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Old September 20th, 2007, 08:24 PM   #1
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Hanoi's Architectural Heritage

Urban growth threatens heritage of Vietnam's capital

HANOI, Sept 18, 2007 (AFP) - As booming Vietnam hurls itself into the 21st century, the wrecking ball is taking its toll on the architectural heritage of the capital, long hailed as one of Asia's urban marvels.

Rapid population growth is putting ever more pressure on Hanoi, where old houses, cafes and temples overlook tranquil lakes dotted across the city and French colonial villas still line many leafy boulevards.

Residents worry the city's charm is fast disappearing as cranes rise over Hanoi, bulldozers tear down old houses, and the noise of myriad motorcycles drowns out Hanoi's characteristic neighbourhood street life.

As Vietnam's capital nears its 1,000th birthday in 2010, heritage experts warn that the Red River city is at a crossroads if it wants to avoid the pitfalls that have turned other Asian cities into urban nightmares.

Hanoi's population is set to balloon from three million to five million people in coming years, and experts warn that urban planners must strike a fine balance between modernising the city and preserving its unique character.

"Hanoi is the pearl of Asia," said Edle Tenden, cultural programme coordinator for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). "It's the mix of the many architectural styles and the street life.

"It's that people live on the street, eat on the street, chat to friends, rest and do business on the street," she said. "So you have the urban fabric but also the urban life. It's the whole atmosphere."

"It's the tangible heritage and the intangible heritage, the living heritage and the old myths and stories that go with it."

The soul of Hanoi is its Old Quarter -- a maze of 36 streets, each run by a guild, such as silk or bamboo craftsmen, for the past millennium -- which remains the bustling centre of commerce and Hanoi's tourism industry.

But while many want to preserve the ancient area, the Old Quarter is now a microcosm of Hanoi's challenge: with 15,000 households on three square kilometres (one square mile), it is among the most crowded residential areas in the world.

"Hanoi is growing at a rapid speed," said Tenden. "How to accommodate that and still preserve the heritage in an adequate way is an enormous challenge."

-- 70-storey tower to transform Hanoi skyline --

Hanoians are fond of their city, but many are stunned by the pace of change.

Streets that were filled with bicycles in the mid-1980s, when communist Vietnam recovered from war and launched doi moi (renewal) economic reforms, are now choked with mopeds and, increasingly, the cars of the newly rich.

"The economy is growing at over eight percent and with trade opening up under World Trade Organisation (membership) there is going to be an acceleration of investment," said World Bank infrastructure specialist Bill Paterson.

"That will pose its own challenges for the city. They will need to accommodate this growing involvement of the private sector."

A total of 197 new hotels, offices, apartment buildings and other projects worth 918 million dollars have been licensed in booming Hanoi so far this year, according to the city's Department of Planning and Investment.

South Korea's Keangnam group in August broke ground on what will be Vietnam's largest building, a 70-storey hotel-office-apartment complex set to cost one billion dollars and transform the Hanoi skyline by 2010.

Authorities are planning a host of new infrastructure -- satellite towns, three urban rail lines with French and Chinese funding, World Bank-backed ring roads, new highways and five more bridges across the Red River.

Trung Quoc Tran, a Vietnam-born US architect on a recent return visit, was stunned by how much Hanoi had changed and said that, while new infrastructure is badly needed, it has to be planned carefully.

"The infrastructure is old, only built to sustain about 500,000 people, and now it's millions, and more things are being built everyday," he said.

"The leadership and the citizens need to look at a map of their city very realistically. They have to be kind of surgical -- preserving the history by really looking at the old part of town and inserting infrastructure in a way that doesn't damage the city's structure."

-- Plan to turn former Lenin Park into 'mini-Disneyland' --

Hanoi has done much in the past to preserve its heritage -- such as limiting building heights around its landmark Hoan Kiem lake -- but many worry that urban planning is still too haphazard, uncoordinated and secretive.

