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Shortlisted: Ton Ngoc Vu, Melbourne, Australia

Ngoc’s project successfully balances the value of top down with bottom up architectural development

Graduate projects of late seem to have developed a fascination with bottom-up architectural interventions, but all too often the ability to maturely balance optimism with naivety is found to be lacking in such proposals. Saigon Informal is an accomplished project that succeeds in measuring the importance of both architects and the community in the formation of progressive future developments.

Addressing the lower income group that currently accounts for almost 80 per cent of Saigon’s economy, the project examines new urban strategies that utilise building, street and landscape as effective tools for nourishing this fragile yet essential culture. By re-appropriating the vernacular typology of the Vietnamese ‘tube’ house, the settlement initiates a mass-void spatial sequence that creates a highly effective environmental strategy while also encouraging community interaction and future community development.


Canals form major arteries for urban circulation in this district

The judges commended the interrogation of every conceivable architectural niche − from doorsteps to laneways to canal decks − as multivalent spaces capable of nourishing social exchange. While taking obvious lessons from Foreign Office Architects’ Carabanchel, Madrid and Elemental’s Iquique, Chile schemes, the project also exercises the agential propositions of Jeremy Till and others in its execution of a refined architectural proposal that responds excellently to cultural andenvironmental contexts.

The proposed urban design facilitates the types of informal micro-economic activities observed in the existing site condition, to occur across an integrated network of three main activity zones: formal street commercial, informal laneway vending and recreational zones, and along flood mediation canals. At the architectural scale, the housing typology allows for expandability and flexibility in internal planning due to the high population density and their limited economic capacity. The massing proposal of the housing units incorporates spatial tolerance for residents’ future self-expansion when the users’ needs and economic capacity allow. Internally, the neutral spaces are adaptive to the changing functions: retail and living during the day and sleeping at night.


The narrow silhouettes of Vietnamese ‘tube houses’ sprout from restricted lots to create mini vertical cities mixing residential and commercial use

6Plan showing barge entry zones


The project focuses on nurturing existing micro-economic activity

4View of the inside of a Vietnamese ‘tube’ inspired house



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