Urban citizens are quite fed up with Ho Chi Minh City’s contemporary party and event venues. Most of them are nothing but crowded clubs, equipped only with a sparkly lighting system, a modern sound board, deathly expensive drinks and a bunch of people who don’t dance but instead writhe around jostling each other as a crowd. In the dead of the night, people often find themselves exhausted, uninterested in having any more fun. Saigon Outcast came into existence with a goal of infusing fresh spirit to the local events scene.
Living in shipping containers is not a new concept for people in foreign countries. There are many exquisite construction projects and settlements that stike people with their creativity and break away from traditional living facilities. In Vietnam, however, hardly had anyone thought of using shipping containers as accommodation until the two co-founders of Saigon Outcast came up with this amazing idea and gradually turned the premise of the whole construction into the most innovative event venue in the city, which has earned much appreciation and interest from both expatriates and the local community in Saigon.
HCMC Life had an interview with Doan Phuong Ha, a former South-East Asia Android program manager of Game Loft, and Nguyen Nguyen Linh, a current studio lead artist, the two co-reckless-founders of Saigon Outcast.
After hosting several outstanding barbeque parties frequented by BMX riders, skateboarders, bikers, graffiti artists because they have a half-pipe, a huge yard and spare walls at the campus, Ha and Linh have discovered their own way of creating a different party vibe through Saigon Outcast. In the near future, besides organizing parties, they also plan to provide a venue for networking events, movie days, art exhibitions and garage sales, which would undoubtedly be a magnetic place for almost every type of local resident.
Nguyen Linh: It was Ha’s idea to create something that can easily be assembled or disassembled for mobility.
HCMC Life: Can you describe in detail the process of constructing Outcast?
Ha and Linh: The process is a very unorthodoxy because we did almost everything by ourselves. The model was made in 3DS Max; arranging the x3 rectangular boxes in a combination that created interesting shapes and silhouettes and promoted space efficiency in our building.
The original 3D model was quite fancy, so we optimized the design to be as basic as possible to cut down on the unnecessary material and minimize the construction costs.
We chose Thao Dien to nest in due to its tranquility, fresh winds and glorious evergreens. Erecting old, beat-up containers among the luxurious villas is a statement in itself.
However, building the foundation beneath Thao Dien’s marshy land was not an easy job. Seven foundations consisted of “cu tram” concrete, steel and cement dwell deep beneath the turf. The half pipe and Torii gate were hoisted to compliment the main mantle piece.
As for the overall concept, the trick was to find the balance between chaos and serenity. Chaos was represented by the raw industrial shipping containers and metal I-beams. For the serenity, we pasted the gravel and dotted little green islands to create the Zen in our garden.
Phuong Ha: The original idea was to create a bikers bar/café, but then we noticed riders naturally like to move and do not tend to stay at one place for long. Our next goal was to create a place not just for riders but for other spirited people like artists, designers, skaters and BMXers.
HCMC Life: What were the difficulties during construction, like financial problems, material sources and location?
Nguyen Linh: One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.
We are office dwellers with bold dreams, armed with limited budget, passion and skills we have picked up on the journey so-called life. We set out to accomplish our goals by whatever means necessary. Advice sought from several consultants were of little use to us because most of them couldn’t see beyond the brick and mortar.
With a limited budget and a taste for vintage and rustic things, we set out to find materials from the recycling compounds dotted all over Ho Chi Minh City. Some of our finds were super rare and valuable, and we later installed them around the Outcast.
HCMC Life: Is Outcast your business or is it a place for your personal tastes?
Phuong Ha: Both. Our friend Kim once told us that we should buy into something that we truly enjoy. If we were to open an outdoor drive-in cinema and no one turned up and the cinema was empty, we would happily sit and watch the film alone with popcorn in our hands and contentment in our hearts.
Ha and Linh: Absorbing the sunrise at dawn and observing the sunset from the top of our containers are pure magic.
HCMC Life: What makes Outcast stand out from other entertainment spots in the city?
Phuong Ha: For music and entertainment, the Outcast will be underground. We offer an alternative to the commercial club scene where a bottle of beer costs over 100,000 VND. We would like to have up-and-coming artists to perform at Outcast where people can network and connect.
Conferences or company workshops held at hotels can be dull and formal. The Outcast promotes free thinking and creativity.
HCMC Life: Will the Outcast be expanded in the near future?
Nguyen Linh: We dream of opening an Outcast compound by the beach, where skating and BMX-ing would be replaced by surfing. Also, a frequent guided motorcycle tour between the two places would be awesome.
HCMC Life: Thank you for sharing.
Interview by: Pham Chieu. Photo: HCMC Life & Saigon Outcast