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The Paradox of the HANOI Development

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					                                              The Paradox of the HANOI Development
                                                         Samba Ichsanna WIDHYASTUTI

                                                              Summary
           Vietnam’s modern history has been characterised by three phases: colonialism, war and socialism. The impact of all
           these historical phases is evident in the social, economic and political life of the nation. No Vietnamese city, however,
           incorporates the legacy of history as Hanoi does and this is particularly marked in these times of changes for the city.
           The city of Hanoi is undergoing important changes in both political and economic spheres and all this will have impacts
           on the morphology and future growth of the city.




Introduction                                                                 Hanoi’s history dates back more than one thousand years. It has
Cultural heritage in Hanoi has been shaped by conflicts between              enjoyed the status of capital city since 1010 A.D., a status shortly
institutions, land development control, planning and heritage laws.          interrupted with the transfer of the capital to Hue but again regained
Being the capital city and being also a rapidly expanding urban area,        with French colonialism and reconfirmed in 1954 by the Vietnamese
Hanoi is attracting particular attention both at the national and            Socialist Government. (Logan, 1995, p.328).
international level. With present reforms, the major changes are just        Vietnam’s history is characterised by a Chinese and Vietnamese
beginning and any attempt to understand the present landscape of             feudal period followed by a modern period, during which French
the city and its future growth should take into consideration the            colonialism and American involvement led to long years of war. The
following issues and problems. There are complicated social                  recent years of independence were characterised by Soviet
changes as a result of commercialisation of a neo-Stalinist system.          influence in political and cultural areas ( Gillespie & Logan, 1994,
(Forbes, 1991,p.100), Spatial issues and housing and heritage,               p.96).
which led to problems of insufficiency in capital involvement and            The city of Hanoi, more than any other Vietnamese city, is
international assistance because of the continuing US embargo                representative of the different periods of Vietnam’s history. Its urban
against Vietnam during the last two decades, lack of an adequate             environment represents a townscape of great heritage value. In
infrastructure, lack of adequate market economy managerial                   particular the buildings and streetscapes of the “Old Sector”
know-how, the fact that several state units can be run only through          incorporate most of the elements that make Hanoi so distinguished.
subsidies. (Forbes,1991,p116 & Anh, 1994, p.66).), during and                Despite the long years of war and unlike other Vietnamese cities,
after the war there was heavy migration from rural provinces and             Hanoi did not suffer large scale physical devastation. Particularly the
Hanoi’s municipal population has increased by 400 percent -today it          Old Sector remains relatively intact, with its streets patterns,
amounts to about 3 million.                                                  streetscapes and historic monuments still preserved (Gillespie &
   Most of this population is found in suburban districts, however          Logan, 1995, p.96).
     all over Hanoi there is an acute shortage of housing.                   War conditions, a stagnant economy due to communist rule and a
    The Vietnamese Architects Association estimated that in 1991            prolonged U.S. embargo meant lack of pressure on building
     more than 100.000 people were living in provisional shelters.           development, despite Hanoi’s growing population and poor living
    Similarly in the Old Sector of the city the population density has      conditions. Today, with the introduction of Doi-Moi, the city reflects a
     risen to 1.5 square meters per person.                                  different environment where opportunities are recognised and
This situation presents two major issues in the development of the           innovation is welcome. However the present situation presents also
city: housing and heritage conservation. An active economic                  economic and social problems, typical in any transition period. One
environment, overcrowding and poor infrastructure have created a             of the major dilemmas facing Hanoi’s authorities and planners is
need for housing and highlighted the urgency of heritage                     represented by the Old Sector and its heritage value, the
conservation.                                                                opportunities it presents and the threats on its fabric. There are three
                                                                             distinct quarters in the Old Sector of Hanoi.
The Paradox of the Hanoi Development.
From a cultural point of view Hanoi is a unique city. Its townscape
has a multilayered aspect and each layer contrastingly represents            Three distinct quarters in the Old Sector of Hanoi.
different historical periods of foreign political and cultural domination.   The city of heritage in Hanoi is represented by these three quarters:
These layers however are not only physical “political icons”, but they       the area of 36 commercial streets or ancient quarter, the french
are also representative of the ability of the Vietnamese people to           quarter, and the ba dinh or citadel quarter. All these places are
adapt and incorporate foreign culture, while at the same time                located in the northeast part of the city area.
preserving their own.