"Hanoi is working hard on a new masterplan, which includes spreading the residential areas further around the city and preserving the core heritage areas," said Tenden of UNESCO.

"But of course it's always a challenge implementing such plans under such pressures. It will take strong political will and vision to see it through."

The World Bank's Paterson warned that "often there is not much coordination between agencies in different phases of the planning cycle, and so a lot of inefficiencies can creep in.

"Importantly, they will need to have more public participation and consultation. Much of the planning process has been hampered by a very centralised and top-down approach."

He warned that "one of the risks that the city could face in trying to keep up with this rapid pace of growth is that they could just take unilateral decisions. They could demolish whole areas, they could charge ahead with plans without adequate consultation and taking into account different views."

Hanoians have rarely been asked about how their city should change -- but many are up in arms over a new plan to allow private developers to turn the city's largest public green space into a Disneyland-style amusement park.

Under the blueprint, fairground rides, a 3D cinema, restaurants and carparks would be built in Thong Nhat (Reunification) Park, formerly known as Lenin Park, where people now do morning exercises and families stroll around a lake.

"Once the project has started, the park will become a tremendous construction site, stifling one of the city's green lungs," Ha Dinh Duc, of the Vietnam Nature and Environment Protection Association told the Vietnam News.

Reflecting a widespread view, the paper's commentator Trung Hieu wrote the project "would not only deprive the city of another breathing space away from the pollution but also take away a piece of the capital's cultural heritage."
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Old October 31st, 2007, 12:23 PM   #2
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Slowly, a royal ruin comes to light in Hanoi
The New York Times
18 October 2007

HANOI -- Nine hundred years before Ho Chi Minh declared Hanoi the capital of a newly independent Vietnam in 1945, the first king of the Ly Dynasty issued a similar decree.

In 1010 King Ly Thai To picked Thang Long (''Ascending Dragon''), situated within present-day Hanoi, as the capital for a country that had defeated the Tang Dynasty less than a century before, ending a millennium of Chinese rule.

''It is situated at the very heart of our country,'' the king declared in the ''Edict on the Transfer of the Capital.''

''It is equally an excellent capital for a royal dynasty for ten thousand generations,'' he added.

The enormous royal complex that Ly Thai To built did last, not 10,000 generations, but 900 years, through three major dynasties and repeated foreign invasions. For the last five years, archaeologists from the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology have been slowly unearthing the remains of Thang Long, uncovering millions of artifacts and features of buildings whose origins span 1,300 years. Hanoi is gearing up to celebrate its 1,000th anniversary in 2010, and Thang Long, a potential Unesco World Heritage Site, is its centerpiece.

''The history of Thang Long citadel is the history of the Great Viet,'' said Bui Minh Tri, an archaeologist, as he looked over the 18-square-kilometer, or 7.3-square-mile, site, thought to be the largest archaeological excavation in the history of Southeast Asia. The Great Viet are considered the founders of northern Vietnam. They probably descended from the Bronze Age Dong Son culture, which is famous for its enormous bronze drums. In 2002, the site, across the street from where Ho lies in state, was scheduled to be the new home of the National Assembly, the highest government body. Modern residences were razed. Archaeologists were called in to see whether anything remained of the citadel.

They had a good sense of where to look. The flag tower and Confucian university, the Temple of Literature, survive as tourist attractions. The area had also been mapped twice, by Vietnamese cartographers in the 15th century and by the French 400 years later. Earlier archaeological work had turned up a 13th- to 14th-century brick road.

One to four meters beneath the surface, the archaeologists found the foundations of at least 11 palaces, pillar bases, brick roads, drainage systems and deep wells. A dried riverbed held what immediately became the largest collection of ceramics in Vietnam, virtually all imprinted with imperial marks.

Terra cotta sculptures of five-toed dragons and coil-tongued phoenixes, symbols of the king and queen, eyed the excavators from the dirt. Similar artifacts had been found in the past at Buddhist temples built by Great Viet rulers. Now archaeologists had a confirmation of their royal origin.

