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Unravelling Hanoi


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Title: Unravelling Hanoi

Unravelling Hanois Cultural Heritage
Tradition and Modernity in a Vietnamese Townscape
  • Professor William Logan
  • UNESCO Chair of Heritage and Urbanism
  • Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific
  • Deakin University
  • Melbourne
  • www.deakin.edu.au/culturalheritage_centre
  • Asian Education Foundation Third International
  • Linking Latitudes 2004
  • Hanoi, SR Vietnam
  • 11-14 April 2004

This paper is based on
  • W. S. Logan, Hanoi Biography of a City, UNSW
    Press, Sydney U. Washington Press, Seattle
    Select Publishing, Singapore, 2000
  • W. S. Logan (ed.), The Disappearing Asian City
    Protecting Asias Urban Heritage in a Globalizing
    World, Oxford University Press, Hong Kong, 2002
  • S. Balderstone W. S. Logan, Vietnamese
    dwellings tradition, resilience and change, in
    R. G. Knapp (ed.), Asias Old Dwellings, Oxford
    University Press, Hong Kong, 2003 pp. 135-58

What is Hanois cultural heritage?Is it World
  • Vietnams history is one of many interruptions
    and influences
  • How has this history shaped Vietnams urban
    cultural traditions?
  • How does Hanoi reflect these processes?
  • Cultural layering
  • Post doi moi changes a threat to traditional
  • Clarify what the cultural heritage of Hanoi is
  • Clarify what the notion of traditional means
  • Hanoi Biography of a City
  • (UNSW Press, U.Washington Press, Select
    Publishing, 2000)

1990s awareness of Hanois unique character --
national and international interventions
Architecture and town planning as
reflection of cultural history (1)
  • Bach Ma - intangible heritage

  • Van Mieu - First Vietnamese university
    1070 AD

Hoan Kiem
Ngoc Son 1864 re-confucianisation

Pho Co Ancient Quarter Area of the 36
Commercial Streets
Dykes, walls, gates
Chuong Gate
Jean Dupuis Gate

- saved by G-G Paul Doumer
The Chinese Imprint
  • felt most in the imperial court and urban areas
  • Taoism, Confucianism
  • language, script, arts and crafts, costume and
  • phong thuy (feng shui) - designed to get the
    better of Fate, the force that determined
    everything under Heaven
  • rules governing the orientation of houses
  • rules governing internal design

  • Social structures in feudal Vietnam based on
    Chinese model
  • - ie. hierarchy of - royal family
  • - mandarins
  • - commoners
    (peasants in rural hamlets shop-
  • keepers
    artisans in towns and cities)
  • As Kinh Viet moved south, the Chinese influence
  • - imposed on way of life, including on the
    building style
  • had been very similar to SE Asian neighbours and
    to the ethnic minorities eg. on stilts
  • Chinese influences on building style (1)
  • posts either embedded in the ground or founded on
    stone bases for protection against damp and
  • this Chinese way of construction became the
    normal method what we might call

Chinese Influences (2) - load-bearing frames
  • house frame of various posts and beams carries
    load of the roof
  • walls not load-bearing
  • minor differences in frame construction between N
    and S
  • eg. N - gia chieng (gong) arrangement (2
    short posts on the uppermost tie beam share load
    with ridge beam)
  • cf. S - nha trinh technique (load carried by
    small post directly beneath ridge)

(3) Use of gian
  • gian spans or bays)
  • Determined by the length of available timber
  • NB. Symmetrical design always
  • Peasant dwelling 1 gian
  • Still seen in the countryside today - light
    timber such as bamboo, on a dirt floor and with a
    thatched or palm leaf roof
  • Wealthy commoners 3 gian timber floors,
    brick walls and tiled roofs
  • Mandarins 5 gian
  • Royalty 7 gian

(4) mathematical formulae
  • proportional relationships of posts and beams
  • different ratios used by different gangs of
  • length unit for each house based on length of
    owners little finger
  • 10 units thuoc (0.40-0.45 metres)
  • wood/bamboo reference stick thuoc moc - like
    title deed stowed on top of the two main columns
    of the central bay passed from owner to owner

