that regional circulation played a crucial role. In the end, what makes the phenomenon of Ho Chi Minh City truly unique is the combination of volume and longevity through mutation of forms: the concentration of a large number of buildings with curved corners in various styles in a relatively compact area, throughout a relatively long period (even compared to Phnom Penh, where such buildings were built mostly from the 1950s and 1960s). This phenomenon differs from, for example, the concentration of Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv dating mostly from the 1930s through the 1950s, in one style.9 Furthermore, the major portion of modernist residential buildings with curves are large houses located in well-to-do suburban neighborhoods and thus are not part of densely populated urban areas.10

  • 11 “Cochinchine,” L’Illustration, 23 April 1864, p. 267–268.
  • 12 Arnauld Le Brusq, Vietnam à travers l’architecture coloniale, op. cit. (note 1), p. 39.
  • 13 On the urban planning of colonial Saigon see Gwendolyn Wright, The Politics of Design in French Col (...)

7Unlike Hanoi, a city boasting a millennial history, Ho Chi Minh City traces its origins to the seventeenth century and developed into a major city during the colonial period. From the 1860s, following French conquest, colonial Saigon evolved into a European-looking city.11 The French razed the late eighteenth-century Vauban-style fort built by French engineers and opened Saigon as a port.12 Gradually, Saigon became a city with a Haussmann-style layout with wide boulevards.13 At the same time, Cholon, the mostly ethnic Chinese commercial town and port adjacent to Saigon, was to remain a “native” city. Throughout the colonial period Cholon, which merged with Saigon in the late 1930s, was the dynamic economic center where industrial activities such as rice processing took place. Cholon, which today comprises the western section of district 5 as well as sections of districts 6 and 11, possesses a unique set of architecturally significant buildings but is, like central Ho Chi Minh City, rapidly undergoing redevelopment.

Rounded Corners on Dong Khoi Street

  • 14 Mark Bowyer, “A bland future for Saigon’s main street?” Thanh Nien News, 10 July, 2014, URL: http:/ (...)
  • 15 Tim Doling, “A Date with the Wrecking Ball: The Catinat Building,” The Saigoneer, 23 June, 2014, UR (...)

8Dong Khoi Street (Total Revolution Street), comprising eight blocks, is today the most animated street in Ho Chi Minh City and a magnet for tourism, as it was during the colonial period. It was called Catinat Street during the colonial period and Tu Do Street (Freedom Street) from the 1950s until 1975. Along this street are numerous buildings dating mostly from the 1920s through the 1950s in Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and modern styles with curved corners. After falling into decay during the war years, this street has undergone a revival since the 1990s. However, this success has also attracted real-estate development and redevelopment. Some of the modernist buildings, including iconic ones, have been demolished in recent years, but enough still remain to single out Dong Khoi Street as uniquely representative of early twentieth-century modernism with an emphasis on curved corners, for which few equivalents can be found in the world. The Catinat building (1927) (fig. 1), located at the corner of Dong Khoi and Ly Tu Trong streets, is the last remaining apartment block on Dong Khoi Street.14 A grand 1920s modernist building with Art Deco features, it has a wide curved corner along all five floors. A variety of Art Deco metal railings decorate many of its balconies, and there are scalloped features along the roofline. The thin columns on the top floor resemble those of many other buildings of the city dating from the 1920s and later. The building, which once housed the US consulate, is currently slated to be redeveloped along with other buildings in the same block, and therefore its future is uncertain.15 Its central location at the very heart of the city makes this building particularly vulnerable to redevelopment. Yet this is one of the prime examples of a grand, early twentieth-century building that is characteristic of the singularity of Dong Khoi Street and Ho Chi Minh City more broadly.

Figure 1: Catinat Building, 26 Ly Tu Trong, 2015.

Figure 1: Catinat Building, 26 Ly Tu Trong, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

  • 16 Brian Letwin and Tim Doling, “Nearly Gone But Not Forgotten: 213 Dong Khoi,” May 12, 2014, URL: htt (...)
  • 17 Brian Letwin and Tim Doling, “Nearly Gone But Not Forgotten,” op. cit. (note 16).

9A block south from the Catinat Building was a magnificent seven-story Art Deco building at 213 Dong Khoi Street that was the most prestigious apartment building on Dong Khoi Street. Completed in 1930 by the Société d’exploitation des établissements Brossard et Mopin, it once housed the consulates of Austria, Portugal, and Spain and the tourism bureau Office de Propagande de l’Indochine, as well as numerous prestigious fashion boutiques.16 The building was mentioned in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American.17 The building was demolished in 2014 to make way for a new administrative building. One of the characteristics that made this building so striking was an elegant rounded corner at the intersection of Dong Khoi and Le Thanh Ton streets, divided into three vertical sections and decorated with Art Deco motifs.

  • 18 Minh Ngọc, “Vincom Center A - ‘viên ngọc’ giữa lòng TP.HCM,” Vietnamnet, 23 October 2012, URL: http (...)
  • 19 Helen Clark, “The fall of Saigon—by demolition,” Independent, 11 January 2011, URL: http://www.inde (...)
  • 20 Dang Bui, “The Cinemas of Old Saigon,” The Saigoneer, 4 September 2014, URL: http://saigoneer.com/s (...)

10A nearby building, the famous Eden building, a modernist structure built around 1947 with a similarly rich history, was demolished in 2010 to make way for the luxury shopping mall Vincom Center A which opened in October 2012.18 The Eden featured a curved corner all along its six-story façade. The building’s location, with four façades on the main streets of Le Loi, Dong Khoi, Le Thanh Ton and Nguyen Hue, neighboring the People’s Committee building (originally built as the City Hall of colonial Saigon from 1902 to 1908), the Hotel Continental (opened in 1880), and the Municipal Theater (also known as the Opera House, opened in 1900), was one of the most desirable in the entire city. The Eden was the media center during the Vietnam War that housed numerous news bureaus and journalists.19 The building hid in its interior the Eden arcade and one of the two most beautiful colonial-era cinemas, the Eden Cinema, which initially attracted a mainly European audience in the 1920s before it was quickly outnumbered by the indigenous population.20

11At the end of this section of Dong Khoi Street, at the intersection with Dong Du Street, is a four-story modernist building (fig. 2) at 80 Dong Khoi. While the first two floors were recently renovated, the top floor’s original façade is still preserved. Its strong horizontal lines, including a projecting horizontal band along the top portion of the building, a wide rounded corner, and small circular windows recalling the nautical themes of Streamline Moderne, show similarities to the nearby Rex Hotel discussed below. Small minimalist slits with green bands around them, echoing the green horizontal bands above them and the green color of the frame of the circular windows, add to the whimsical charm of the building.

