5. A brief introduction to the history of Linh Đàm and New Urban Areas of Vietnam
Situated in South of the central Hanoi, Linh Đàm was one of the first New Urban Areas (NUAs, khu do thi moi in Vietnamese) developed in Vietnam, after a series of land reforms following Doi Moi in 1986. It was developed by Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUD), a state-owned company. The project started in June 1997 and eventually completed in 2008, designed to accommodate 20,400 inhabitants upon its completion. The project converted 990,000 sqm of rural houses into a medium-density suburb; with its standardised housing blocks and large outdoor green spaces, the project is reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin or any other residential masterplans of modernists’ ideal. The Linh Dam Lake is situated right at the heart of the development, complementing the area’s tranquility.
In terms of the planning process, it was one of the first attempts of Hanoi government planning at the scale of small area within a ward, as opposed to the previous revisions of masterplans. This intervention also contrasted with the previous pre-Doi Moi socialist collective housing developments, as in earlier examples of Kim Lien (1960-70) and Giang Vo (1981-84), in which the intention was to increase the density of development while retaining the communal living quality in communists’ ideal and in Vietnam tradition. Linh Dam also provided standardised types of flat within the housing blocks, but all the domestic programmes become private, providing a higher degree of privacy for residents. Linh Dam was also the government’s first attempt in privatising housing sector by allowing intersection of private land use right (but not the land itself).
In Linh Dam NUA, a portion of land was allocated to individual private development (in contrast with the massive centralised HUD housing blocks). These self-built plots were subdivided into deep and narrow tube-like plots, possibly influenced by the traditional manner of division of land along streets. In this aspect, the urban morphology of existing urban condition infected the form of the new development, retaining the cultural and historical coherence of the city as a whole. With the dual ambition of retaining street activities extended from the ground level of buildings while maintaining a certain degree of “order” when compared with the chaotic central Hanoi, the residential development attempted to achieve a balance by reserving the ground level as regulated commercial activities. Cafes and restaurants were allowed to extend their seatings outward on the street, allowing engagement between the building and the street. Hawkers, however, are absent in the orderly scene of NUA.
One of the significant feature of Linh Dam and other NUA is the abundance of green space, which is rare in central Hanoi. The densification of residential blocks allows freeing up of ground space, creating plaza and parks intended for people to rest, gather and initiate different kinds of social activities. However, owing to the decreased density of NUA, the sparse social life renders less vibrant and more sterile streets when compared with the old quarter, which may not be a disadvantage at all for people who seek for calamity and tranquility at their home. In terms of urbanism and planning, the more ordered, organised and well-planned NUAs may not be the best way of retaining and reinterpreting Hanoi’s and Vietnam’s cultural and social heritage and urban life, but they provide an easy way out to solve the population boom around the capital city.
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Geertman, Stephanie. The self-organizing city in Vietnam: processes of change and transformation in housing in Hanoi. Eindhoven: Bouwstenen Publicatieburo, 2007.
Tran, Hoai Anh. “Urban Space Production in Transition: The Cases of the New Urban Areas of Hanoi.” Urban Policy and Research 33, no. 1 (2014): 79-97.