Ho Chi Minh Community Design

Image shows several children playing on a playground structure made from bamboo Children playing on the bamboo structure at the community space


The Ho Chi Minh Community Design project explored the Participatory Action Research (PAR) process in Phú Xuân, a suburban district in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

In this 2-year project, we co-designed a community space and built a design prototype (including the bamboo structure in the image above) in response to the social and environmental issues faced by the local community.

View more details of the project in our design report.


The project’s multidisciplinary team involved three universities – Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HCMUT), and Van Lang University (VLU) – to work with the Phú Xuân community. I was part of the research and design group from SUTD.

Over two separate trips to Vietnam and monthly design meetings at SUTD, I assisted in:

  • Joining interview and survey teams to understand the community (May 2015)
  • Conducting co-design workshops with the community and team (May 2015)
  • Constructing and revamping the community space (Sep 2015)

Our team and project received the SUTD Humanitarian Award in 2016 which recognises outstanding humanitarian work and collaboration.

Four researchers at the door of a resident's house speaking with the resident.
Visiting residents to solicit feedback and ideas
Residents, students and researchers gathered together. A few seated at a table. A resident holding images of the original space. A student drawing out a map and noting down comments.
Co-design workshop
Small desktop-sized model about a 1 is to 100 scale. This model featured an arched gateway and sheltered pathway that leads to a garden-like space.
Co-created model of envisioned community space from the co-design workshop: Group 1
1 is to 100 scale model. Features an arched gateway, a pavilion, a playground structure and pond area.
Co-created model of envisioned community space from the co-design workshop: Group 2
1 is to 100 scale model. Also has sheltered pathway at the entrance. Features modular, stackable wooden boxes for customised seating layouts.
Co-created model of envisioned community space from the co-design workshop: Group 3
Group a students gathered around the bamboo structure. A student climbing on top of it to test if it could hold his weight.
Construction of bamboo playground structure
Group of residents, children, students and researchers posing for a picture with the bamboo structure. About 40 plus people in the photo.
Group picture of the team and space in 2015
Samantha Chan
Samantha Chan
Postdoctoral Fellow

I create wearable, AI and digital interfaces to enhance human cognition and memory at the MIT Media Lab.