4. Introduction to Hanoi’s Ancient Quarter

The ancient quarter was originated in year 1010 A.D. as the interregional market place of the Vietnamese rulers, where goods and crafts are divided and specialized according to different street. This intended spatial concentration has caused the development of individuality, streets with respective village community of various programs. Having the street as the market, houses are forced to remained behind the street, creating a funny typology known as tube house, where family units were remained in a long tunnel of 100m with a small opening onto the street.

By the 18th century, Hanoi have been colonized by French and had led to become a bipolar type of city, one that were characterized by city division into native and French quarters. Hanoi was than reformed as the “Paris de I’AnnaM”, a smaller replica of the French capital. Symbol of the pre-colonial regents for instance former Imperial Citadel has been demolished. Expensive French designed housing and administrative quarters were constructed along Haussmann-like boulevards. And the Ancient Quarter’s physiognomic appearance has been reformed with draining and system of waters, street network has been organized, street gates have been dismantled, and Chinese ‘shop house’ like façade has been established along the built house of the trading center.

By 1950s, Hanoi has run through a city development and expansion under the influenced of socialist idealism. Numerous commanding socialist buildings were erected within the city center, while most new residentials apartment were built at the periphery of Hanoi as financial and technical support are mainly made available from the Soviet Union and other social countries. With pre-fabrication being familiar, acute lack of residential being an issue, and socialist ideology being the norm of that time. Unified housing unit like Kim Lien living quarter were introduced to the families, that is flat with same living space and living condition. With rapid city expansion, significance of preservation of Ancient Quarter slowly deteriorates, and lead to series of changes as an adoption to the current situation. First, with fear of expropriation, a fifth of the inhabitant had left and fled to South Vietnam. Second, most business remained in Ancient Quarter were nationalized and transit into co-operates. Retail spaces has re-purposed into living spaces for new inhabitants. Private traders and opened sales premises become state owned. Street trading and private economic activities were virtually eliminated. Resulting a huge drop in trading activities within Ancient quarter.

Such unpleasant market situation is improved during 1990s with the imposition of Doi Moi policy, one that allows the shifting of a centrally planned economy into a market oriented economy with multiple sector, that respects both the state sector and the private sector. With the increase in the average net incomes per capita, the city was once again given the capability to expand and developed. Within the West Lake area, urban planning was made available to state enterprises like Housing and Urban Development Corporation, hence fourth, new sites around that area was carefully planned with well-equipped infrastructure. Resulting desirable housing that attracts upper and middle class of Hanoi. On the other hand, at the flood plains of Red River, due to the lack of planning and undesirable land use it becomes the destination of slum like buildings, impoverished city residents, as well as rural migrants. While French colonial quarter created during 18th century was favored by the foreign and domestic investors, stimulating its economy and architecture towards the direction of commercial center, turning it into the basis of Hanoi’s Central Business District.


Waibel, Michael. “The Ancient Quarter of Hanoi–a reflection of urban transition processes.” Asien 92, no. S (2004): 30-48.

Tran, Thi Que and To, Xuan Phuct. “The Doi Moi policy and its impact on the poor.” Social Watch, (2003): 182-183.

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