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.

 

727 tran hung dao was a massive 8-towers housing estate located at the border with ho chi minh city’s chinatown (district 5). built in the 1970s, it first housed US Army naval support and GIs.

after the reunification (1975), the state used it to house high ranking officials from the regime’s people army. it later extended to senior civil servants and lower-ranking culture ministry personnel.

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between the 1980-1990s, it reached the peak of its occupancy, housing some 2,500 people.

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in between two of the 8 towers, looking up to the 13th floor

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our guide in the maze of the building. as we climb up, chi Phuong* tells us about how life was organized inside the building. the vivid vietnamese streetlife had « verticalized »: shops were opened on every floor, coffee/food stalls installed, smalls chairs or sofas placed in the corridors for neighbours to discuss…

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by the late 2000s, the rumor that the building would be demolished had become reality. the local government started rehousing families. by 2013, 400 of them had moved out – 130 were still waiting to find a suitable place.
one month ahead of its demolition, i visited 727 tran hung dao along with two mates.

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authorities started asking people to move out of the gigantic housing estate in 2007. last residents – such as our guide – only left a couple of months ago. many of the apartments still have furniture – although in bad shape – like if some kind of evictions had been conducted very quickly.

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chi phuong* was the last one to leave the address. that was back in june (2016). with state compensation, she found a place in district 7. yet, every morning, she comes back to president hotel.
« there are too many memories here » she tells us, trying to hold back some tears. « i lived there for 30 years; my kids grew up here… » many of the empty apartments look like dumps, but hers is clean and the few things that are left are kept in order. she locks the door when we leave.
she points at a sofa at the other end of the corridor. it used to be right in front of her door; she would sit there and chat with her neighbours. social life was a very appreciable characteristic of 727 tran hung dao.

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an amazing rooftop offered a swimming pool and many different spaces for the estate residents. abandoned for years, it’s been taken over by various kind of plants and these cute red flowers.

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dummy legs on the rooftop give an impression of decay.

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the rooftop offers a colorful view of the impressive density of ho chi minh city’s urban fabric.

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end of the visit, we leave the building. the golden-letter names on the mailboxes are the last testimonies of the humanity of the building.

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french photographer Laurent Weyl visited the building and met its residents several times to document the life of this unique urban mastodon before it disappeared. his work led to the photobook ‘President Hotel‘.

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the building also has many ghost stories. you can read a few of them here.

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*name was changed.

• August, 10th 2016 •