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Exploiting industrial heritage in the heart of Hanoi
Jenna Duong 22:45, 2023/11/28
The repurposing of industrial heritage is seen as a resource if it is effectively exploited, unlocking its potential to honor cultural-historical values and generate economic value.

Industrial heritage refers to the vestiges of industrial plants, including historical, social, scientific, technological industrial properties. The conversion of industrial heritage is seen as a resource if it is harnessed effectively, unleashing its potential to generate economic value.

 A young visitor to the Hanoi Creative Design Festival 2023 at Gia Lam Train Factory. Photo: Tattoo & Bamboo Workshop

A seminar held recently under the Hanoi Creative Design Festival 2023 titled "Repurposing Heritage in the Heart of Hanoi - Approach from Creative Exploitation and Value Promotion" highlights that the preservation and repurposing of industrial heritage need more policy focus and better social participation and creativity.

Awakening industrial heritage

Like other tangible and intangible cultural heritage, industrial heritage must be preserved as a living testimony to the development stages of the nation's history.

As part of the Hanoi Creative Design Festival 2023, two industrial relics, the Hang Dau Water Tower and the Gia Lam Train Factory, were renovated into creative spaces, which is seen as a timely move to preserve and promote the historical, social, scientific-technological, and aesthetic values of heritage, thereby contributing to the development of the capital's tourism sector.

In 2022, Hanoi decided to relocate nine industrial plants from downtown Hanoi within five years, including Nhan Dan Newspaper Printing Company, Hanoimoi Newspaper Printing Company, Hanoi Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Joint Stock Corporation, Thang Long Tobacco Company, Vietnam News Agency Printing and Trading Company, Gia Lam Train Factory, Hanoi Railway Passenger Transport Company, Duc Giang Oil Depot, Agricultural Publishing House Company, and Vietnam Institute of Industrial Chemistry.

  The Water Palace exhibition by artist Trinh Minh Tien at Gia Lam Train Factory. Photo: The organizers of Hanoi Creative Design Festival 2023

Unlocking the potential of industrial heritage

Factories and industrial sites are often associated with old and shabby buildings. However, some of them have architectural value and preserve urban memories. At present, Hanoi and Vietnam lack a model for the conversion of old industrial estates. If the economic benefits and cultural purposes of transforming industrial heritage can be harmoniously combined, Hanoi will have many creative breakthroughs, creating its own identity from the connecting spaces between the past and the present.

According to research by architect Dr. Dinh Thi Hai Yen, there are 185 industrial buildings in Hanoi, of which 95 are still in operation, while 90 others have been damaged or converted. Those built before 1945 include the Hanoi Brewery, Hanoi Wine Factory, Yen Phu Power Plant, and Gia Lam Train Factory, followed by 24 built between 1954 and 1965, 12 between 1965 and 1975, and 10 between 1975 and 1986.

The Light and Water Installation inside Hang Dau Water Tower. Photo courtesy of the event organisers of Hanoi Creative Design Festival 2023

"Industrial heritage always carries historical, aesthetic, and social traces. Many heritage sites have great value for people, associated with the memories and life of an era. Therefore, industrial heritage always has vitality even in modern life," said architect Dinh Thi Hai Yen.

According to architect Vuong Hai Long, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Hanoi Architectural University, Hanoi's industrial heritage sites occupy large areas of land, and instead of demolition, redeveloping these buildings will not only bring great economic value but also preserve the historical significance.

Many countries have revived old industrial parks into entertainment complexes, creating space for community interaction and new values for obsolete buildings. The remaining value of dilapidated buildings has been identified by investors and architects who have provided solutions for appropriate and effective utilization.

 The installation space of the Tatoo & Bamboo Workshop artists, Hanoi Creative Design Festival 2023.

 Combining industrial heritage and tourism

Hanoi is home to the country's most important industrial heritage, and experts say that removing the city's industrial heritage will partially disrupt its coherence. It's unnecessary to keep everything, but the city must determine which buildings connect Hanoi's memories and should be preserved, renovated, or completely rebuilt.

Architect Nguyen Hong Quang, who helped design the spaces for the Hanoi Creative Design Festival 2023, said industrial heritage has undeniable historical value. If these buildings are demolished and replaced with new ones, it will be really difficult to create temporal or historical values. In addition to the capital's scenic spots and relics, industrial heritage buildings deserve to be "brought back to life" through art events, which will create great attractions for tourists.

Meanwhile, architect Vuong Hai Long said that the reuse, promotion, and preservation of industrial heritage is no longer a new issue in many countries around the world. Still, in Vietnam in general and Hanoi in particular, the values of industrial heritage have yet to be fully tapped.

  The Ben Cho or Waiting Pavilion at the Hanoi Creative Design Festival 2023

 "Therefore, it needs a roadmap for planning to change the functions of old buildings and factories to meet the demands of modernity and ensure that traces and memories of the history and culture of the sites are still preserved," he said.

According to Vu Thu Ha, Deputy Chairwoman of the Hanoi People's Committee, Hanoi has carried out many activities over the past four years to concretize its commitment to building a creative city. The Hanoi Party Committee has issued Resolution No. 09-NQ/TU "on the development of cultural industries in the capital between 2021 and 2025, with an orientation towards 2030 and a vision towards 2045".

Hanoi has prioritized the effective and practical implementation of investment programs to preserve, restore, and promote the value of relics. It has also invested in numerous projects with unique landscapes and spaces that are emblematic of the capital. At the same time, the development of cultural tourism, as well as the construction of new rural areas and civilized urban areas, will be stepped up.

  A visitor to the light and water installation inside the Hang Dau Water Tower. Photo: Huong Giang

Hanoi's cultural tourism brand is built on unique cultural values, focusing on heritage, culinary and cultural values, through which a system of typical and quality destinations and products has been created. As for which industrial facilities should be partially or fully preserved, it is important to conduct assessments and publicize the heritage values of industrial facilities through interdisciplinary seminars to collect feedback from experts in the fields of culture, architecture, and history, thereby establishing a more scientific and systematic set of evaluation criteria.

The Hanoi Creative Design Festival 2023 is underway at Gia Lam Train Factory and other venues in Hanoi until November 26 with the theme "Flow".

The annual festival features 60 cultural activities at Hanoi's four architectural landmarks, including 16 exhibitions, 17 workshops and lectures, nine art shows, community events, art fairs, and children's playgrounds.

More than 200 organizers, Vietnamese and international designers and artists are participating in the festival, including Hanoi Indie Troupe, Van Thien Y Design, Heritage Space, and others.

For the first time, locals and visitors to Hanoi have seen the capital's interesting century-old architectural works, such as the Hang Dau Water Tower, Van Xuan Flower Garden, and Gia Lam Train Factory.

These French colonial buildings are being transformed by architects and artists into unique art exhibition venues, marking a new stage in the transformation of Hanoi's industrial heritage into creative spaces.

In a short time, the workshops of the Gia Lam Train Factory have been turned into 16 art exhibitions and demonstrations, such as "Water Palace" by artist Trinh Minh Tien, "The Call" by artist Thu Tran, group exhibition "Peripheral Movement" by Vietnamese and international artists, and graffiti art demonstrations, among others.

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