Mandarins or garden house
  • spirit screen courtyard - bonsai plants, rock
    pool with miniature mountain scene
  • five-gian structure
  • timber king-posts, side posts and frame
  • heavy roof of glazed tiles
  • See R. Knapp (ed.), Asias Old Dwellings (OUP,
    HK, 2003)

Hong Duc (C16th) and Annamite (1811) Codes
  • low, damp, gloomy
  • due to imperial edicts
  • Hong Duc Code outlawed large houses like royal
    or mandarin, use of rare materials or royal
    symbols (dragon, phoenix)
  • Annamite Code outlawed doors and windows higher
    than royal shoulders in sedan chair
  • Hence mezzanines attics windowless, dark,
    stuffy and uninhabitable
  • no use of stone, paint or decoration
  • led to internal orientation

Urban Shop-houses (tube houses)
  • timber 1-gian houses replaced by end C19th
  • a variation of the shop-house found throughout E
    SE Asia
  • party walls
  • parapets
  • local brick, stuccoed inside out
  • local tiles, curved roofs
  • timber floor and roof framing
  • timber window shutters doors
  • 1940s- 50s use of concrete, flat roofs
  • typical sequence of rooms spaces

(2) Colonial
  • Hoa Lo prison
    Law Courts 1900-6 Henri Vildieu -

Police headquarters,
Hoan Kiem

The French Imprint
  • connected Vietnam with the much wider world
  • imported architects and engineers
  • improve sanitary conditions in existing towns
  • design new suburbs, roads and bridges
  • public and residential buildings for the
    expatriate population
  • French language and culture
  • Christianity

Town vs Country - pre-colonial
  • nucleated settlement pattern
  • foci market place, dinh or communal house,
    Buddhist pagoda (chua), ancestral temple (den)
  • less difference town and country
  • in the larger urban centres (esp. Hanoi, Hue)
    presence of royal citadels made for a sharper
    rural-urban distinction
  • sense of Vietnamese-ness essentially survived
    in the rural areas - re-injected at various times
    back into the cities

French Colonial Influence (1) - Town Plan
  • Impressive impact (only 75 yrs in N, 100 yrs in
  • - tame both the people and environment -
  • economic motives, mission civilisatrice
  • led to
  • - larger town/country distinction
  • - separation of areas on racial/ethnic lines
  • - displacement of peasant farmers,
  • engulfing of small hamlets, loss of
  • paddy fields
  • imposed colonial city
  • - reflected on the ground the set of power
  • relations that existed between colonizer and
  • colonized

French Colonial Influence (2) - architecture
  • new type of dwelling the urban villa
  • revolutionary - 2-story houses with windows on to
    the road
  • traditional --- asymmetrical vertical emphasis
    (2 stories, long windows, high-pitched roofs,
  • stuccoed brick, ornamental timber fretwork
  • Lime-washed - off-white ochre green brown
  • Australian Embassy, Ly Thuong Kiet Street


Municipal Theatre (Opera House)


Rise of nationalism
Assimilation - Association
  • Louis Finot Museum 1925-32 now National
    History Museum Ernest Hebrard

Pasteur Institute
Cua Bac Church
Art deco
(3) Post-colonial
  • American War c1962 1972


  • Pont Doumer 1898 - Long Bien Bridge

  • Ga Ha Noi

Into the Soviet Socialist Camp
  • gaining of independence painful staggered
  • S only 10 yrs under socialism - less ideological
  • N - construction of new socialist housing
    limited due to war
  • land reverted to state ownership
  • property owners had to squeeze up to make room
    for the influx of workers from rural areas
  • deterioration of standards

Soviet influence c 1960 - 1980
Vietnamese-Soviet Friendship Cultural Palace
mid-late 1980s
Soviet Socialist Influence (1) - technology
  • New mass production techniques -- timber frames
    replaced by brick piers walls
  • Rural houses better provision made for living
    and working areas for women children
  • Urban ideology influences design
  • 'Learning from experience, our new
    architects must carry out the
  • Party's resolutions, developing in our
    country a national and
  • modern socialist architecture'