After 1010, the Great Viet ruled the northern half of present-day Vietnam, continually expanding southward in wars against the Indian-influenced Champa state. By the 18th century, the south was ascendant. The Nguyen Dynasty moved the capital to Hue in central Vietnam in 1802, and the Thang Long citadel fell into disuse. Shortly after Hanoi became the capital of French Indochina in 1887, the French destroyed it.

The royal complex once covered an area now home to Ba Dinh Square, the modern military citadel, the military history museum, the presidential palace and Ho's mausoleum. It had dozens of palaces for the king, queen and royal family; pagodas and communal houses for the court and staff; and audience halls for government business.

As the military command center, it was enclosed by brick walls and guarded by armies who were also laborers.

From architecture to diet, Thang Long was an imperial capital in the tradition of Beijing's Forbidden City and Japan's Heijo Palace.

The court feasted on deer, pig, chicken, fish and shellfish. They drank clean water from nearly 12 wells, the earliest dating from the seventh century. The rulers commissioned artisans to create ceramics and sculptures with classic Chinese designs.

They surrounded the complex with walls and roads built from bricks made all over the state. Today, these bricks are stacked in the thousands at the site, imprinted with Chinese characters describing where and when they were made, and for whom.

The Vietnamese clearly inherited their royal tradition from the Chinese. Yet Thang Long shows evidence of singularly Vietnamese traits. Examples are on display in the small on-site museum. Among them are terra cotta tile caps on the roof tiles in the shape of Bodhi leaves decorated with dragons and chrysanthemums, and terra cotta phoenixes that once reared, gargoyle style, from palace roof corners.

Neither have been seen before.

''We knew very well the architecture from the 15th to the 19th centuries, but until we found Thang Long, we didn't know about architecture from the 10th to 15th centuries,'' Bui said.

Some collections may need to be reassessed in light of Thang Long. At the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, a 15th-century bowl long thought to be Chinese was recognized as Vietnamese only after nearly identical examples were found at the site.

These and other finds are discussed in the Vietnamese Institute of Archaeology's bilingual volume ''Thang Long Imperial Citadel.''

Only one percent of the site has been excavated. Archaeologists expect to learn more about individual dynasties as the dig continues over the next five years.

Today, the long pits excavated from 2002 to 2004 lie under corrugated metal roofs that channel heavy summer rain to be pumped out. Workers scrape the pottery-laden riverbed clear of moss that grows easily in the humid climate. In an adjacent closed area, some 200 more are excavating a section as large as the initial dig.

Only military officials, a handful of journalists and Vietnamese diplomats can visit Thang Long. Many people expect it to open to the public for Hanoi's celebration in 2010.

A museum planned for 2010 will trace the development of the city from its beginnings as Thang Long, and an effort to designate it a Unesco World Heritage Site is in the works.

''It's very important to us that Unesco recognize Thang Long as a World Heritage Site,'' Bui said. ''Thang Long is a symbol of the country.''

Thang Long resonates today. (The city became known as Ha Noi, or between rivers, in the 1830s.)

It can be seen on shop signs for washing machines and on banners draped between sycamores greening the jammed streets. An oil field discovered a few years ago off the southern coast of Vietnam was renamed Thang Long.

The city will have a second opera house, perhaps meant as an answer to the French-built Hanoi Opera House, by 2012. One guess what its name will be.

Thang Long may also develop as a case study in how archaeology can serve nationalistic goals, said Robert Murowchick, director of the International Center for East Asian Archaeology and Cultural History at Boston University. ''This is not necessarily a bad thing,'' Murowchick said. ''It can promote tourism and economic development, and inspire national pride and unity.''
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Old December 8th, 2007, 05:14 PM   #3
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Vietnam to restore Hanoi ancient citadel ruins

HANOI, Sept 9, 2007 (AFP) - Vietnam plans to restore the ruins of an ancient imperial city in central Hanoi dating back to the seventh century with help from Japan and the UN cultural organisation, heritage officials say.

