Jul 30, 2021 / 17:21

Hanoi fosters transformation of vacant factories into creative spaces

The ideas of converting vacant industrial zones, construction sites, and low-yield cultivation lands of Hanoi into creative spaces bring high hope for improving the spiritual life of the Hanoians.

Train District 4.0, a creative space on the basis of the old Gia Lam Train Factory, has become one of the most anticipated projects in the capital city.

The old Gia Lam Train Factory would be an attactive creative space of the capital in the near future. Photo: VCCI 

Built in 1905 by the French to fix trains for their fast-developing Vietnamese colony, Gia Lam Train Factory was the first train factory in the then-French territory, which spanned modern-day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

It later churned out weapons to fuel the country's independence fight, and then survived the onslaught of American bombers during the war. 

Enjoyed its heyday during the 1980s and 1990s, Gia Lam Railways was considered a symbol of the capital’s industrial revolution. It offered dozen of trains run weekly,  connecting Hanoi with northern parts of the country. 

The glory days, however, are all gone. The factory has been completely shut down since 2017 and has been abandoned ever since.

Architect Nguyen Kien To, one of the authors of the project to transform the train factory into a creative space in Hanoi, said his team would revive Gia Lam Train Factory and develop it in the direction of conservation.

"It is a witness of history that deserved to be protected,” he said. 

Keeping the creativeness

To said Hanoi faces a shortage of green and public spaces. Then, the old factory is ideal for being renovated and transformed into a place that provides recreation for young people and business opportunities for local investors. 

“According to the plan of the transformation, heavily degraded workshops and warehouses in the factory will be dismantled. The vacant land will be planted with trees to regenerate the green landscape. In addition, architecturally valuable factory buildings and old rail tracks will be transformed into unique cultural spaces,” architect To explained about his project.

The project is one among the outstanding entries of the contest launched recently by the Hanoi Department of Culture and Sports. 

The contest entitled “Designing Hanoi Creative Space”, which was held between May 2020 and July 20, 2021, aimed to convert vacant industrial zones and construction sites in Hanoi into cultural creative spaces. It is one among the efforts of the Hanoi authorities to help the capital live up to the title of ‘creative city’ awarded by UNESCO.

There 25 excellent architectural projects were selected for the final round of the competition, according to the Vietnam Association of Architects-the judges of the contest. 

The “Designing Hanoi Creative Space” contest had drawn the attention of a large crowd of locals. Photo courtesy of organizing committee.  

“The submissions for this competition are fruits of dedications in terms of both grey matter and finance. All of the selected projects are practical, humane, and feasible in designs,” said President of the Vietnam Cultural Heritage Association Do Van Tru.

The contest organizers also expect that the best architectural projects will soon be constructed, creating interesting creative spaces to meet the entertainment needs of Hanoians.   

The project “Cultural and Artistic Path” proposed by ADA Design Consulting Joint Stock Company and Associates was also highly appreciated. The arches under the ramp of Long Bien Bridge in Phung Hung Street will be renovated and transformed into mini-museums to display artworks or products from traditional craft villages, culinary spaces, and folk-art practice spaces, among others.

The Duong Lam Ancient Village in Son Tay Town, Hanoi. Photo: FantaSea 

Le Thi Phuong, a resident from Dong Da District, Hanoi said that she was very impressed with the Duong Lam Project. With the creation of spaces such as Rice Park, the Straw Park, or the Moon Park, among others,  the project can contribute to the economic development of the communities.

Meanwhile, the group of authors from the “Union of Science, Sustainable Tourism Development” has proposed to develop a model of Community Tourism, combining a visit to Duong Lam Ancient Village (Son Tay Town, Hanoi) with other interesting activities such as: experiencing the making souvenirs from straw or participating in agricultural production activities with local people.

Thriving to become a greener and more creative city 

The contest took place in the context that Hanoi is in dire need of more public spaces, while 92 polluting factories in the capital city, after being relocated, are left vacant. Given the small land fund of Hanoi, transforming old factories into creative spaces would improve people’s quality of life.

Hanoi used to be a thriving ancient city built by the Vietnamese people a long time ago. Its interior was built up gradually by the fertile alluvial source from the Red River, which gives rise to a high concentration of population along the river bank.

Having become the residential area of many people for generations, Hanoi is considered the economic and cultural center of the whole Northern Delta region in the modern day. 

After being listed by UNESCO in the network of Creative Cities of the world, Hanoi people and relevant authorities never stopped contributing to the creative development of their city.

The Sixty Square Creative Hub - one of the most renowned creative spaces in Hanoi. Photo: 60s Tho Quan

According to the 2021-2025 master plan approved by the government, Hanoi will have a core area, with 30% of which urbanized while the rest will be allocated to green and ecological space.

As committed to UNESCO, in the next four years, Hanoi will build three action programs on an international scale and three action programs at the national and city levels.

Talking about the policy of building Hanoi as a Creative City, Vice Secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee Nguyen Van Phong said: “Hanoi has built a start-up program with plans to support organizations and individuals, especially young people, in the technology field who have bright ideas. In terms of cultural space development, Hanoi is striving from now to 2030 to have about 25 new parks, in which there are spaces to display and introduce creative artworks of Hanoi artists”.

Along with that, Hanoi will also consider opening more pedestrian spaces, holding more cultural and artistic activities to improve the spiritual life as well as promote and inspire more creativity in the community in the future.