Figure 2: 80 Dong Khoi Street, 2015.

Figure 2: 80 Dong Khoi Street, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

12At Dong Khoi and Mac Thi Buoi Streets stands a three-story building with a rounded corner, with green metalwork on all three floors. The third floor is particularly notable for windows with four vertical panes and Art Nouveau green metalwork, as well as the sculpted façade. On the second floor are green Art Nouveau-style balcony railings. Also at this intersection is a worn but striking four-story modernist building at 91 Dong Khoi also with a curved corner. The building showcases clean horizontal bands and thin vertical pillars characteristic of many modernist buildings of Ho Chi Minh City.

  • 21 François Tainturier, “Architectures et urbanisme sous l’administration française,” in Lê Quang Ninh(...)
  • 22 Le Brusq cites the Printemps department store of Paris and the Negresco Hotel of Nice as influences (...)

13A block further south on Dong Khoi Street, the Grand Hotel (fig. 3) (formerly Saigon Palace Hotel), built around 1927–1928 and restored in 1997, features another curved corner.21 The Grand Hotel is one of the iconic early twentieth-century hotels of the city. On the curved corner are elaborate stone balconies supported by flamboyant brackets. These, along with the dome at the top, accentuate the tower-like appearance of the curved corner.22 Projected balconies on the rest of the exterior of the building with brackets, thin columns, and turrets, along with the tower-like corner, collectively create something of a throwback fantasy-like appearance. However, the tall thin windows and harmonious proportions of the building make its overall design a very successful one that is suited to the street.

Figure 3: Grand Hotel, 8 Dong Khoi street, 2015.

Figure 3: Grand Hotel, 8 Dong Khoi street, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

14All four buildings at this intersection of Dong Khoi and Ngo Duc Ke streets have curved corners. Kitty corner from the Grand Hotel is a building with rounded corners and verandas with Art Nouveau metal railings, housing the new Workshop café and other businesses. Another building at this intersection is a very large five-story modernist building (fig. 4) with rounded corners. This building (with a “Seaprodex” sign on the roof) is, as of December 2016, undergoing a massive interior renovation that seems to be preserving most of its original façade on the upper floors. This is a striking building with well-proportioned vertical and horizontal lines and a projecting solid concrete roofline with double brackets.

Figure 4: “Seaprodex” building, Dong Khoi and Ngo Duc Ke Streets, 2016.

Figure 4: “Seaprodex” building, Dong Khoi and Ngo Duc Ke Streets, 2016.

Source: Author΄s picture.

15At the southern end of this block, forming the end of Dong Khoi Street and facing the Saigon River, is a five-story building (fig. 5) in a striking modernist style, with strong linear horizontal lines emphasized by projected horizontal sections and numerous well-proportioned windows. The design of this building, with projected horizontal bands all along the façade, and decorative concrete double brackets, is very similar to the design of the “Seaprodex” building.

Figure 5: 2-4-6 Dong Khoi Street, 2015.

Figure 5: 2-4-6 Dong Khoi Street, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

  • 23 François Tainturier, “Architectures et urbanisme,” op. cit. (note 21), p. 187.
  • 24 Ibid., p. 187.
  • 25 “Memory lane: More than a century of Dong Khoi, icon of Saigon beauty,” Thanh Nien News, 4 May 2015 (...)
  • 26 François Tainturier, “Architectures et urbanisme,” op. cit. (note 21), p. 187.
  • 27 Đào Loan, “Mở rộng Majestic,” Thời báo Kinh tế Sài gòn, June 7, 2011, URL: http://www.thesaigontime (...)

16Finally, across the street facing the Saigon River is the Majestic Hotel (fig. 6), designed in France and built in 1925 for the local Chinese entrepreneur Hui Bon Hoa.23 With forty-four rooms, it was the most luxurious hotel upon opening. The original façade was elaborate and flamboyant, with Art Nouveau elements and brackets similar to the ones on the Grand Hotel. It is clear that the latter’s design was inspired by that of this hotel. The façade was completely renovated when Mathieu Franchini, owner of the Continental Hotel, became its director in 1951.24 After 1965, when state-owned Saigontourist took it over, two more floors were added after a design by Ngô Viết Thụ. By then the façade of the hotel was completely different from the original one, which featured simple, clean modernist lines.25 It fell into decay during the war and in 1995 underwent another major renovation costing 5 million dollars.26 This latest renovation harks back to the original design, with Art Nouveau décor such as elaborate gilded metalwork on arched windows and the entrance on the ground floor. Through its successive metamorphoses, a wide curved corner was maintained. In 2011 two new towers with 353 rooms were added.27

Figure 6: Hotel Majestic, 1 Dong Khoi Street, 2015.