Work is expected to start next year to preserve the old citadel ahead of the capital's 1,000th birthday in 2010 and would strengthen Hanoi's chances of having its historic cultural heart declared a World Heritage site in future.

The remains of the ancient citadel and relics from five feudal dynasties were first discovered in 2002 during excavation work to build a new national assembly in the centre of the capital, putting construction on hold.

Archeologists discovered millions of priceless artefacts from the city once known as Thang Long (Ascending Dragon), including terracotta figures of dragons and phoenix heads, ceramics, canons, swords and coins.

The find started a dispute between heritage and development forces over what to do with the ruins located in what has been Vietnam's centre of political power for most of its history, from ancient times until today.

The 20,000-square-metre (200,000 square-foot) dig shares a city block with the existing Ba Dinh national assembly and is located near the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam's revolutionary leader and first president.

At one stage, Vietnam's government considered moving the legislature to the outskirts of Hanoi, but it has now decided to build the new assembly on the site of the existing Ba Dinh hall, adjacent to the ancient city ruins.

Authorities have put on display 17 design models for the new assembly. The exact size of the new building remains unclear, but officials say the development will allow for the adjacent ruins to be saved.

"The government has decided to preserve the area, not to build a national assembly building here," said Bui Minh Tri, secretary of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel site project and deputy director of Vietnam's Institute of Archeology. "We will build a museum or a historical park."

Workers are now excavating palace structures and artefacts in the area, which is shielded by a large plastic roof and closed to the general public, but work is set to be stepped up under the new project.

Japan has offered to provide financial and technical aid to protect and restore the citadel via a Japan-UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) fund, the state-run An Ninh Thu Do newspaper reported.

"Our goal is to preserve this historical site for the long term, not only for the celebrations of the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi," said Tran Quang Dung, deputy chief for the National Steering Committee for 1,000 Years of Thang Long-Hanoi, according to the report.

"It's good news, we are very enthusiastic about this," said Edle Tenden, UNESCO's Vietnam culture programme coordinator.

"It's very timely and very strategic and we hope we can assist Hanoi in exploring different options for protecting what is a very important site with a surrounding area of urban heritage that is also very significant in Asia."

Hanoi became the capital of Vietnam in 1010 under the Ly dynasty. The name Thang Long, or Ascending Dragon, symbolised the desire for independence after a thousand years of Chinese domination, historians say.

The dig has unearthed ancient palace foundations and the remains of the central forbidden city, with ruins dating back 1,300 years to the Chinese Tang dynasty and then the Vietnamese dynasties of Ly, Tran, Le and Nguyen.

"The remains tell the story of Hanoi," said Tenden. "As long as we don't know the full story, it's a great idea to preserve the entire site."

Vietnam seeks to have the areas of the former forbidden city and central axis of the old citadel, the four sacred temples north, south, east and west of the citadel, and the ancient Temple of Literature recognised as a World Heritage site under a proposal it has submitted to UNESCO.
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Old December 31st, 2010, 01:04 PM   #4
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Southeast Asia's colonial heritage victim of modernisation
1 December 2010

Source : http://www.pbase.com/soukpasong/image/100595288

When Cambodia tore down a century-old school in the capital this year, conservationists bemoaned the loss of yet another piece of history in former French Indochina in the rush to modernise.

French colonial architecture -- with its shuttered windows, grand balconies and pitched tiled roofs -- for decades defined the look of cities in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, even after the French pulled out of Indochina in 1954.

But now, hundreds of historic buildings across the region are being knocked down as governments capitalise on rising land prices and attempt to create eye-catching skylines.

"What I see in Phnom Penh is little -- or at worst no -- heritage protection of significant buildings. I see the disappearance of old French colonial buildings," said Cambodia-based architectural historian Darryl Collins.

