Art4d No.232
Ho Chi Minh City
From Individuals to the City

Magazine editing
Published in Thailand
Year: 2015
Client: Art4d

bsides’ scope: Guest editor
Design team: Pornpas Siricururatana, Takumi Saito
Collaborators : Rebecca Vicker, Ketsiree Wongwan(Photo), Wilapa Kasviset (Graphic), art4d team

Amid the sweltering air of Ho Chi Minh City the white taxi with green stripes in which we sat became a minor feature among the surrounding mass of motorbikes. Zooming out from the fashion of vibrant colors that covered almost every part of the motorcycle riders, the image of slender giant trees along the side streets, gradually came into our viewpoint. The flexibility of motorbikes population seems to have a strong relationship with the actual physical city of HCMC that are connected and intertwined by a great network of small alleys. Be it a picture of huge market packed with small little shops, or a view from high rise building that shows how tiny buildings together form an urban fabric in between those random city’s skyline – you can feel a certain relationship and connection between these phenomena.

Forty years earlier in 1976, one year after Saigon fell apart, the city merged with the surrounding provinces. Its name was changed to Ho Chi Minh City. Thus the former Saigon (which now covered the historical area in the heart of the city, district 1, and the nearby area) became a larger metropolitan area and the most populous city in Vietnam. After the Doi Moi, an economic reform policy announced by the Government in 1986, Vietnam has shifted it’s production systems from state-run, large-scale industrial agriculture to a mix of centralized and privatized industryunderscored by an increasingly important sector of household production. These diverse production regimes around networks of small producers are crucial to large-scale commodity production that needs to answer the fluctuating world markets.Self-employed rate in Vietnam, which is around 65 percent of it’s total workforce, a very high proportion even compared to other ASEAN countries, showed how micro-scale networks continue to dominate the economic life of the city.

A few days there confirmed our belief that our mission, were not only to make an introduction to new works of art and design (although that alone was interesting enough), but also a trial to understand how a city had built a complex relationship between the structure of the city and society with its political and economical systems. This special issue was a challenge in understanding Ho Chi Minh City – a city where people become part of the infrastructure and the landscape, through perceptions of ‘people’ who were related to this city in various forms.

We hope that the stories from these individuals will help create a perspective that shows the methods and processes of dealing and reacting with the context of one ASEAN city. Despite the social context and history completely different from our own, the conditions and circumstances of Ho Chi Minh City allows us to look back and reflect on our own context in which we stand and to observe what we have and what methods we should use to respond.