Figure 6: Hotel Majestic, 1 Dong Khoi Street, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

17This brief survey of Dong Khoi Street shows that along most of the eight blocks of Dong Khoi Street are Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and modernist buildings with curved corners, mostly dating from the 1920s through the 1950s. These buildings form a singular group. That so many exist on the same street, in a relatively compact area, in diverse styles, makes this a unique phenomenon compared to any other city in the world. What makes this group of buildings all the more unique is that every one of them has a curved corner not just on the ground floor, but through all the floors. This is a characteristic that goes a long way toward defining not only the overall aesthetic characteristic of the street, but also its ambience and, if you will, its personality. The repeated rhythm of this feature on block after block along all floors provides a cohesiveness. This characteristic would be meaningless if it were not done well, but on this street, all the curved buildings from the 1920s through the 1950s in particular boast excellent designs that harmonize with one another. They are integrated into the broader area both functionally—in the use of the ground-floor spaces for commercial purposes and in their similar height, which ensures that none blocks light from another—and aesthetically through well-proportioned and interesting designs. The potent effects of this group of buildings also show that when one or more of this group is lost—through demolition or renovation that drastically alters its appearance—they are really not replaceable. The cohesiveness generated from a particular period cannot be fully maintained through replacements that resemble the original.

18This brings up the question of the origins of such curved corners dating back to colonial Saigon. The origins could potentially be traced developers and builders seeking to maximize available land space, given construction regulations in relation to sidewalk space. I would argue, however, that the initial causes having to do with urban regulations and the wish to best utilize available urban spaces, while of historical interest, are of limited importance. For one, the wish to maximize available space does not explain why, beyond the ground floor, the upper floors were also designed with curves. Much more significant is the influence of the architectural trend of creating curved corners; how architects, building owners, construction workers, and the public at large were and continue to be influenced by existing buildings; and the cohesive appearance of streets. The skill sets learned in designing and constructing rounded corners by those involved, including construction workers, would also have been transferred from one building to another. Otherwise, the lack of similar trends in other cities and towns with similar regulations—precisely what makes Ho Chi Minh City’s architecture unique—cannot be explained. This is in no way an unusual argument, since in most towns and cities throughout history a cohesive or semi-cohesive architectural style emerged and developed as a result of a combination of taste and regulation, including sumptuary laws.

19Dong Khoi Street not only still manages to possess the architectural diversity typical of Ho Chi Minh City, it also stands out with a number of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and modernist gems with curved corners. However, sweeping urban development has resulted in the demolition of significant buildings and continues to endanger the architectural heritage of this iconic street. At stake is whether this street can preserve its singular architectural heritage that is so appealing to residents and visitors alike, or whether it will turn into a generic, bland modern street unfortunately so characteristic of numerous contemporary Asian cities.

Rounded Corners in Other Areas of Ho Chi Minh City

  • 28 “Ho Chi Minh City commences demolition of Saigon Tax Trade Center,” Tuoi Tre News, 12 October 2016, (...)
  • 29 Mike Ives, “Colonial Architecture Fades From Ho Chi Minh City, and Residents Mourn,” The New York T (...)
  • 30 Trn Th Vĩnh Tường, “The Saigon Tax Trade Center Mosaic Staircase: A Forgotten Moroccan Masterpiec (...)

20Curves are prominent features of numerous other modernist buildings not only in streets near Dong Khoi Street but also further away. As on Dong Khoi Street, these buildings date from the 1920s onwards. They were built for diverse purposes, ranging from commercial to residential and from administrative to medical. One such building was the Saigon Tax Trade Center, built originally in 1924 as the Charner Department Store on Nguyen Hue Boulevard, one block west of Dong Khoi Street. The building was demolished in 2016 as part of the redevelopment of the Nguyen Hue Boulevard for the construction of a new subway plus a sizable public plaza and park with a large statue of Ho Chi Minh.28 The Tax Trade Center, in spite of the drastic changes to its façade, had maintained a prominent curved corner along all five floors. Its interior maintained “wrought-iron balustrades, an intricately tiled floor and grand staircase, and other original design features.”29 A rare Moroccan mosaic staircase inside the building has been preserved.30

  • 31 Arnauld Le Brusq, Vietnam à travers l’architecture coloniale, op. cit. (note 1), p. 9394, 96. The (...)

21Two prominent, related buildings in Art Deco and neoclassical styles dating from the 1920s also showcase rounded corners. The Banque de l’Indochine building (fig. 7), now the State Bank, was designed by Félix Dumail and opened in 1928 at the juncture of the Saigon River at Yersin Street and Benh Nghe Creek and near the 1882 Rainbow Bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel.31 A massive, imposing structure with numerous columns, its graceful rounded corner, in addition to subtle Khmer naga motifs, breaks up the monolithic quality. Along the rounded section, the progressively decreasing floor heights, from the second floor to the fifth and top floor, also attenuate the heaviness of the design. While the juxtaposition of curves and straight lines on the fourth floor produces Art Deco effects, the proportionally thin columns on the top floor provide a whimsical element.

Figure 7: State Bank of Vietnam, Yersin Street, 2015.

Figure 7: State Bank of Vietnam, Yersin Street, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

22Three blocks away, the Mekong Housing Bank building (fig. 8) at 32 Ham Nghi dates from the same period and is in a very similar but more modest style. Its curved section was built in the gray stone also used for the State Bank. It also features elaborate green metalwork on doors and windows all along the ground floor. Like the State Bank it also has progressively decreasing heights on upper floors and thin columns along the curved section of the top, fourth, floor, which contrast with the grandeur of the lower section of the building.

Figure 8: Mekong Housing Bank building, 32 Ham Nghi Street, 2015.

Figure 8: Mekong Housing Bank building, 32 Ham Nghi Street, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

  • 32 Nguyn Văn Ho’s descendants still live in a section of the building, while shops are located on th (...)

23The Comptoir Nguyễn-Văn-Hảo Saïgonnais flatiron building (fig. 9), located at the intersection of Ky Con, Yersin and Tran Hung Dao Streets, dates from 1934. The building’s flatiron shape, with a wide curve featuring arched windows and columns, is unique in the city. At the same time, tall and narrow louvered windows and horizontal decorative lines show the affinity of this building’s design with broader modernist styles within the city. The projected curved band between the second and third floors is a forerunner of the projected curved roof of the Rex Hotel. This building housed the offices and residence of the family of Nguyễn Văn Hảo, who owned the Grande Pharmacie Nguyễn Văn Hảo.32

Figure 9: Comptoir Nguyễn-Văn-Hảo Saïgonnais flatiron building, Ky Con Street, 2015.