Soviet Socialist Influence (2) - architecture
  • walk-up apartment blocks
  • basic design and amenities
  • little concern for visual appeal or impact on
    broader townscape
  • inadequate ventilation and natural lighting
  • inferior materials and workmanship
  • over-crowding maintenance problems soon
  • - eg. Nguyen Cong Tru Estate - 20 4-storey
    blocks, central
  • staircase, 4-5 families, share kitchen,
    WCs, bathrooms ave 4 sq
  • m/person --- 2 sq m/person

Soviet Socialist Influence (3) - town planning
  • Microrayon ('living quarter in West
    'housing estate)
  • rigid formula relating dwelling floor-space,
    facilities infrastructure to size of
    microrayon population
  • In VN, the formula was based on 60-70,000 people
    (ie. the no. of residents needed to support a
    senior high school)
  • Once the formula was calculated, living quarters
    were replicated about the new and existing
  • Put into practice the notion of equality at heart
    of socialist ideology
  • Dreary monotony not popular criticism from
    architecture profession

Deterioration of building stock
4 Hang Bong
Soviet impacts heritage?
(4) Post Doi Moi (renovation)
  • Withdrawal of the state from housing provision
  • Privatization of land
  • Increasing affluence of the population - house
    upgrading, including privatised apartment blocks
  • New middle class - property development
    speculation enjoying exposure to new global
    architectural fashions
  • commercial residential towers symbolizing
    Vietnams re-entry into the global economy.

Foreign Experts Compound, Kim Lien - Bong Sen
Hoa Lo Hanoi Twin Towers
The Hanoi Opera Hilton
The European Style - a new vernacular
  • new form of popular architecture
  • reflects postmodern tendencies, esp the mixing of
    styles, profusion of façade decoration, elements
    of pastiche
  • Appearing around the edge of cities as part of
    the densification of pre-existing villages and
    urban extensions along main roads

Conservation and Development
  • See chapter on the Golden Hanoi Hotel controversy
    in W. S. Logan (ed.), The Disappearing Asian
    City Protecting Asias Urban Heritage in a
    Globalizing World, OUP, Hong Kong, 2002

Conclusion (1) - the meaning of tradition
  • Clearly great changes in the design
    construction of dwellings in Vietnam
  • What is the VN tradition?
  • No single tradition - due to
  • multi-ethnic character of the country
  • history of external interventions
  • abrupt ideological change
  • Result cultural layering
  • However, Chinese influence dominant
  • - some elements of French or Soviet styles
    have been assimilated into
  • mainstream Viet architecture
  • The emerging popular housing styles continues to
    show links with
  • the sinicized Viet housing tradition

Conclusion (2) - rural-urban distinction
  • R-U differentiation rel. weak in terms of housing
    types until the French rejected the Annamite Code
    and introduced European ideas of urban living
  • But increasing R-U migration now breaking down
    distinctions again
  • - end of the ho-khau registration system
    in early 1990s
  • - flow of knowledge about improved living
    conditions and new
  • ideas for dwelling design and
  • - aided by better access to television and
    print media

Conclusion (3) - tradition abandoned
  • By and large todays architects and builders have
    abandoned traditional ways of designing and
    building dwellings
  • Impact of French Soviet innovations
  • Impacts of Soviet period attempt to wipe out
    traditional practices involving rituals perceived
    as being based on superstition
  • including phong thuy

Conclusion (4) - a matter for concern?
  • A growing anxiety around the world about the
    impact of globalisation on local cultures
  • Is this shared by the Vietnamese?
  • Various Vietnamese scholars commentators have
    expressed concern that a balance between
    tradition and modernization is needed to
  • - protect cultural identities
  • - maintain traditional customs
  • - ensure improved quality of life for
  • all VN citizens
  • Some rediscovery and re-use of the traditional
  • - conservation movement WH ambitions tourism
  • - some architects call for a more nationalistic

Conclusion (5) - quest for a better S of L
  • General community (esp. the young) mostly
    concerned with achieving higher standards of
  • - this is equated with materialism,
    modernisation and globalisation

  • www.deakin.edu.au/culturalheritage_centre
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