"It's a great pity because I think in time it will be regretted that so many of these buildings have gone," the Australian said.

Built in 1908, the Ecole Professionnelle -- Cambodia's oldest training school -- was razed in February, the latest high-profile casualty in the impoverished country's quest for modernity.

The Cambodian capital, or the "Pearl of Asia" as it was once known, used to be thought of as one of the loveliest cities in the region thanks to its French-style wide avenues, carefully-manicured gardens and stately homes.

Much of that charm, however, is disappearing at an alarming rate, say conservationists.

They estimate that as many as 30 percent of Phnom Penh's colonial buildings -- survivors of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime and decades of civil war -- have been demolished in the past 15 years.

While many Cambodians in the capital prefer to live and work in modern buildings, it's not just historians who are upset by the transformation.

"We should not destroy the French buildings. We should renovate them so that they look nice again," said Chheng Moeun, 76, who sells soft drinks outside a crumbling colonial villa near Phnom Penh's Royal Palace.

The demolitions are being driven in part by the kingdom's economic growth over the past decade, and developers are eager to build apartments and office blocks in the prime locations that many of the colonial buildings occupy.

Samraing Kamsan, a top official at Cambodia's Ministry of Culture, said saving French design in Phnom Penh was complicated because of limited funding and a lack of interest from the buildings' owners.

"We want to preserve those ancient buildings. Some people listen to us, but some do not," the official said.

Across the border, fellow former French colonies Laos and Vietnam are also struggling to maintain their colonial dwellings, said Collins, who blames booming real estate prices.

"It's a short-term pattern of thinking," he said, the main consideration being "sheer profit".

Hoang Dao Kinh, a specialist in the preservation of Hanoi's cultural and historical heritage, said out of more than one thousand French villas in the Vietnamese capital, only a few hundred remain in the original colonial style.

And while the country has made efforts to safeguard old buildings, Kinh said the application of a 2001 law on the preservation of such sites "has met with many difficulties."

But attempts to rescue some of France's architectural leftovers have not been completely in vain, he added, pointing to Vietnam's Dalat city as a noteworthy example.

In neighbouring Laos, the picturesque northern town of Luang Prabang with its well-kept colonial homes has proved a major tourist draw, and the government is keen to replicate that success in the capital.

Buildings in Vientiane have been renovated and are in "very good" condition, said government spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing.

"It's good for tourists. When the tourists come to Vientiane, they are looking for that," he said.

Collins believes governments in all three countries should see the preservation of French-era structures not as a nuisance, but as a way to attract revenue from foreign visitors.

"Decisions have to be made about how important these buildings are to the cities," he said.

But if recent remarks by the Cambodian prime minister are anything to go by, those in favour of conservation face an uphill battle.

"They want to keep the old buildings... But when they collapse, who would be responsible?" Hun Sen said in September when he announced plans for a 555-metre tower in Phnom Penh.

"Don't be too conservative. Skyscrapers are appearing. Let's build high buildings," he said.
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Old December 31st, 2010, 02:13 PM   #5
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Thanks for all this info.

Hanoi has a great architectural heritage from the French colonial period. As is in PhnomPenh and HoChiMinhCity - all fast growing cities , but they have to take care that all the developments do nog ruin the historic legacy.
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Old December 31st, 2010, 03:01 PM   #6
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[news] Restoration project of Ta Hien Street

The restoration project of one part of Ta Hien Street (from nb 5 to 27 odd-numbered side and from nb 8 to nb 18 even-numbered side) was launched on the 11th of november 2010.
The rehabilitation project aims to improve the living and working conditions of the residents and to restore a strong sense of urban unity to the entire street, both for the house frontages and the store signs, work on the pavement and public lighting.
The yard should last 9 months. It is the first time that this kind of restoration of an architectural set happens in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.

download info: http://www.toulouse-hanoi.org/IMG/pd..._Hien_-_fr.pdf

Hānội 河內 another 1000 years
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