Figure 9: Comptoir Nguyễn-Văn-Hảo Saïgonnais flatiron building, Ky Con Street, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

  • 33 “Échos et nouvelle,” Le Nouvelliste d’Indochine, 18 December 1938, cited in “Clinique Saint-Paul, R (...)

24Another building (fig. 10) that should be given iconic status and protected is the Ho Chi Minh City Eye Hospital (Bệnh viện Mắt) at 280 Dien Bien Phu Street. Originally built as the Clinique St. Paul, it was designed by the architect Louis Chauchon and financed by the sisters of St. Paul de Chartres; it opened in 1938 to great fanfare.33 Its twin gracefully elongated wings with curved corners in which patients’ beds were located are attached to the main section that housed operation facilities. While absolutely unique in Ho Chi Minh City in its overall appearance, the rows of louvers, as well as a pattern of horizontal slits, place it on a continuum not only with the Comptoir Nguyễn-Văn-Hảo Saïgonnais flatiron building, but also with the broader urbanscape of the city. The building’s form displays an affinity with a number of other iconic buildings located around the world, whether influenced by the Bauhaus or other modernist movements, and stands as visible evidence of the circulation of great international modernist ideas.

Figure 10: Clinique St. Paul, 280 Dien Bien Phu, 2015.

Figure 10: Clinique St. Paul, 280 Dien Bien Phu, 2015.

Source : Author΄s picture.

25Another significant medical building in Ho Chi Minh City with a rounded corner is the original building of the famous Từ Dũ Obstetric and Gynaecological Hospital at 284 Cong Quynh. It was founded in 1937, on a large piece of land donated by Hui Bon Hoa for building a maternity hospital named Maternité Indochinoise.34 A modernist three-story building features an extensive curved section with two rows of awning windows. There is, in addition, a long and narrow modernist bridge (fig. 11) dating from a later period linking the original building to another building. The bridge has a blue roof, a row of awning windows alternating with non-window glass panes as the photograph shows, and futuristic blue supporting beams. The beams add a playful element particularly apt for a hospital frequented by children. At the hospital is “Tu Du Peace Village (Agent Orange Rehabilitation Center),” a ward dedicated to treating children affected by Agent Orange.35

Figure 11: Từ Dũ Hospital Connecting Bridge, 284 Cong Quynh, 2015.

Figure 11: Từ Dũ Hospital Connecting Bridge, 284 Cong Quynh, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

  • 36 Dave Lowe and François Jarlov, Caravelle-Saigon: A History, Ho Chi Minh City: VHSG Saigon Culture P (...)

26Ho Chi Minh City still possesses a large number of modernist buildings dating from the 1950s and 1960s, in spite of the rapid pace of redevelopment in recent years and the general neglect of many of these buildings due to lack of resources for maintenance. Of these, several have iconic status: the Caravelle Hotel, the Rex Hotel, and the Palace Hotel. The Caravelle Hotel, which opened in 1959 and is located at Lam Son Square perpendicular to the Municipal Theater, was designed by Nguyễn Văn Hoa, a graduate of the Fine Arts School (École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts) of Hanoi, and a French architect. This hotel also features a rounded corner. This fashionable hotel was frequented by diplomats and was a center of journalism during the Vietnam War.36 In 1998, it was redeveloped, which unfortunately altered many of its original modernist features, and a 24-story tower was built next to it.

  • 37 Tim Doling, “In Search of Saigon’s American War Vestiges,” Historic Vietnam, 26 April 2015, URL: ht (...)
  • 38 Natasha Pairaudeau and François Tainturier, “De Saigon à Ho Chi Minh Ville,” op. cit. (note 2), p.  (...)
  • 39 In 1976 it came under management by Saigontourist—which manages about a third of the luxury hotels (...)

27The famed Rex Hotel (fig. 12), also completed in 1959, is also remarkably centrally located, across the street from the People’s Committee Building. The five-story hotel takes up almost the entire block formed by the four major streets Nguyen Hue, Le Thanh Ton, Pasteur and Le Loi. Built by Prince Nguyễn Phúc Ưng Thi, the hotel boasts playful angles and curves. The corner of the building at Nguyen Hue Boulevard and Le Loi Street is slightly rounded, not outwards in the usual way but inwards, forming a concave rather than convex surface along all five floors. On two other corners of the hotel, formed by Nguyen Hue Boulevard and Le Thanh Ton Street, and Le Thanh Ton Street and Pasteur Street respectively, the top three floors are nearly semicircular, while the former corner is topped by a projecting concrete roof (which might have been designed as a helipad). The lobby and arcade of the hotel are adorned in an Art Deco style. Upon completion the hotel was used by the American government for housing the USIS offices and Abraham Lincoln Library, and for providing hotel accommodation for many US military advisers.37 The hotel was built on the site of the Bainier Automobile Showroom, which opened in 1927 and was demolished to make way for the Rex Hotel.38 The Showroom can be seen in the film The Quiet American (1958). The building had a three-part angled corner with columns.39

Figure 12: Rex Hotel, 141 Nguyễn Huệ Boulevard, 2015.

Figure 12: Rex Hotel, 141 Nguyễn Huệ Boulevard, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

  • 40 Ibid., p. 231.

28The Palace Hotel (fig. 13) at 55–56 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, designed by the architect Vũ Bá Định and opened in 1972, is another iconic modernist building.40 It is similar in design to the Caravelle Hotel before the renovation, with vertical and horizontal lines creating a regular, rhythmic play of light and shade and projected and receded spaces. Another feature it shares with the Caravelle Hotel is the elegant curve all along the sixteen-story façade of a corner. The Palace Hotel has undergone several renovations, the latest in 2010. The hotel is next to a brand-new public plaza opened in 2016 above the subway line under construction, which is one of the largest green spaces in the city.

Figure 13: The Palace Hotel, 55-56 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, 2015.

