Protecting Traditional Vietnamese Shop-Houses in Cholon, Ho Chi Minh City

Cholon is a good example of projects with which we have been involved in cities in Asia and Africa in recent years.  Cholon, meaning the ‘Big Market’, is Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown – a bustling urban district of 4 km².  Heritage Places provided heritage input into a conservation and development study of its most important and valuable 14 hectares, undertaken by Madrid-based Design Convergence Urbanism for the People’s Committee of HCMC.

Cholon’s historic core contains traditional shophouses of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Our task was to survey the exterior of every building in the historic core in order to identify all potential heritage assets, their condition, and likely threats to their significance and/or future survival.  This allowed a detailed inventory of urban historic and cultural assets to be prepared for future use.  In tandem with this asset survey, we conducted a historic urban landscape/characterisation assessment.

Development pressures in the district have become very considerable in recent years and, before the study, the City’s heritage classification policy had focused solely on the protection of set-piece ‘monumental’ assets, such as Cholon’s temples and pagodas, ignoring everyday heritage such as the characteristic traditional shophouses and typical streetscapes in the area.  Comparing our findings with a 15 year old baseline photographic survey revealed that many everyday heritage assets had been lost in recent development activity, while still more had been altered detrimentally by the addition of extra floors or the removal or masking of characterful historic ornament.  Nonetheless, we found that much of heritage value and interest survived in the area and, on the basis of this understanding, we developed a conservation governance strategy for Cholon, including detailed classification and protection proposals and supporting draft regulations, in order to safeguard and enhance the character and significance of the surviving individual assets and streetscapes.

Client: Design Convergence Urbanism