                                                                                                                                                   1
The Area of 36 Commercial Streets or Ancient Quarter
Located north of Hoan Kiem Lake, this quarter was originally                The cultural heritage
founded as an area for artisan guilds and each street still bears the       Proper conservation of these cultural resources presents benefits
name of the specialised guild that initially was operating there.           both in the social and economic sense.
With the influx of Chinese merchants in the 17th century, the area          The cultural assets in Hanoi could provide a basis for the tourism
evolved to a settlement with a particular street pattern. During the        industry, which potentially could become an important component of
French colonial period modifications to the street patterns were            the national economy. On the other hand, from a social point of view
made. In a similar way house types have undergone a progression             the protection of the Old Sector will:
of change over time. Nevertheless the Ancient Quarter, with                  help arrest the decline in the cultural value of Hanoi;
remnants of brick and timber structures from the 9th up to the 20th            add to the human dignity of residents;
century, its “tube houses” and old temples and pagodas, retains a              help maintain links with the nation’s past;
unique character.                                                              improve living conditions by upgrading the urban environment
The main characteristic of this area is the readability of its                  and by creating employment;
morphology and the combination of early traditional housing with a             support the revival of traditional arts and crafts.
20th century European influence. Another characteristic is the scale
of the quarter with its buildings ranging from single to four storeys.      Although the importance of conservation is generally recognised, it is
However this pattern is increasingly being interrupted by new               only to be expected that some pro - development forces would
structures of up to six storeys. (Australia and West Pacific Network        emerge. Foreign investors in particular are nowadays targeting the
for Urban Conservation (AWPNUC), 1994, p.10).                               French quarter and other interesting sites. There are already some
                                                                            proposals for Hong Kong, Singapore, Australian and other foreign
The French Quarter                                                          investors to build high rise buildings. These proposals relate to key
This area was established mainly as a French settlement and it lies         heritage sites in the Old Sector and around the Hoan Kiem and deal
south of Hoan Kiem Lake. Founded as the first western commercial            with building with heights ranging from 10 to 24 storeys.
centre, the area is characterised by neoclassical public buildings, a       In most cases Hanoi’s professionals oppose similar proposals and
grid of boulevards lined with trees and European villas. All this is        recognise the importance of the city’s heritage areas. However, the
complemented with an opera house, parks and squares (                       threat that investors might take their capital elsewhere and political
AWPNUC,1994,P.44).                                                          pressures might force their hands.
Visibly contrasting with the Ancient Quarter, this European area is an
example of the colonial city, typically structured to serve the interests   Conservation initiatives.
and to impose the culture of the metropole.                                 Initiatives for the protection and restoration of Hanoi’s Old Quarter
With the economic depression of the 1930s and following war years,          were originally taken by planners at the National Institute for Urban
French building activities came to a halt. Nowadays this area is            and Rural Planning (NIURP) in 1989.
characterised by European style building, remaining there as icons          Proposals were passed to UNESCO and a project, which had 5 main
of a past colonial era. (Logan, 1994, p.46).                                objectives, was approved. In addition to the long-term objective of
                                                                            putting in place the necessary human and administrative resource
The Ba Dinh or Citadel Quarter                                              bases needed to protect Hanoi’s heritage, the project had as
This precinct is located to the north-west of the French Quarter and        immediate objectives the identification of Hanoi’s cultural heritage,
represents the core of Hanoi’s history.                                     the formulation of appropriate policies and regulations.
The Citadel was originally built in 1014 A.D. by the king Ly Thai To        Both the Vietnamese government and UNESCO approved this
and completely rebuilt at the beginning of the 19th century by              project. However the withdrawal of the U.S., UK. and Singapore from
Emperor Gia Long. Later the French demolished some stone                    UNESCO brought about a cut in the operational budget of the
ramparts and the imperial palace, replacing it with their own military      Organisation and the project could not continue. (Logan,
headquarters. Additional buildings consisted of the Governor                1995,pp.332-333).
General’s palace and ministry offices, all this giving the site a           Problems
monumental aspect.
Subsequent changes were the construction of Ho Chi Minh’s                       Due to the general housing shortage, houses are overcrowded.
mausoleum, the Ho Chi Minh Museum and the headquarters of the                    This is particularly marked in the Area of 36 Commercial
Vietnamese Communist Party. (Logan,1995,p.331).                                  Streets, where the narrow tube houses are now housing five
Being the heart of national pride and identity and also being the site           families.
where different political icons were overlaid, the Citadel is of                Lack of maintenance for a long time has resulted in physical
particular significance in Hanoi’s cultural heritage.                            deterioration. Particularly sanitary conditions are very poor.
                                                                                Residents’ and government building activities are threatening
                                                                                 the heritage value of the sites. If this is not brought under