Figure 13: The Palace Hotel, 55-56 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

29Some of the other notable buildings with rounded corners include a large four-story modernist building at 55 Le Loi Street, a four-story building at 49 Dong Du Street near Dong Khoi Street, and a six-story modernist building at 95 Pasteur Street, which also boasts playful vertical textures and a vertical row of circular accent windows. An eight-story building at 43 Hai Ba Trung (fig. 14) features thin vertical lines contrasting horizontal lines including a series of horizontal bands composed of thin rectangular slits that are very characteristic of many modernist buildings of the city.

Figure 14: 43 Hai Ba Trung Street, 2015.

Figure 14: 43 Hai Ba Trung Street, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

  • 41 Several of Bill Burke’s photographs in Autrefois, maison privée, New York, NY: PowerHouse Books, 20 (...)

30Numerous buildings like the one shown in fig. 14 were built in Phnom Penh as well, mainly during the 1950s and 1960s, as can be seen in fig. 15. The prevailing view that emphasizes French-Cambodian connections in the construction of modernist buildings in Cambodia41 needs to be modified to incorporate the contribution of regional circulation. Many such buildings clearly have much more in common with buildings in Ho Chi Minh City than those in France. Numerous features of the building on the right, such as wraparound balconies—a recurring feature in the architecture of tropical regions—, rhythmic bands of thin horizontal lines and columns, louvered windows, and the appearance of the ground floor reserved for commerce, are remarkably similar to countless buildings in Ho Chi Minh City.

Figure 15: A Street in Phnom Penh, 2008.

Figure 15: A Street in Phnom Penh, 2008.

Source: Author΄s picture.

31Continuing our survey of Ho Chi Minh City, a building (fig. 15) at 2 Ton That Tung not only has rounded corners but appears almost as a spherical tower. Its numerous awning windows in various sizes, along with concrete awnings, form a significant design component, and on the concrete façade is a pattern of rectangles. On the top floor, the interior section is receded and surrounded by balconies with thin columns. Such thin columns are similar to those visible on the top floors of numerous buildings of the city, including bank buildings and the Catinat building discussed above. Finally, a building on Nguyen Hue Boulevard currently housing Saigontourist, next to the Artex building, is notable for a repeated pattern of triple horizontal white bands and playful vertical decorative textures.

Figure 16: 2 Ton That Tung Street, 2015.

Figure 16: 2 Ton That Tung Street, 2015.

Source: Author΄s picture.

Recent Buildings With Rounded Corners

  • 42 “Khởi công xây dựng Cao ốc Artex Saigon,” SGGP official website, 26 May 2005, URL: http://www.sggp. (...)
  • 43 “Colliers International chosen to manage tallest building in town,” Vietnam Breaking News, 25 Octob (...)

32In central Ho Chi Minh City, on Dong Khoi and nearby streets, are a number of recently built high-rises that also feature rounded corners. The seven-story Huong Sen Hotel at 66–70 Dong Khoi Street which opened in 1993 and renovated in 2012, also has a rounded corner along all floors, at Dong Khoi and Mac Thi Buoi streets. Parkson Saigontourist Plaza at 35 bis–45 Le Thanh Ton Street, at the intersection with Dong Khoi Street, also has a curved corner all along the six-story façade. The Sheraton Hotel, built in 2003 next to the Caravelle Hotel, includes several narrow, curved corners, two of them on upper floors only. The prominently curved corner of the Artex building completed in 2007,42 at 161 Dong Khoi Street across the street from the Caravelle Hotel, is topped with a dome, which echoes the tower-like shape and the dome of the Grand Hotel several blocks further south. At Lamson Square near the Municipal Theater, the five-star Park Hyatt Hotel, which opened in 2005, not only features a wide curved angle but significantly resembles the nearby landmark Hotel Continental in its overall design and white color. Vincom Center A (2012), built on the site of the Eden building across the street from the Hotel Continental, similarly emulates the design of the Hotel Continental and also showcases a rounded corner. Even the latest symbol of financial and architectural modernity, the Bitexco Financial Tower, completed in 2010 and inspired by a lotus flower according to its architect Carlos Zapata,43 seems to pay a certain tribute to the salient and unique architectural heritage of Ho Chi Minh City, in its curved shape. This extends to the semicircular helipad.

Disappearing Architectural Legacy: Aesthetic and Psychological Impact of Development

  • 44 Vietnam metro loses 200 historic buildings to development,” Thanh Nien News, 12 April 2014, http:/ (...)
  • 45 Mike Ives, “Colonial Architecture Fades from Ho Chi Minh City,” op. cit. (note 29); Zanna K. McKay, (...)

33In the last two decades, Ho Chi Minh City, the economic dynamo of Vietnam, has been undergoing dramatic changes in its urbanscape, and much of this development comes at a steep price: the loss and destruction of much of what makes the city unique in the first place. More than half of heritage buildings were destroyed or significantly altered in the space of a decade, between 1993 and 2014. Of 377 structures in districts 1 and 3 categorized as heritage sites by French and Vietnamese specialists in 1993, at least 207 have been demolished or defaced, according to Fanny Quertamp Nguyen, director of the Center for Prospective and Urban Studies (PADDI), a Franco-Vietnamese urban research agency.44 Three of the most prominent losses have been the 213 Dong Khoi Art Deco building, the Eden, and the Tax Trade center all discussed above. The demolition of the building at 213 Dong Khoi in 2014 galvanized the Vietnamese public to start a community-led urban heritage conservation movement. The demolition plan of the Tax Trade Center was widely criticized by the public, who wished to conserve the building not only for aesthetic reasons but in order to protect their collective urban memories. Residents see razing or overhauling such buildings as resulting in the ripping of the social fabric.45 Rapid changes in the urban environment result not only in the loss of architectural, cultural, and historical heritage, but also profoundly impact residents’ psychology. Collective and individual memories of the urban environment play a significant role in the structuring of daily routines and the conception of what constitutes a viable urban life.

