3. The emergence of New Urban Area: Part II

In 1997, the urban development of Hanoi was subjected a great challenge. Most foreign investment withdrew from Vietnam after the 1997 Asian Economic Crisis. This triggered the revision of the master plan of Hanoi in 1998. Many projects in industrial zones and housing projects that heavily relied on foreign investment in the northern Red River Bank halted. Forecasting the low potential for development of the north without available global capital, the Vietnamese Committee of Architecture and Planning shifted the development focus from the north to the southwest, which was closer to the inner city center. [1] Yet, southwest development was not a new idea. It was the main direction for development in the socialist period.  The advantage of developing this area was that core infrastructures were already set up in the socialist time with Cuba’s aid. [2] This altered the development direction to relying on national investment from relying on foreign investment. Together with new regulations and discourses, it was hope to delegitimise privately initiated small-scale building activities with large-scale standardised high-rise.

Solving the housing shortage was not the only reason behind the proposal of the New Urban Area (NUA) scheme. The Ministry of Construction also aimed to conserve and preserve the cityscape of Hanoi, particularly in the Ancient Quarter area. The Paris Plan was explicitly adopted to “rule out high-rise buildings by enforcing strict building bylaws”. [3] The relocation of residents from the Ancient Quarter to the peri-urban New Urban Areas, mostly in the southwest, was an effort to decongest and relieve the pressure on the old city which was densely populated. Meanwhile, the government could clarify the ownerships of the buildings in the old city and remove illegal structures.

Fig. 1  The Development of Commercial High Rise Housing Since Doi Moi

Image source: Geertman Stephanie, The self-organizing city in Vietnam: processes of change and transformation in housing in Hanoi, (Eindhoven: Bouwstenen Publicatieburo, 2007), 274.

 

Also, another significance of the master plan in 1998 was the consideration of open spaces such as green spaces, waterfronts, and spacious roads within each NUA. Although the availability of green spaces has been an indicator of high quality of life for a while, it was never considered in the urban planning of Hanoi before 1998. In the inner city of Hanoi, low-rise buildings were densely erected. It is hard to find a place to add green spaces in the urban fabric. However, the adoption of  high-rise buildings in NUA allowed more intensifying land use (a higher gross floor area with the same plot area) and thus left rooms for public spaces. [4]

The revision of the Hanoi master plan in 1998 is undoubtedly a milestone for Hanoi’s government to show her ambition to meet up the international standard of housing development. It was a trail solution to respond to problems that were long existing in the city. The examples included the inefficient land usage for self-built housing, deficiency in considering the conservation of the Ancient Quarter and the lack of green spaces for a better living environment. Although it has been taking a long time for local residents to adapt to the new living culture from its chaotic but indigenous counterpart, the overall effect of the more efficient way of city planning was relatively positive.

 

Footnotes

1. Geertman Stephanie, The self-organizing city in Vietnam: processes of change and transformation in housing in Hanoi, (Eindhoven: Bouwstenen Publicatieburo, 2007), 185.

2.  ibid

3. Mahadevia Darshini, Inside the Transforming Urban Asia: Processes, Policies, and Public Actions, (Delhi: Concept Publishing Co, 2008), 482

4. Geertman Stephanie, The self-organizing city in Vietnam: processes of change and transformation in housing in Hanoi, (Eindhoven: Bouwstenen Publicatieburo, 2007), 277.

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