                                                                                                                                                2
     control the risk is to lose Hanoi’s cultural patrimony and the         What should be done in Hanoi: Heritage re-defined
     tourist potential.                                                     Some decision-makers in Hanoi have shown the tendency to
    Lack of appropriate heritage legislation and enforcement               discount the townscape elements dating from the French period.
     mechanisms                                                             This is shown in the fact that not even one building from the French
    Threats from foreign investors.            (Logan,1995,pp.332 &        quarter has been included in the list of protected sites. This list, in
     AWPNUC, p.3).                                                          fact, contains only buildings from the Area of 36 Commercial Streets.
                                                                            Hanoi’s townscape is made of different layers of external cultural
Breaking the Paradox of Development                                         influence and therefore the French influence (and the Soviet as well)
Understanding Conflicts Between Insitutions                                 are an integral part of its heritage. Therefore what is needed is to put
Urban and regional planning in Vietnam takes place at the national          such heritage items under legislative protection.
and local levels and this creates conflict and rivalry between              Another point in need of clarification regards the built fabric of the
institutions.                                                               Ancient Quarter. This is usually considered by many local and
(See Table 1: Conflicts Between Institutions)                               foreign advisers as if it were centuries old. The fact is that the
                                                                            Ancient Quarter suffered large-scale destruction in the 1870s and
Land development control                                                    again in the battles of 1946 - 1947.
   Land is owned by the State                                              A 1933 housing survey of 33 streets in this quarter showed that only
   The administrative function of land has been delegated to               7% were built before 1900 and that they were scattered all over the
    People’s Committees at provincial, city and district levels             area and therefore not forming a compact precinct. In addition 9%
   Land use rights are available to state and private companies,           were built between 1900 and 1930, while the remaining 84% were
    cooperatives and individuals but they may differ in                     built after this period. We can therefore see that it is not age, scale or
    characteristics such as durability or ability to be transferred:        design of the buildings that is of primary importance. In this quarter
   land use rights allotted for domestic dwellings exist in perpetuity     there are only a few pagodas and temples that are worth preserving
    and may be freely transferred.                                          on merit of their individual architectural or historic significance.
   on the contrary land use rights for commercial purposes cannot          The French modified even the old feudal street pattern, streets were
    be allotted without approval from the local People’s Committee.         widened and drained and footpaths were installed. (Logan, 1995,
   although land cannot be owned privately, ownership of                   pp.337-338). What is therefore mainly needed is the protection of the
    improvements (such as buildings) is allowed.                            way of life and not merely the physical.
                                                                            The approach should be to consider the cultural landscape. Culture
                                                                            that is interacting with its environment. Although this interaction has
                                                                            historic origins, it is continuing today. It is not historic monuments
Planning and heritage laws.                                                 that we are considering, rather the significance lies in its actual
With the possibility of having private property rights, development         qualities. (Logan, 1995, p.338).
activities have moved from state to private initiatives.                    The heritage value of old buildings or precincts is widely recognised.
                                                                            However, particularly in cases like Hanoi, where entire precincts are
   The April 1992 “ Planning and Management Ordinance”                     involved, the issue should be considered very carefully.
    provides prescriptive rules for private development which deal          When observing the landscape, a foreigner should try to look at it
    with bulk, height, shape, location, plot ratio etc.                     from different perspectives. Surely the first contact with this
   A master plan for Hanoi was prepared by the NIURP and                   landscape will evoke mental images of feudal Chinese or French
    approved in 1993.                                                       colonial environments, thus reviving icons of the past and perhaps
   The “Ordinance on Protection and Usage of Historical, Cultural          the architecture of the pagodas will have an exotic aesthetic appeal.
    and Famous Places” is in effect from April 1984. (Logan 1995,           This way of looking at the landscape will prompt the observer to
    p.337).                                                                 argue for its preservation and any apparent disinterest will be not
                                                                            comprehensible.
As a result of this legislation restoration and renovation started all      For the resident, places like the Ancient Quarter of Hanoi provide a
over the country. In Hanoi the NIURP and the Ministry of Information        different landscape. This person would look at the buildings as
and Culture jointly carry out the classification of historical buildings.   places: places of work or places of rest. That landscape could mean
The “Regulations on Construction Management and Conservation of             community warmth or could be a reminder of poverty, thus a
the Old Quarter of Hanoi” were promulgated in order to incorporate          landscape to be changed. From this perspective, the different,
heritage matters in the Hanoi Master Plan.                                  sometimes opposite, meanings that different points of view provide
Until now a list of 80 protected buildings has been prepared. This list     become evident. Because cultural heritage is not only the past, but
relates to sites in the Area of 36 Commercial Streets but not the           also the present.
French Quarter.



                                                                                                                                                    3
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