Saigon. Eden Centre demolition. From flickr.com, picture posted by rustyproof
Demolition on Hai Bà Trưng st. Image from http://saigon-today.blogspot.com/. By Simon Kutcher
¨From his motorbike taxi stand outside the city's opera house Nguyen Van Dung gazes at the empty building site surrounded by a high security fence. For decades the corner was occupied by the historic Eden building but now it has been pulled down in the name of progress.(...)
In its last days the Eden was no beauty. It was greying, mouldy and long past its prime. But history was embedded in every one its blue-green shutters, and some fought to preserve the building that housed the Givral Café, famous as a hangout for spies during the Vietnam War.
Amid protests over what residents claimed was inadequate compensation, the building situated opposite the equally historic Continental Hotel – where Graham Greene once drank and wrote – was finally torn down last month. The 1930s French-built block, located on one of the city's prime streets, became the latest in a series of historic buildings to be demolished and replaced by the shiny new constructions preferred by the Vietnamese authorities. A shopping centre, hotel and office complex built by property developer Vincom will now occupy the space where the Eden once stood.(...)The Eden, whose residents watched as scenes from the 2002 film of Greene's novel, The Quiet American, were filmed in the square below, is just the latest victim of the fast-paced development that has taken place during the city's past 10 years of rapid growth. Vietnam's tallest tower, the 68-storey Bitextco, was completed recently but some believe it will never be viable. Dust emanating from building sites is one of the biggest air pollutants in many cities.
Many of the city's now lost old buildings housed restaurants and bars that catered to the city's growing middle class and expatriate population. The top class French restaurant Camargue and Vasco's, a popular bar, opened in a large building with a courtyard about 10 years ago. But both had to move as the seemingly inevitable wrecking ball arrived three years ago. Vasco's relocated to another old building that was used as an opium refinery during French rule.
District 5's Chinatown has lost many of its old shop premises in recent years and only one block is now regarded as an "old quarter". Many of the other properties built by Chinese merchants have gone the way of the colonial buildings.(...)Le Thi My Uyen, 22, whom I interviewed on Nguyen Hue street close to the Eden building said: "We cannot live without history." But she admitted her favourite destination was a new shopping centre built by Vincom that replaced another colonial block: "I like to go window shopping in big department stores with friends. I can hang out there and have coffee or go bowling too."
Tết on Lê Lợi St. Picture from http://saigon-today.blogspot.com/. By Simon Kutcher
From The fall of Saigon – by demolition. Article by Helen Clark, for independent.co.uk