34Moreover, the loss of architectural heritage signifies the loss of a pattern of dialogue among generations of architects, builders, and residents. It is clear that in Ho Chi Minh City generations of architects across colonial and postcolonial periods were clearly inspired by existing architecture of the city. Such influence is discernible from the material evidence of the buildings themselves. Wandering in central Ho Chi Minh City on foot, one begins to see rounded, curved corners everywhere. The most striking heritage in this regard dates from the period between the 1920s and 1960s. In addition to curved corners, tall ceilings and louvered windows, other recurring architectural motifs indicate such patterns of dialogue. A good example is the frequent use of thin columns and receded top floors with space for balconies on top floors of numerous buildings of the city, including bank buildings and the Catinat building, dating from the 1920s through the 1960s. While the design of extra exterior space was clearly motivated by practical purposes of lessening the effects of heat on top floors, the recurring motifs form an intriguing pattern and in turn an architectural and cultural heritage. Another repeated element is thin bands of horizontal slits. Again, it is clear that architects and builders were inspired by existing designs of the city and nearby cities such as Phnom Penh. Such a pattern showcases the resilience of architectural forms in the city—and the region—even as changing stylistic trends caused multiple metamorphoses of forms.

35It is difficult to replicate an architectural coherence achieved during a particular period. New structures replacing demolished ones are, while no doubt luxurious, clean, and modern, invariably lack the singular cohesiveness attained in a particular space and time. Rather, the new structures are products of a global postmodernist age that can be found in any number of cities. In this regard the Bitexco Financial Tower is one of the few recently constructed buildings in central Ho Chi Minh City that stands out as being notably innovative and well designed. In this way, the new high-rises fail to replace the architectural designs of the more modest but finely designed bygone structures. As such, the architectural emulation that some of the brand-new buildings display in the form of curved corners function mostly at a perfunctory, symbolic level. From the perspective of tourism as well, the loss of urban and architectural heritage is rapidly turning Ho Chi Minh City into yet another Asian city characterized by skyscrapers without much historical memory or charm, the characteristics that precisely distinguish Ho Chi Minh City, as well as Hanoi, from numerous Asian cities with more developed economies. Ho Chi Minh City possesses a very distinct architectural heritage, notable for a diversity of styles but also marked by a large, cohesive set of modernist architecture, and this heritage needs to be preserved.

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Notes

1 Thierry Delfosse, Saigon Modernist: Fifty years of Architecture, an e-book (2017), is the only monograph to focus on this topic. While it contains reproductions of archival material such as building plans, the text is short and mostly descriptive. Lê Quang Ninh and Stéphane Dovert (eds.), Saigon 1698-1998: Kiến trúc/Architectures, Quy hoch/Urbanisme, Ho Chi Minh City: Nhà xut bn Thành ph H Chí Minh, 1998, and Tim Doling, Exploring Ho Chi Minh City, Hà Nội: Thế Giới Publishers, 2014, include discussion of modernist buildings. Given the dearth of scholarly work, the most vibrant discussion of modernist architecture in the city can be found on websites: HistoricVietnam.com and Saigoneer.com are the best online sources on modernist buildings. On colonial architecture of Ho Chi Minh City see Arnauld Le Brusq, Vietnam à travers l’architecture coloniale, Paris: Éditions Patrimoines et Médias; Éditions de l’Amateur, 1999; Caroline Herbelin, Architectures du Vietnam colonial: repenser le métissage, Paris: CTHS; INHA, 2016 (L'Art et l'essai); and Gwendolyn Wright, The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism, London; Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press, 1991.

2 The 1946–1954 period, during the First Indochina War, saw a large migration of the rural population into Saigon, fleeing frequent French military campaigns against the Vietminh and also against Cao Dai and Hoa Hao. After the emergence of two independent states divided by the 17th parallel in 1954, throughout the Vietnam War (the Second Indochina War), the city’s population continue to grow. It grew between 1954 and 1964 from 1.7 to 2.4 million, and alongside the influx of American military, migration into the city of populations seeking refuge from the war continued so that by 1975, when the war ended, it had reached 4 million. Natasha Pairaudeau and François Tainturier, “De Saigon à Ho Chi Minh Ville: croissance et changements depuis 1945,” in Lê Quang Ninh and Stéphane Dovert (eds.), Saigon 1698-1998, op. cit. (note 1); Quach Thanh Tam-Langlet, “Saïgon, capitale de la République du Sud-Viêtnam (1954–1975) ou une urbanisation sauvage,” in Pierre-Bernard Lafont (ed.), Péninsule indochinoise, études urbaines, Paris: L’Harmattan, 1991 (Recherches asiatiques. Travaux du Centre d'histoire et de civilisations de la Péninsule indochinoise), p. 190.

3 Mel Schenck, “How Vietnam Created Its Own Brand of Modernist Architecture,” Saigoneer, 28 December 2016, URL: http://saigoneer.com/saigon-development/8939-how-vietnam-created-its-own-brand-of-modernist-architecture. Accessed 17 July 2017. Schenck is writing a book arguing that the Vietnamese embraced modernism in a way that is unique in the world. Much of this modernist architecture has subsequently been demolished, altered, or blocked from view.

4 Vũ Hùng Vit, “Preface,” in Lê Quang Ninh and Stéphane Dovert (eds.), Saigon 1698-1998, op. cit. (note 1), p. 9.

5 Trương Ngc Lân, “Die Geschichte der Modernen Architektur in Vietnam,” ARCH+, no. 226, Autumn 2016, p. 27–29.

6 “Les immeubles Art Déco du cours Jean Jaurès à Grenoble,” architecture-art-deco.fr, 20 January 2016, URL: http://www.architecture-art-deco.fr/les-immeubles-art-deco-cours-jean-jaures-grenoble.html. Accessed 17 July 2017.

7 In Singapore numerous curved buildings in the Streamline Moderne style were built in the 1930s in the Tioing Bahru neighborhood, which is currently enjoying a renewed vogue as a significant heritage area.

