||BDNC is a product of Vietnam’s communist government. Rather than renovate the crumbling French colonial town that is the current provincial capital, government-sponsored developer BECAMEX has decided to build an entirely new town. BDNC will incorporate all the infrastructure and digital capabilities that many Vietnamese towns lack.
Located 30 km north of the largest city of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City (HCM City, formerly known as Saigon), Binh Duong New City will be the new, modern home of 125,000 residents. The industrial terrain and ‘brainpark’ surrounding the new town will attract 400,000 daily commuters.
The 1000 ha Binh Duong New City is part of a much larger and 4200 ha development project called The Binh Duong Urban Service and Industry Complex. The project is scheduled to be complete by 2020, and aims is to attract green industries, environmentally friendly industries and industries with high regional and international competitive advantages.
Although Vietnam’s experience with new towns has a long history, new town building has recently come back in vogue as a major planning strategy for the national government. In fact, in just the past five years, Vietnam has built 37 new urban centres. As the population continues to swell, new towns are seen as the most effective way of distributing the influx. Today, HCM City is a seriously congested city of more than seven million inhabitants, with growth expected to reach 13 million by 2020. In the HCM City Master plan 2020, the national and local governments embraced new town development as a way of dispersing this growing population. The new, polycentric organization preserves HCM City as “an administrative, cultural, tourist and service centre.
Vietnam’s experience with new towns stretches back to the period of French colonialism, thus back to the late 19th century, when Vietnam was colonized as a part of the translational Indochine française. HCM City itself comes from the 1860s, planned and built by French colonialists. Since 1976, Vietnam has been working on five-year plans providing a framework for the country’s development, striving to become an industrialized economy by 2020. Binh Duong New City as the new development should directly contribute to an achievement of this over-riding goal.
Government incentives have encouraged foreign direct investment, conditioned by tax allowance, over the last decade. High-tech enterprises have a four-year tax holiday and nine years of 50% tax reductions. Other companies benefit from a three-year tax holiday and seven years with 50% deduction. Corporate tax is capped at 25%, and VAT is just 10% (compared to China’s 17% VAT). Vietnam is a country with a relatively high tax allowance but startlingly faces an endemic corruption of more than 90 million. Despite this fact, government eases restrictions on foreign investment and increase transparency.
In June 2009, the Binh Duong People's Committee approved the new town’s detailed construction plan. A month later, the state-owned developer Becamex IDC (a major player in the Vietnamese real estate market) received a certificate of land use rights for a project kick-off. Singapore-based CENDES International designed the master plan, while the National University of Singapore (NUS) has since taken over responsibility for implementing the design. The new town will have a centralized political administrative centre, international schools and a university, a high-tech park, an office district and residential areas. Industrial parks in the surrounding areas will provide ample employment and investment opportunities.
A large single roundabout occupies the centre of the new town. Open green space and a grand cultural centre share the circular space. Surrounding this core are mixed-use buildings, with offices, retail space and residential units. This central area is called the ‘Culture Zone’ and features a covered pedestrian mall, a performance stage, an event space, and a landscaped sunken plaza.
The radial arteries extending from the roundabout lead to the edges of the city. The northern part is made up primarily of mid-rise residential blocks, with some schools and small retail spaces, as well as a metro station. The artery extending to the west runs past office and hotel blocks, ending at another mid-rise apartment neighbourhood and a university campus. The university is part of Vietnam’s national strategy to train highly skilled human resources at home, rather than importing brainpower. North of the university, Mapletree Business City will occupy the edge of the new town.
The area between this main road and the radial street heading southwest is occupied by a quadrant of luxury villas and a large central park. A canal encircles most of the villa development, providing a boundary between the open public space and the private housing. This central corridor is almost a line of symmetry for the two halves of the city. Between the park and the roundabout, an administrative centre acts a buffer zone. The sprawling administrative centre consists of the Party agency bloc, the State management agency bloc, a provincial agency area, central agencies, grassroots administration agency space, and grassroots business agency space. Singapore-based CPG consulting group is responsible for the design. This landscaped sequence is called the ‘Civic Axis’. The new town’s second metro station is also located in this area, between the roundabout and the administrative centre.
