Commercialization of Urban Heritage and its Management: The Case of Hanoi's French Colonial Quarter

Hanoi is one of the ancient capital cities in Asia with different historic urban landscapes. Besides its significant Old Quarter with a 1000 year history, it possesses a remained colonial quarter, often called Hanoi's French Colonial Quarter (HFCQ), which was built by and for the French colony. The area was gradually developed during the late 19th century and early 20th century, stretching out Southern area of Hoan Kiem Lake, Ba Dinh District and the Northern area of the Old Quarter. The street system was designed in a typical Euro-centric checkerboard pattern. Some streets were designed in boulevard style with big trees and beautiful villas lined up along the streets.
Along with the regional drastic economical growth and urbanization, Hanoi has transformed swiftly and often uncontrollably since the shift of Vietnam to Market Economy in 1986, and been caught between desirable economic growth and the need for sustainable new development plus cultural property conservation. Day by day, many invaluable old buildings have been "invaded", occupied and modified for commercial needs throughout the two quarters. Compared to the Old Quarter, HFCQ has remained its original architectural landscape in a better way. Yet as a matter of fact, along with the enhancement of commercialization and modernization in the metropolis, HFCQ has transformed severely within recent years, particularly in the building façades which substantially shape the historic urban fabrics.
This paper, first, generally demonstrates the values of historic city center and then answers questions like what is the cultural sustainability of historic city centers, how conservation is related to sustainable development, how new "global-style" architectures are identity-less and mismatching in the historical local contexts, or whether contemporary architectures can be integrated harmoniously in historic urban fabrics.
Next, the paper focuses on HFCQ, investigating the current critical transition situation by making extensive and thorough pictorial documentation of recently modified facades, and addresses emergent issues. Then it analyses the causes of the problem, such as new business investment and commercialization, the continually rising urbanization load in the inner city, the failure of local governance and management in controlling the situation, the lack of common concern, consensus and actions, lack of coordination, dialogues and negotiation among stake-holders, lack of updated academic research and practical initiatives, etc.
Finally, the paper proposes some strategies to conserve the urban heritages in Hanoi while still compromising with economic growth and modernization needs.

Keywords: Urban heritage, historical urban landscape, Hanoi's French colonial quarter, commercialization threat, heritage management.

Dr. To Kien
National University of Civil Engineering, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Postdoctoral Researcher, Kyushu University, Japan

Kien_Commercialization of Urban Heritage and its Management.pdf21.88 MB