The Ancient Quarter of Hanoi

A Reflection of Urban Transition Processes

  • Michael Waibel (Autor/in)


This paper describes the effects of the Doi Moi policy, the latest stage in a series of historical transitions, on the urban landscape of Vietnam's oldest existing trade, market, and retail estate, the Ancient Quarter of Hanoi or 36 Streets Quarter. Economic liberalisation and the opening up to global capital have caused an enormous economic revitalization of this traditional quarter; however, 'beneficiaries of transition' have initiated a dramatic building and renovation boom. Although local, national and international agencies have formulated many plans to preserve the historic ambiance of the Quarter, many of the traditional tube-shape houses have been destroyed. The main reason for this development is to be found in delays typical of transition periods, as state institutions move beyond the centrally organized economy and adapt to a pluralistic market economy, as well as insufficient resources and the failure to enforce architectural guidelines. In general, the recent development of Hanoi shows similarities to many Eastern European cities, where distinct actor groups have initiated processes typical of transition, such as the rapid emergence of private enterprises, suburbanization processes, social as well as spatial polarization, the fast-track development of a Central Business District and catching up with internationalization and modernization processes.