Tuesday, November 27, 2012

1950's Saigon

In the mid-1950s, New Orleans architects Curtis & Davis received a commission to design the new U.S. Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam. One early conceptual sketch is reproduced above. Affected by heightened political tensions, the project underwent many revisions through the building's completion in 1966. Two years later the embassy building was attacked, and in April 1975, Gerald R. Ford authorized the rooftop evacuation of American personnel. The structure remained standing and was eventually returned to the U.S. government in 1995, but razed in 1998.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum retains an architectural model of the structure, as well as the rooftop ladder utilized in the evacuation. Tulane University Libraries' Southeastern Architectural Archive houses the Curtis & Davis office records, which include preliminary sketches and photographic documentation.

The firm's design research process incorporated an extensive series of photographs commissioned from the Saigon-based USIA-USOM Photo Laboratory. These images -- taken December 1955 -- document the buildings associated with different foreign missions:  the existing American Norodom compound, as well as the residences of the British and French governmental officials. The series includes structures associated with Shell Oil Company, its "Compagnie Franco Asiatique de Petroles" headquarters (Boulevards Norodom and Luro) and its employees' apartment complex.

Images above:

Top: Curtis & Davis. Saigon Embassy, conceptual sketch. February 1956.

Center: USIA-USOM Photo Laboratory, Saigon, Vietnam. "Shell oil company office building, corner of Blvd. Norodom and Blvd. Luro, Saigon. Constructed in the early 1930s. Photo taken December 1955."

Bottom:  USIA-USOM Photo Laboratory, Saigon, Vietnam. "The front view of the Shell Oil Company's employees' apartments in Saigon. Photo taken December 1955. Building constructed about 1952-1953."

All from Curtis & Davis Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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