Vietnam was distinct from Southeast Asian counterparts because of its long years of colonization (thousand years under China rule, and nearly a hundred years under French colony), long years of war, and resistance toward international partners. The Vietnam War started by guerrilla campaigns in 1950s, ended in 1976 with merging North and South Vietnam into Socialist Republic of Vietnam, left Vietnam devastated. However, the war did not end until 1979 due to Sino-Vietnamese war (brief border war fought between China and Vietnam). Moreover, due to the US-Vietnam war, Vietnam was not only impoverished but also did not have a chance to get rid of poverty due to American trade embargo, which is lasted until 1994. While other countries in the region integrated with global market and attracted foreign direct investment especially after the Asian crisis in 1997, Vietnam had seen much less interest from global investor due to constraint which comes from state in planned economy period. Despite Vietnam’s wish to “be a friend and reliable partner with all nations in the international community” since 1991, it was not until 2000 when the US signed the Bilateral Trade Agreement that foreign capital started to flow in. Since then, the large city such as Hanoi has been experiencing a great urban transformation due to an increasing integration into the global economy and culture. New large-scale projects such as shopping malls, business centers, and high-rise residential tower have started to appear in the city, especially in the urban fringe, enabled by enlarged inner city roads. The Vietnamese state is promoting these large-scale urban typologies in a similar fashion to other Asian countries, with the goal of becoming a civilized society (xã hội văn minh). In the inner city, particularly in Hanoi, the small scale redevelopment projects have been dominated by people-driven urbanism. The photo illustrates a well-known people-based regeneration project named “Zone 9”. The creative space was born in May 2013 while a few arts-base pioneers took the abandoned Central Pharmaceutical factory on the South-Eastern edge of Hanoi downtown. From a couple dozen of tenants, the desolate silent atmosphere of the symbolic post – Communist buildings built during 1960s quickly attracted roughly 60 studios, galleries, boutiques, restos and nightclubs. Designed in a unique style but similar by their ruined and nostalgic atmosphere, the complex formerly dessert rooms housed famous names of Hanoi mundane scene. By October, the place already was the “the city go-to culture district” and the largest independent, civil-society-driven cultural development by far. The informal place used to draw performance artistic and electronic musicians from Germany, France or Japan, as well as exhibitions, and group show on Vietnamese gay art and culture scene. The whole lively surrounded by fashion featuring. It embodies a cosmopolitan place, a creative crucible mostly brought out by Vietnamese having a deep experience of Western culture. Moreover, a lot of hipster and Vietnamese people connected with the West, got drawn into the art scene for the first time due to Zone 9. It was a place where a new alternative generation artist could express themselves and underground scene features in a laid-back and friendly environment. It also made possible to connect expat and Vietnamese. It employed about 1000 people, mostly new employed people background, rather than confining to graduated people as most of basic economic sectors look for, enabling people make a living through their passion. This place eventually was abruptly shuttered at the end of December of the same year by authorities. Their official reason was announced due to the safety order, but the real/or hidden cause still is in debate. Even after forcing shut down, the Zone 9 has inspired the creative and people-based regeneration in the city. The Zone 9 is the representative for people-base urbanism in the context of globalization in Vietnam.
2018.4.6 Le Quynh Chi
*Dr.Chi graduated from the University of Tokyo for her master course and ph.D. After she went back to Hanoi and began her academic career at the University of Civil Engineering , we have collaborated for the research on the transformation of periphery of Hanoi.