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Một góc công viên Thống Nhất. Ảnh: KTS Nguyễn Phú Đức - Lovely Hanoi Group

Thong Nhat park. Photo: Nguyen Phu Duc - Lovely Hanoi Group

People will tell you that the secret of awareness is to live in the present.  That may be true for people, but not for cities.  Not at this time.  In the globalizing world we live in, cities grow on dreams.

In 1954, Hanoi was a city of 53,000 people living primarily within the city’s four urban districts. Those same four urban districts now have a population over 1 million.  To create space for growth, five new urban districts were added to the urban area of Hanoi between 1996 and 2003.  In 2008, this nine-district urban area had a population of roughly 2 million.  What then does the future hold?

Like many cities in Vietnam, Hanoi has a ‘growth machine’.  Though specifics differ, Vietnam’s version of the growth machine relies on the re-allocation of low-cost agricultural land to developers as a means of generating tax revenues, profits, and jobs.  Due to their interdependencies, growth machines need constant feeding.  Construction and real estate development require materials and labor; labor earns income, consumes goods and requires housing; city administrations require tax revenues to pay for infrastructure to service new urban areas; infrastructure encourages development, and so on. To accommodate growth, Ha Tay province and some communes of Vinh Phuc and Hoa Binh were merged with Hanoi in August 2008. The new city-province, with a total population of 6.5 million, has an urban area comprised of 10 districts and one town.  It’s urban population, now roughly 3 million, is expected to double over the next 20 years as farmland is converted to other uses.

Architects and planners spend most of their time feeding the growth machine a constant supply of technical drawings and engineering studies, and their counterparts in state agencies, spend an equal amount of their time reviewing these studies and drawings.

What if we could take a step back from the growth machine?  How would we imagine Hanoi?  On what principles would that future be based?  Equality?  Justice?  Prosperity? Efficiency? Sustainability? Convivial social life?  What if we looked to the past as a means of understanding the values, memories and identities that have characterized Hanoi as a city?  How would these elements in a Hanoi character be seen in social life, in architecture, in urban form, and in landscape?  What role would public space play in the lives of Hanoi natives and migrants?   How would foreign investors be integrated into the local? How would the city’s expanding borders build on historic relationships between city and countryside? What would be strengthened, what would be preserved as historical vestiges, and what would be lost?

This website is intended to create a conversation on the past as a means of imagining the future of Hanoi.  The 1000th anniversary of this city’s establishment as Vietnam’s capital gives us this opportunity to lay aside the constant demands of the growth machine and consider what principles, values, memories and identities will underlie the Hanoi of the future.  But equally, we now have behind us more than 20 years of renovation policies, and before that, we have both the experience of Soviet aide and Vietnam’s first urban transition under the French colonial regime.  What can we learn from these experiences and how can that learning shape our vision of the future, and more importantly, professional practice?

As Hanoi advances to the status of megacity, will it become a more livable city, marked by both an appreciation of its own identity and a willingness to appreciate and integrate difference? Or will large areas of Hanoi become part of what Prof. Michael Douglass (the University of Hawaii) calls “globopolis”, a globally connected international city, managed by corporations and constructed as an erasure of local identity.

This website invites participants to participate in this discussion of Hanoi’s past and future in several ways.

  • Moderated blogs: Over the next few weeks, we will create three moderated blogs dealing with architecture and urban design, public space, and city and countryside.  A professional planner or architect who will select topical stories from Internet sources will moderate each blog.  The moderator will post his or her own comments and encourage others to add their own.
  • Commissioned Exhibitions: Within the next few weeks, we will be posting a call for projects.  These projects can included nearly anything that can be presented online: 3D modeling of Hanoi past and future; photos and commentary on Hanoi architecture; audio files of people telling their stories of the home or apartment they live in; short films of Hanoi’s public life.  Funding for 4-5 online projects has been provided by the Globalization Research Center at the University of Hawaii.
  • Open Exhibitions: In addition to these commissioned projects, we will also encourage viewers of this site to send us their own stories and photos, short films and audio books, and 3D models for inclusion on the site.
  • Research Papers: In recognition of the professional planners, architects, anthropologists, sociologists and interested citizens we hope will use this site, we will post some of our own research reports, power point presentations, and datasets.  We would also encourage others to do the same.

3 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. Vicky says:

    Hi vọng trang blog này sẽ giúp cho không gian công cộng của Hà Nội tốt hơn :grin:

  2. Edgeplanet says:

    We are ready to begin looking for exhibitors on this site. If you are interested, please send a one page proposal with budget. We are looking for creative ways of understanding the issues about Hanoi’s past and future. You can propose a photo essay (text and pictures) for example; or make a 3D model of Hanoi ‘future city’; or you can organize a collection of Hanoi planning maps for ancient times to present; or make a short film on public space; or you can make a fly through using Google Earth to explain Hanoi’s ‘phong thuy’… There are many possibilities – the only criteria is to be creative in the use of visual and audio media in representing the issues. Low cost proposals help us to extend our limited budget.

    Send your ideas to with a copy to

  3. Edgeplanet says:

    Chúng tôi đã sẵn sàng cho việc tìm kiếm những người sẽ tham gia triển lãm trên trang web này. Nếu bạn quan tâm, hãy gửi một bản đề án dài 1 trang cho chúng tôi kèm theo cả ngân sách cho dự án. Chúng tôi đang tìm kiếm phương thức sáng tạo để có thể hiểu các vấn đề về quá khứ và tương lai của Hà Nội

    Ví dụ: bạn có thể đề xuất một bài luận có kèm hình ảnh ( bài luận và các bức ảnh) hay thực hiện một mô hình 3D về Hà Nội “thành phố tương lai”. Bạn cũng có thể thực hiện một bộ sưu tập các bản đồ quy hoạch Hà Nội từ xa xưa tới hiện tại hay làm một bộ phim ngắn về không gian công cộng , hoặc thậm chí có thể thông qua Google Earth để giải thích về “phong thủy” của Hà Nội…

    Có rất nhiều điều bạn có thể làm , tiêu chí duy nhất là tính sáng tạo trong việc sử dụng phương tiện truyền thông bằng hình ảnh và âm thanh để biểu đạt các vấn đề. Các đề án có chi phí thấp sẽ giúp chúng tôi kéo dài nguồn ngân sách hạn chế của chúng tôi.

    Hãy gửi các ý kiến của bạn tới và một bản copy tới

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