Ho Chi Minh City is the newest member of the City Science Network

Ho Chi Minh City is the newest member of the City Science Network

The newest member of the City Science Network is Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam. As part of this collaboration, the MIT City Science team will work with the Architecture Research Center (ARC) to understand, model and predict a series of new developments in District 4.

District 4 is located on the Saigon River, including the port, and is part of the urban core of the city. The district is slated for several new developments, and has become a prime location for real estate due to the economic impact of the area and the many highly skilled workers living there.

Photo by Long Joe

Researchers anticipate that modelling the proposed developments against the current landscape of the city can help better understand interventions and opportunities. Researchers will consider factors like mobility, housing, and access to amenities, as well as broader themes like liveability, sustainability and innovation potential. Both teams believe that the CityScope platform will play an essential role in both visualising the current and proposed scenarios, as well as contributing to the data-enabled decision-making that is essential to these new large scale projects. The teams agree that the research will support a shared goal to increase equity and resilience in the community.

“HCMC is one of the most creative and vibrant cities in Asia, and is rapidly becoming a center of cultural and economic exchange. I am excited that the Architectural Research Center of HCMC has become the newest member of our international network of City Science Labs, and we are proud to play a role in imagining an exciting future for the city,” said Kent Larson, Director of MIT City Science.

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About the Architecture Research Center and other collaborators

ARC, a unit of the HCMC Department of Planning and Architecture, is uniquely positioned for this collaboration. ARC’s team includes several collaborators and data scientists who have already been digitising and mapping key information related to the city and specifically to District 4.

Kien Vu, the Director of the City Science Lab, has a background in architecture, urban design, urban planning and smart cities. He earned his Master’s in Urban Design from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor’s of Architecture from the HCMC University of Architecture. Currently, Kien is a doctoral student at Technical University of Darmstadt. Before devoting his work to ARC, Kien had a career in higher education and government service as lecturer at Ho Chi Minh University of Technology (HUTECH), as Deputy Head of the Urban Management Division in the Thu Duc District and as an officer at HCMC Department of Planning and Architecture.

In addition to his work at ARC, Kien will also introduce the MIT team to several other key players from academia and industry who will contribute to the collaboration, adding their expertise and their own unique perspectives and experiences. Stakeholders will include the Institute of Smart City and Management — University of Economics HCMC (ISCM-UEH), the Multimedia Communications Laboratory at the University of Information Technology (MMlab), VLab J.S.C and Sunny World Development & Management Corporation (SDMC). In addition, the teams will run annual meetings and workshops with government officials to share insights and findings.

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About District Four

Located in a bend on the Saigon River, the port district has played an important role in the city’s development historically. Now as shipping and exports move to other parts of the city, the district is slated for new development, which will include several high-rise buildings with housing, amenities and office space.

There are several contributing factors that make District 4 an interesting location to study.

Vietnam has been experiencing rapid urbanisation after urban reforms that started in 1986. This development caused a huge spike in population and many people are living in self-built housing in the area. The expansive growth is also causing congestion and mobility issues. That said, researchers in Vietnam hope to maintain the important cultural aspects of these developments even in the face of new construction.

The team also hopes to preserve natural resources as much as possible as access to the riverfront is a key benefit of District 4 and contributes to community well-being. New developments should maintain this access and also be modified for potential flooding as we face the global risks of climate change. Though the district is complex, the teams hope that modelling proposed interventions can show both the benefit of new projects while also maintaining important urban commodities and culture, creating spaces that are well-functioning, equitable and resilient.

Photo by Long Joe

Ongoing collaboration

Research started in early January as contracts were finalised and teams met to share information and resources. The MIT team has been spending early days pouring through data and statistics for the district. ARC team members have started to make connections to the City Science Network as well, where they have a group of global leaders in topics related to data-enabled urbanism, lightweight mobility, and dynamically changing places and spaces.

Tu Anh Trinh is in charge of the Urban Planning and Mobility research team for the CityScienceLab@ Ho Chi Minh City and she is a Director at ISCM-UEH (one of the partners of ARC in this project). As part of the collaboration, she will work to integrate researchers from various fields and to learn and transform knowledge and experience from the City Science Network to researchers at the lab. Maggie Church is the Program Coordinator in the MIT Media Lab’s City Science group where she works closely with the City Science Network and on various MIT and Network events.