Artist replicates Saigon street corners in minute detail

Nguyen Phuc Duc has spent more than five years fashioning a mini Saigon with miniature versions of street corners and shops.

The 30-year-old artist, a resident of District 4, HCMC, said his artworks are made with simple materials including wood, paper and plastic. He started out by making mini models of stores and street food vendors on the alley he stayed in. Duc has so far made more than 40 miniature models.

To make each work realistic, Duc uses pictures of the place or visits it personally.

"In my hands is a miniature of an advertising sign maker, which belongs to a 70-year-old grandfather on An Duong Vuong Street. I really like this work because it captures realistic details of the place and features the old-fashioned Saigon style," he said.

"I want to make miniature models that capture the real and average life in urban Saigon. My works include sidewalk cafes, newsstands, lottery counters and roadside barbershops."

The works are made of wood, plastic, paper and other materials. Duc creates a rough draft first, then makes many adjustments, and finally adds details.

He will "paint" the mini stores' signs, tiled floors and advertising boards on the computer before printing them out.

Duc said items stocked in his miniature shops, be it laundry detergent, toothpaste, ice cream cart, phone or saucepan, are also replicas with similar ratios as a real one.

"I couldn't do the ultra-small ones at first because I did not have the right cutting machine for micro details. I had to tinkle and design the cutting machine myself. The assembling has to be meticulousness and skillfully done to prevent the glue from spreading to unwanted places."

Duc said that the whole process, from choosing a place to recreate, making the first drawings and completing the work takes a month or thereabouts.

In order to recreate this newsstand, Duc had to find actual ones that had the layout of early nineties.

A bingo stand (loto in Vietnam) with various games including darts games, throwing cans and shooting.

The artist said that he also makes miniature replicas of life in the Mekong Delta region.

"I only posted photos of my work online for fun in the beginning. After receiving a lot of praise, people also told me they would like to buy my works. So I began making other models for sale, turning my passion into a source of income."

Photos and story by Quynh Tran