an ordinary city

raising awareness about cities and architecture through cultural action

Author: myriem (Page 1 of 2)

hem hem exhibition – digging Ho Chi Minh City soundscape

“hem hem” was a multi-media exhibition that staged the soundscape of vernacular urban Ho Chi Minh City (commonly called Saigon) in an attempt to “visualise the hearing”, to manifest the body of urban sounds and provoke reflections about the representations triggered by un/familiar sounds.

the exhibition comprised primarily a collection of sounds recorded at different times of the day and the week and in the various streets and alleyways of a defined area in the Binh Thanh district of Ho Chi Minh City.
with minimal editing, the recordings focus on specific sounds or atmospheres in order to render a realistic impression of the different elements composing the soundscape of Ho Chi Minh City and share the sense of place felt in these streets.
throughout the space, recordings were accompanied by drawings created by Georgia through experiential response to the sounds. the drawings were made using simple materials: charcoal, ink, oil paint, paper, digital compositions.

this exhibition was presented in december 2017 at Wut Tung Sat, Hong Kong, by artists in residence, Georgia and Myriem, as the outcome of a reflection on the importance of sounds in the making of sense of place.


hem hem sound, charcoal on paper, by georgia golebiowski


On Sounds.

sounds as a multi-faceted medium, analysable through a kaleidoscopic lens: physically, musically, artistically, biologically, socially…

sounds as an inclusive medium: when photography is restrictive, forcing everyone into a single point of view, sounds are including, inviting the spectator to engage – they do not require alienation to be understood; anyone can have a feeling for/from them; the connection to memories and emotions is direct. sounds can bring you anywhere without discrimination.


what do the ordinary noises and silences tell us about our cities?

how do they reflect about the liveability of our cities?

how can we integrate them in the design of our urban spaces, of our cities as they develop? And why is it important to listen to our city’s murmurations?

the study of soundscapes and of the link between places- culture-sounds is still very absent in the academic jargon, while dominant discourses in city-making frame sounds as negativities to be neutralised. yet, what most of the time results from public spaces clearing and noise-reduction policies is a collection of banalised spaces that sacrifices the lived for the representation… shaping boring cities.

yes, soundscapes help us identify places: they translate a set of values, a collective memory; they help us identify places that have life, they help us navigate the urban.
hence, seeing the city through the lens of its sounds is not only a case for a medium, it is for a vision of the city. within a context of sanitisation of public spaces, it is a bold claim for a sensitive approach that poses a city that talks to us through its buildings, rhythms, people.

decomposing a soundscape forces for an associated switching of lenses: instead of seeing streets and alleyways as traffic channels (as the dominant discourse imposes a conception of cities as a collection of flows and mega- infrastructures), we need to see them as places – places that are the product of social relations. despite their apparent “mess”, these streets are highly organised. from their layout to the activities they host, they were born out of pragmatic decisions made by city dwellers themselves.

they may seem very ordinary, mundane, yet they hold at their core functioning principles that are nowadays celebrated in urban studies: resourcefulness, adaptability, flexibility. people share very limited space over time, but demonstrate a daily-renewed capacity to innovate, find replacement solutions, condense space, smoothly transform uses multiple times over the course of the day.

consequently, the very social relations needed to ensure the good functioning of these spaces create a strong neighbourhood solidarity, a reinforced attachment of dwellers towards their alley and a sharp sense of place.

these spaces are a lesson of urbanism to functionalism aficionados: by catering for people’s needs, they, in fact,lay ground for a viable local economy. not only do people live, but they also work, play, rest, produce there, resolving many social and environmental issues associated with the modern-day metropolis. people are anchored in a place, in a culture, in an ecosystem and in life. this incremental city reminds us a forgotten yet fundamental principle: life can’t spring in cities with an alienated society.

special screening: diamond island

an ordinary city and autumn meeting, with the support of the french institute in vietnam, have the pleasure to invite you to a special screening of the film ‘Diamond Island’ in presence of the film director Davy Chou and actors Sobon Nuon and Madeza Chhem.




diamond island is a symbol of cambodia’s future, a sprawling, ultra-modern paradise for the rich on the river in phnom penh.

like many other country boys, Bora, 18, is lured from his village to work on the construction of this property developers’ dream. there, he forges new friendships and is even reunited with his charismatic older brother Solei, who disappeared five years ago. Solei introduces Bora to the exciting world of Cambodia’s privileged urban youth, with its girls, its nightlife and its illusions.


a film by Davy Chou (Golden Slumbers, 2011)
year of production: 2016
running length: 1h39min
languages: khmer with dual english-vietnamese subtitles
SACD Award – critic’s week, Cannes festival 2016

more info.

screening details

date & time: thursday, november 30th 2017 – 7.30 pm
location: hoa sen university, 8 nguyễn văn tráng, q.1
free entrance, but registration required here.
more info & updates here.

the screening will be followed by a q&a with film director Davy Chou and actors Sobon Nuon (Bora) and Madeza Chhem (Aza).


about our partners

autumn meeting is an annual international cinema event held in da nang, vietnam. with the purpose of discovering and supporting new talented filmmakers from vietnam and the region, autumn meeting organizes various in-depth filmmaking workshops as well as film screenings and networking events. this year, autumn meeting takes place from 26th november to 5th december 2017.


the institut français in vietnam is a service of the french embassy in vietnam promoting french culture and encouraging cross-cultural exchange and cultural diversity.


anxious landscape

‘For all its inconveniences, Laing was satisfied with life in the high-rise.’

– J.G. Ballard, High-Rise.

Read More

an interview with shunri nishizawa

From the poetics of design to the dangers of current architectural trends in Vietnam, tale of a meeting with Japanese architect Shunri Nishizawa from NISHIZAWAARCHITECTS.

Read More

727 tran hung dao

727 tran hung dao was a massive 8-towers housing estate meant to be demolished during the summer 2016. before that happened, I paid a visit to the building.

Read More

saigon’s heritage according to its young architects

How many times haven’t I heard, since I landed in Saigon, complaints about how fast the city is transforming? I wanted to know what the Vietnamese youth, especially those who are meant to make the city, think about it. Tâm, Ha, Lê, Khoa and Viêt agreed to answer my questions. They are all from Vietnamese universities (HCMC school of Architecture and Van Lang University), except Viêt who studied in Japan and England.

Read More

lesson from saigon: designing with the locals

Taking into account the failure of traditional urban policies to meet the needs of urban dwellers, more and more small-scale projects involving community design processes emerge.

Read More

life project 4 youth: a story of social reintegration

Two young Saigonese women share their stories, from poverty to social reintegration.

Read More

the memory of our cities

Ho Chi Minh City, Viêt Nam, is under spectacular urban renewal; in each and every district, (re)development projects are mushrooming. Yet as it seems to grow uncontrolled, the city’s identity is at stake. Here are a few thoughts about what makes the soul of our cities.

Read More

different perspectives on street-vendors relocation

From Cairo, Surakarta to Ho Chi Minh City, attempts to relocate street-vendors are met with civil society claims to recognize their economic and urban value.

Read More

Page 1 of 2

© anordinarycity, 2017 & Theme by Anders Norén