Reading Response 5 – Ho Chin Minh’s Sidewalk life

This week’s reading talks about Urban Design and how it is important for designers to research and listen to the opinions of those that will be using the area (the locals) instead of blindly believing in statistics and demographic data. Annette Kim uses the idea of sidewalks in Ho Chin Minh city to bring out this topic. She mentioned that sidewalks use to be an important part of the pleasant experience she had whenever she is back home in Vietnam, but not anymore. With this she urge designers who are not familiar with social habits in Vietnam to try to understand the society. Urban design should move on from idealised principles and start to strive towards designing based on understanding the ethnography and situation of the locals on site. She criticised Western observers in their failure to view Asian communities actual power relation in different spaces but forcing Western views on public spaces into the Eastern societies, resulting in disastrous outcomes in Indore.

Moving on from Vietnam, I looked at the current Urban Design context of Singapore. Similar to Vietnam, we are a predominantly Asian society and share uncanny views on public spaces. One successful Urban planning that was done in Singapore was to shift food vendors from the sidewalks and road side into Hawker centres and wet markets. Every stall will have to gain a hygiene certificate and a license for their stall, completely obliterating illegal hawkers. Even though the location has been changed, the concept of everyone eating and buying at a specific avenue and the nostalgic feeling of being in a cluster has not been lost. People still enjoy food while seated on shared tables and stools just like the good old times, but no need to worry about police. If the urban planners of Singapore were to impose Western ideas on the country, the result would have been very different. Instead of these common food spaces, we would find more private dining spaces and perhaps the farmer’s market, butcher shop and seafood market. I will not say if that will be for the better or worse but I would say that the heritage of having a melting pot of cuisines all found at one place would have been very much lost.

bugis-waiting-for-hawkers-food best-hawker-centre


  1. If Vietnam were to have their sidewalks dwellers relocated by Urban designers with Ethnography research, what would the outcome be?
  2. What would a Hawker centre look like if it was implemented in Western countries?

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