A new city developed to reflect both its urban aspirations and rural origins
As with all new urban settlements, issues of urban form, architectural expression and cultural continuity are foremost in the minds of designers and developers alike. It is taken for granted in the 21st century that all new settlements need to be developed on sustainable principles. It is not enough, however, to say that urban form can be derived wholly from ‘being sustainable’. As sustainability has become embedded in all aspects of urbanism it has ceased to be a form generating ubiquitous ‘add-on’ feature and the more social aspects of urbanism such as the narrative of place, reflection of the cultural landscape and the acknowledgement of living patterns have reasserted themselves.
Waterpoint, a new city for 50,000 people near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is being developed on a bend in the Vam Co Dong River which commands a strategic junction with the Thu Thua Canal, the major shipping connection to the Mekong Delta. Waterpoint was developed to reflect both its urban aspirations and its rural origins. Vietnamese cities have traditionally developed at such locations in the form of fortified citadels, at an advantageous position relative to the river’s course. The urban fabrics of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, all illustrate this pattern. The footprints and remains of these fortifications provide a special character and identity to the precincts that grew out of them.
Vietnamese rural settlement patterns are largely the result of the need to provide direct access to the country’s waterways and therefore they are largely the story of perpendicular movement across fields to and from the water. At a more detailed level the patterns of individual agricultural plots tells of movement, water management and seasonal sustainability. The urban structure of Waterpoint borrows from all of these placemaking strategies. A citadel establishes Waterpoint at the river bend. Extending eastward from this a series of precincts grow inward from the river banks. Between these patterns a river harbour provides both a focus for the new city and a setting for the citadel precinct. The triangular harbour, a shape derived from the collision of land patterns, finds its counterpoint in the central golf course and leisure park.
At a more detailed level the underlying agricultural pattern re-emerges in a series of water gardens. Waterpoint is thus linked to its setting and cultural landscape without the need to rely on architectural expression for reference. Sustainable aspects of Waterpoint are largely grouped into ecological, transport and built form strategies. Whilst some of these aspects find expression in the physical form of the city others are embedded in rhythms of its daily life. Ecological initiatives build on the ebb and flow of water and air along the river course. A fifty metre biodiversity corridor along riverbanks surrounds the new city, green breezeway corridors draw breezes through the site from riverbank to riverbank, a network of cooling canals is sustained by the river’s tidal flows and a series of water gardens inspired by agricultural patterns retain and treat storm water.
Transport initiatives are built around the idea that the city is for walking. To support this concept an internal transport circuit brings the entire city within a five minute walk of public transport, a series of jetties to provide river transport around the perimeter of the city, dedicated cycle paths link all nodes and clear sight lines cross all precincts allowing easy navigation on foot by day or night. Built form initiatives further support a comfortable microclimate. Buildings are positioned for advantageous solar orientation and natural cross ventilation, ‘open courtyard’ layouts allow for air circulation through neighbourhoods, rooftop gardens provide reduce urban ‘heat island’ effects and building spacing allows for screening layers of elements to provide for climate control and a variety of useful amenities. Waterpoint is a mix of authentic places in new a city that feels as if it has always been there.