8 Books devoted to the topic of curved façades or corners are rare. References to such themes are scattered in works such as Stanislaus von Moos, Le Corbusier: Elements of a Synthesis, Cambridge, MA; London: MIT Press, 1979. Works discussing Streamline Moderne style such as Anthony Sutcliffe, London: An Architectural History, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006, and Anthony Sutcliffe, Paris: An Architectural History, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993, do not mention the broader circulation of styles beyond Europe and the United States.

9 On modern architecture in Tel Aviv see Nitza Metzger-Szmuk, Des maisons sur le sable : Tel-Aviv, Mouvement moderne et esprit Bauhaus = Dwelling on the Dunes, Tel-Aviv: Modern movement and Bauhaus ideals [Véra Pinto-Lasry and Vivianne Barsky trans.], Paris: Éditions de l’Éclat, 2004; Nahoum Cohen, Bauhaus Tel Aviv: An Architectural Guide, London: Batsford Ltd, 2003; Günther Förg, Photographs: Bauhaus Tel Aviv – Jerusalem, exhibition catalogue (Weimar, Schillermuseum, 15 February–14 April 2002; Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, NovemberDecember 2002), Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2002; Sharon Rotbard, White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015.

10 For some examples of such houses see Adrian Tinniswood, The Art Deco House, New York, NY: Watson-Guptill, 2002. Such buildings can be seen in Vietnam and Cambodia as well; La Résidence Hotel of Hue, originally built in 1930 as an annex of the Resident Superior of Annam, is an example. A photograph of this building circa 1940 is in Arnauld Le Brusq, Vietnam à travers l’architecture coloniale, op. cit. (note 1), p. 133.

11 “Cochinchine,” L’Illustration, 23 April 1864, p. 267–268.

12 Arnauld Le Brusq, Vietnam à travers l’architecture coloniale, op. cit. (note 1), p. 39.

13 On the urban planning of colonial Saigon see Gwendolyn Wright, The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1991 (Architectural history, Urban history); Ambe J. Njoh, French Urbanism in Foreign Lands, Cham: Springer, 2016 [Ebook]; Caroline Herbelin, Architectures du Vietnam colonial, op. cit. (note 1); and Philippe Franchini (ed.), Saigon 1925-1945: De la “Belle Colonie” à l’éclosion révolutionnaire ou la fin des dieux blancs, Paris: Éditions Autrement, 1993 (Mémoires, 17).

14 Mark Bowyer, “A bland future for Saigon’s main street?” Thanh Nien News, 10 July, 2014, URL: http://www.thanhniennews.com/commentaries/a-bland-future-for-saigons-main-street-28321.html. Accessed 17 July 2017.

15 Tim Doling, “A Date with the Wrecking Ball: The Catinat Building,” The Saigoneer, 23 June, 2014, URL: http://saigoneer.com/saigon-buildings/2180-a-date-with-the-wrecking-ball-the-catinat-building. Accessed 17 July 2017.

16 Brian Letwin and Tim Doling, “Nearly Gone But Not Forgotten: 213 Dong Khoi,” May 12, 2014, URL: http://saigoneer.com/saigon-development/1940-nearly-gone-but-not-forgotten-213-dong-khoi. Accessed 7 February 2015.

17 Brian Letwin and Tim Doling, “Nearly Gone But Not Forgotten,” op. cit. (note 16).

18 Minh Ngọc, “Vincom Center A - ‘viên ngọc’ giữa lòng TP.HCM,” Vietnamnet, 23 October 2012, URL: http://vietnamnet.vn/vn/kinh-doanh/vincom-center-a-vien-ngoc-giua-long-tp-hcm-93725.html. Accessed 17 July 2017.

19 Helen Clark, “The fall of Saigon—by demolition,” Independent, 11 January 2011, URL: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/the-fall-of-saigon-ndash-by-demolition-2182182.html. Accessed 17 July 2013.

20 Dang Bui, “The Cinemas of Old Saigon,” The Saigoneer, 4 September 2014, URL: http://saigoneer.com/saigon-buildings/2630-the-cinemas-of-old-saigon. Accessed 17 July 2015. Matt Gross, “Footsteps: Marguerite Duras’s ‘The Lover’; In Vietnam, Forbidden Love and Literature,” The New York Times, 30 April 2006, URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/30/travel/30footstep.html?pagewanted=print. Accessed 17 July 2017.

21 François Tainturier, “Architectures et urbanisme sous l’administration française,” in Lê Quang Ninh and Stéphane Dovert (eds.), Saigon 1698-1998, op. cit. (note 1), p. 189.

22 Le Brusq cites the Printemps department store of Paris and the Negresco Hotel of Nice as influences on the dome. Arnauld Le Brusq, Vietnam à travers l’architecture coloniale, op. cit. (note 1), p. 96.

23 François Tainturier, “Architectures et urbanisme,” op. cit. (note 21), p. 187.

24 Ibid., p. 187.

25 “Memory lane: More than a century of Dong Khoi, icon of Saigon beauty,” Thanh Nien News, 4 May 2015, URL: http://www.thanhniennews.com/travel/memory-lane-more-than-a-century-of-dong-khoi-icon-of-saigon-beauty-42880.html. Accessed 17 July 2017. The hotel had 99 rooms at the time. François Tainturier, “Architectures et urbanisme,” op. cit. (note 21), p. 187.

26 François Tainturier, “Architectures et urbanisme,” op. cit. (note 21), p. 187.

27 Đào Loan, “Mở rộng Majestic,” Thời báo Kinh tế Sài gòn, June 7, 2011, URL: http://www.thesaigontimes.vn/Home/doanhnghiep/motvongdoanhnghiep/56634. Accessed 7 April 2017.

28 “Ho Chi Minh City commences demolition of Saigon Tax Trade Center,” Tuoi Tre News, 12 October 2016, URL: http://tuoitrenews.vn/business/37504/ho-chi-minh-city-commences-demolition-of-saigon-tax-trade-center. Accessed 17 July 2017.

