Hanoi/ Simultaneous Transformaion of Informal Housing

In the transformation of the formal housing, there was an architectural return back to the traditional houses and actually during the same period, the traditional housing were also under transformation influenced by Doi Moi in multi aspects.

“Tube house” is one of the most significant dwelling types in Vietnam. It refers to the traditional attached street-houses with narrow widths and long lengths in old urban areas. The long-time evolution of this prototype finally built it with special spatial arrangement of shop fronts and inner yards in dense urban contexts.

(Nguyen Vinh Phuc, 1995)
The Ancient Quarter during the phase of state economic planning and administration (Nguyen Vinh Phuc, 1995)

In the 1990s, the city expanded rapidly, which brought uncontrolled urbanization to the Ancient Quarter of the city. The old tube houses became overcrowding and the new ones become more vertical and narrow. The government promoted small-scale spontaneous renovation and modernization of the buildings by the inhabitants because of difficult implementation of large-scale planning on the fragmented estates, the lack of financial resources and the resettlement problem of the residents. The State and People policy considered construction with citizen’s own capitals as a solution to the housing problem.

The lack of planning guidelines and building regulations along with the booming economic growth led to the unregulated developments of the old informal housing in 1990s. And the uncontrolled development was motivated by the policy, by the lack of residential area with official tolerance. In the transition period, some of the tube houses in the Ancient Quarter were enlarged and even became mini-hotels or shops for tourism interests but some became denser and terribly maintained with a slum atmosphere. There was still coexistence between the forces from the authorities and the forces of the local but the development tendency was different based on the different locations and individuals.

In the cases of both formal housing and informal housing during the transition period of Hanoi,  we saw contradictions of space which were actually the contradictions between the government and the residents, between the experts and the anonymous users. The duality of space was dramatically highlighted in the transformation from highly-controlled socialism to open capital economy. The planning and design of both types of housing could be observed as one integrity and be analyzed under the compact scenario based on certain spacial theory together.

(Michael Waibel, 2002)
Newly erected buildings in the Ancient Quarter of Hanoi (Michael Waibel, 2002)
Ancient Quarter in 1997 and highlighted in urban fabrics
Ancient Quarter in 1997 and highlighted in urban fabrics


  1. Kien, T. (2008). Conservation pressing task and new documentation of old tube houses in Hanoi Old Quarter through the case of N o. 47 Hang Bac Street house. J. Archit. Plann, AIJ, no.624. P.457-463.
  2. Labbé, D. (2014). Land Politics and Livelihoods on the Margins of Hanoi, 1920-2010. UBC Press.
  3. Michael, W. (2004). The Ancient Quarter of Hanoi – A Reflection of Urban Transition Processes . ASIEN, 92, S. 30-48.
  4. Phuc, Nguyen Vinh (1995). Hanoi – Past and Present. Hanoi.
  5. William S. Logan (2000). Hanoi: Biography of a City. Seattle: University of Washington Press

2 Comments on “Hanoi/ Simultaneous Transformaion of Informal Housing

  1. Since the transformation of formal and informal housing were happening at the same period of time based on the same situation of a demand for more living spaces, is it possible to make some comparisons between the two? Were there any similarities and differences in terms of their ways and forms of transformation of expansion? Moreover, looking at a larger scale, what were the relationships of the formal and traditional housing in the urban scale? Together how were they significant in altering the urban fabric of the city?

    • Thanks for your comment. In my post ‘Housing systems in urban planning’, I discussed more on the large-scale housing including both types and I think the comparing of the formal transformation is not the most important part in our studies because the architectural properties actually presents the political and social forces in Hanoi and though the types are different, the users and planners are the similar or the same, which are their connections and common points. The significant differences between the two are in their roles in urban fabric and political meaning in planning.

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