The artery running southwest from the central roundabout is flanked by office buildings, retail, hotels, and a convention centre. This is also designed as another major view corridor for the new town, and the city’s main boulevard. This road will be used as Binh Duong New City’s ‘Ceremonial Axis’. It joins Highway 13 at the outskirts of the development, providing the primary gateway into the new town from HCM City.
Further from the centre, mixed-use residential and retail blocks lead out of the new town. The south-eastern edge of the city is characterized by row houses. Linear green spaces connect the Central Business District (CBD) to this low-rise housing area. Planning documents differentiate between six residential typologies. Courtyard townhouses “are inspired by the local mixed-use residential typology - condominiums, courtyard townhouses, row apartments, street row houses, urban terraces and luxury villas (or ‘landed houses’). They have the most convenient access from the main road.” Row apartments are organized back-to-back, with private parking lots between the back facades. Row apartments face out onto semi-public linear parks “to cultivate more outdoor activity within the community.” Urban terraces are slightly more upscale, with three-meter-deep front lawns and seven-meter-deep backyards. Luxury villas occupy the prime real estate on either side of the central park. Each individual plot is 500m2 minimum, with a “resort-like atmosphere”. The 110 villas at Sunflower are designed to appeal to international buyers. Straight lines and wide expanses of glass give the homes a contemporary aesthetic.
Older Vietnamese buildings reflect various stylistic influences, including Chinese, Soviet, French and traditional elements. Vernacular Vietnamese architecture is generally built using heavy wood construction, without the stilts that are often seen in other Southeast Asian countries. The vernacular housing typology is almost always single-story, with flat-tiled roofs built to withstand the tropical cyclones. One common typology is the traditional ‘tubehouse’. Tubehouses are generally about four meters wide, and can be up to 40 m deep. Their long, linear organization is a product of the premium value placed on street-facing facades. As a result, owners build straight back from the street, combining commercial and living space under one roof. As land values have increased, the tubehouses have become stacked, sometimes towering seven or eight stories above the street in long sheets. The facades are characterized by brightly painted ornate decoration in a variety of styles, coupled with elaborate wrought iron bars to prevent burglary.
This complex pastiche is at odds with the simple geometries and neutral palettes of the Binh Duong villas. In Sunflower, hedgerows separate individual plots. Single-family houses rise three stories high, physically separate but visually similar. Creamy stucco covers quadrilateral facade elements, while huge windows give sweeping views over a private backyard pool. There is no discernable contextual influence and the villas appear to indicate an aesthetic preference for contemporary generic residential design.
As a planned town, Binh Duong New City can offer integrated infrastructure and communication utilities at a level that is largely unknown in rural Vietnam. One of the more revolutionary concepts being implemented in this new town is the combination of city-level administration with Communist Party agencies. Housing the two government bodies in one complex is a first step towards greater political efficiency and transparency. Bing Duong New City will act as a testing bed for this combination, attracting skilled workers and civil servants as a result. If things go according to plan, Binh Duong New City will become not only the new political centre of the province, but also the provincial economic engine.
Binh Duong New City offers an array of amenities to potential buyers. By combining an administrative centre, education, offices, industries and diverse residential choices, the new town seems to avoid the one-trick pony trap. Because the new town is so well sited among 28 industrial parks, employment is not expected to be a problem. Binh Duong New City’s proximity to HCM City is another benefit, and developers are confident of success.
As HCM City faces growing congestion and a serious housing shortage, Binh Duong is set to accommodate workers in what is quickly becoming the manufacturing hub of Vietnam. As a part of the Southern Key Economic Zone, Binh Duong Province hosts 28 business parks and more than 15,000 foreign employees. By creating a central urban environment with attractive facilities like international schools, the new provincial administration centre and a state-of-the-art hospital (not to mention an amusement park) Becamex hopes to attract a rising middle class to forego HCM City for Binh Duong New City.
source: Rachel Keeton