29 Mike Ives, “Colonial Architecture Fades From Ho Chi Minh City, and Residents Mourn,” The New York Times, 25 February 2016, URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/world/asia/vietnam-ho-chi-minh-city-architecture.html?_r=0. Accessed 17 July 2017.

30 Trn Th Vĩnh Tường, “The Saigon Tax Trade Center Mosaic Staircase: A Forgotten Moroccan Masterpiece,” 21 July 2015, URL: http://saigoneer.com/saigon-buildings/4875-the-saigon-tax-trade-centre-mosaic-staircase-a-forgotten-moroccan-masterpiece. Accessed 17 July 2017.

31 Arnauld Le Brusq, Vietnam à travers l’architecture coloniale, op. cit. (note 1), p. 9394, 96. The interior is colorfully decorated with Khmer motifs.

32 Nguyn Văn Ho’s descendants still live in a section of the building, while shops are located on the ground floor. Tim Doling, Exploring Ho Chi Minh City, op. cit. (note 1), p. 115.

33 “Échos et nouvelle,” Le Nouvelliste d’Indochine, 18 December 1938, cited in “Clinique Saint-Paul, Rue Legrand-De-La-Liraye, Saïgon (1938–1975),” URL:

www.entreprises-coloniales.fr/inde-indochine/Clinique_Angier_Saigon.pdf. Accessed 17 July 2017.

34 Service de Santé de Hô Chi Minh Ville, “Hôpital Tu Du,” http://tudu.com.vn/cache/1043260_Hôpital%20Tu%20Du.pdf, p. 4. Accessed 3 January 2017.

35 David Trujillo, “At Tu Du Hospital, optimism remains high despite challenges,” 12 April 2016, URL: http://www.peoplesworld.org/article/at-tu-du-hospital-optimism-remains-high-despite-challenges. Accessed 17 July 2017.

36 Dave Lowe and François Jarlov, Caravelle-Saigon: A History, Ho Chi Minh City: VHSG Saigon Culture Publishing House, 2009.

37 Tim Doling, “In Search of Saigon’s American War Vestiges,” Historic Vietnam, 26 April 2015, URL: http://www.historicvietnam.com/us-vestiges. Accessed 17 July 2017.

38 Natasha Pairaudeau and François Tainturier, “De Saigon à Ho Chi Minh Ville,” op. cit. (note 2), p. 229.

39 In 1976 it came under management by Saigontourist—which manages about a third of the luxury hotels of the city—which in 1986 gave way to a financially independent management. Ibid., p. 229.

40 Ibid., p. 231.

41 Several of Bill Burke’s photographs in Autrefois, maison privée, New York, NY: PowerHouse Books, 2004, show modernist buildings in Phnom Penh with wide curved corners; Michelle Vachon, “Photographer Captures Layers of History at City’s Corners,” Cambodia Daily, 5 October 2015, URL: https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/photographer-captures-layers-of-history-at-citys-corners-96384. Accessed 17 July 2017. On modernism in Cambodia see Helen Grant Ross and Darryl Collins, Building Cambodia: “New Khmer Architecture” 1953–1970, Bangkok: The Key Publishers, 2006.

42 “Khởi công xây dựng Cao ốc Artex Saigon,” SGGP official website, 26 May 2005, URL: http://www.sggp.org.vn/khoi-cong-xay-dung-cao-oc-artex-saigon-339090.html. Accessed 19 July 2017.

43 “Colliers International chosen to manage tallest building in town,” Vietnam Breaking News, 25 October 2016, URL: https://m.vietnambreakingnews.com/2016/10/colliers-international-chosen-to-manage-tallest-building-in-town. Accessed July 17 2017.

44 Vietnam metro loses 200 historic buildings to development,” Thanh Nien News, 12 April 2014, http://www.thanhniennews.com/society/vietnam-metro-loses-200-historic-buildings-to-development-25117.html. Accessed 17 July 2017.

45 Mike Ives, “Colonial Architecture Fades from Ho Chi Minh City,” op. cit. (note 29); Zanna K. McKay, “Vietnam’s architectural gems are disappearing,” USA Today, 4 March 2017, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/03/04/vietnam-architectural-gems-disappearing/97098474. Accessed 27 July  2017.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Catinat Building, 26 Ly Tu Trong, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k
Titre Figure 2: 80 Dong Khoi Street, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Titre Figure 3: Grand Hotel, 8 Dong Khoi street, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Titre Figure 4: “Seaprodex” building, Dong Khoi and Ngo Duc Ke Streets, 2016.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 240k
Titre Figure 5: 2-4-6 Dong Khoi Street, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 124k
Titre Figure 6: Hotel Majestic, 1 Dong Khoi Street, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 184k
Titre Figure 7: State Bank of Vietnam, Yersin Street, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Titre Figure 8: Mekong Housing Bank building, 32 Ham Nghi Street, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Titre Figure 9: Comptoir Nguyễn-Văn-Hảo Saïgonnais flatiron building, Ky Con Street, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 168k
Titre Figure 10: Clinique St. Paul, 280 Dien Bien Phu, 2015.
Crédits Source : Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Titre Figure 11: Từ Dũ Hospital Connecting Bridge, 284 Cong Quynh, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Figure 12: Rex Hotel, 141 Nguyễn Huệ Boulevard, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 112k
Titre Figure 13: The Palace Hotel, 55-56 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Titre Figure 14: 43 Hai Ba Trung Street, 2015.
Crédits Source: Author΄s picture.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Figure 15: A Street in Phnom Penh, 2008.
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URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/3630/img-15.jpg
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Titre Figure 16: 2 Ton That Tung Street, 2015.
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H. Hazel Hahn, « Rounded Edges: Modernism and Architectural Dialogue in Ho Chi Minh City », ABE Journal [En ligne], 11 | 2017, mis en ligne le 05 octobre 2017, consulté le 15 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/abe/3630 ; DOI : 10.4000/abe.3630

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Auteur

H. Hazel Hahn

Professor of History, Seattle University, Seattle, WA, USA

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La revue ABE Journal est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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