The planning for Thu Thiem has occurred over a nine-year span, through a collaborative and detailed design process led by Sasaki and the Investment and Construction Authority (ICA) of Thu Thiem. This included extensive data collection from governing agencies and dozens of seminars and workshops in HCMC with individuals and stakeholders and culminating in Sasaki’s approved 1:2000 Thu Thiem Master Plan and Urban Design Guidelines in 2005.
In 2011, the ICA hired the Sasaki to update the 2005 plan and make strategic adjustments to land use, landscapes, and development program based on evolving requirements for both public lands and market and economic conditions. The year-long process included additional workshops and seminars to review and confirm all master plan and urban design guideline refinements.
The plan is characterized by a sustainable framework that fully integrates the site’s existing ecological conditions into the new district. Seven major public realm typologies are defined at Thu Thiem. At a citywide scale, all of HCMC will stand to benefit from the numerous free programs and spaces that will be created. At an ecological scale, the public spaces will clean the air, clean the water, be open to families, children, and seniors, and act as key components of the ecological sustainability emphasis at Thu Thiem. Environmental sustainability is built into every facet of the project. Elements of street orientation, building orientation, wind flow, water receiving landscapes, minimization of cut and fill operations, and enhancement of the existing Thu Thiem delta area have all been incorporated.
From a development perspective, the plan promotes density and compact urban form punctuated by landmark towers. Sasaki’s plan creates a memorable skyline of diverse building heights that will be an exciting “façade” for HCMC while allowing for flexibility of density and form within each neighborhood. Key amenities—museums, community centers, schools, hospitals— are located throughout the plan for proximity to all residents. A new national Stadium and an Observation Tower are included. The Tower will stand 88 stories tall and be the tallest building in Vietnam. Sasaki’s work includes clear guidelines for the management and implementation of the plan over time.
Development blocks and parcels are clearly defined and scaled to emphasize the pedestrian experience. A clear roadway network with primary, secondary, and tertiary roadways allows for clear and efficient circulation while a full public transit network is proposed, with underground metro and airport express link, local and regional buses, and water taxis and ferries. The Crescent Boulevard is designed as a high spine, raised slightly and accommodating the tallest buildings at Thu Thiem, with descending building heights moving towards the waterways on either side. This critical principle allows for views from most buildings to the water. The gross floor area of the master plan is targeted at 7.56 million square meters with a permanent residential population of 160,000 people.
Thu Thiem will be a sustainable, 21st-century urban district for HCMC. It will evolve into a world-class destination, attracting residents and visitors alike, providing new parks and public spaces, and creating a memorable skyline. The vision for Thu Thiem represents the contemporary evolution of the city’s extraordinary bond with the Saigon River, which is integrated and enhanced. The Sasaki master plan serves as a powerful model for the short and long-term sustainable growth of HCMC.
During its 300 year history, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) has grown from a small riverbank settlement into a thriving metropolis of over six million people. Today, HCMC continues to be defined by its relationship with the Saigon River. Where the river once formed an edge of the city, the development of Thu Thiem—an existing 657-hectare peninsula of mangroves and canals located across from the historic city center—will transform the river into the heart of the city.
Largely cut off for years from surrounding city districts and unsuitable for development due to the large port facilities nearby, the Thu Thiem peninsula is now a focus of investment as the ports are relocated closer to the East Sea. In 2003, the Vietnamese government identified Thu Thiem as a key development zone for a new Central Business District—a visionary, sustainable, 21st-century mixed-use district that would include housing, commercial uses, offices, schools, and a public open space system for all.
Thu Thiem sits at a strategic location in the broader context of HCMC’s development pattern. Thu Thiem is a strategic gateway into HCMC from future development areas to the east, including the city’s future new airport. Thu Thiem is also located at the terminus of National Highway 1, a transport corridor that connects the entire country from north to south, Hanoi to HCMC.
Thu Thiem is a broad, flat expanse of existing land comprised of informal settlement housing, mangrove forest, and navigable and non-navigable canals. The site sits across the Saigon River from historic District 1 of HCMC. Thu Thiem is wholly integrated into the hydrological flows of the river, characterized by semi-diurnal tides and low and high tide events. Though the water quality of the Saigon River is compromised and demands attention at a regional scale, Thu Thiem acts locally as a water filter and a water receiving landscape. As such, the site is a significant ecological asset for the city—any development plan must integrate and enhance this critical environmental component.
Design firm: Sasaki Associates
Project title: A Master Plan for Thu Thiem
Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Consultant: DeSo (Central Plaza and Cresant Park design only)