Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam. Hanoi is considered to be the second-largest city in Vietnam which is located within the Red River Delta and it also happens to be the cultural and political centre of Vietnam. Hanoi is a beautiful city partly thanks to its architectural works. Hanoi’s distinctive architectural environment, both ancient and modern, has formed as a result of the merging of traditional eastern architectural designs with French Architecture.
Hanoi’s old architecture is especially reflected within the Old Quarter, which is additionally called the “36 streets”. Houses during this quarter were small and roofed with thatch leaves or tiles. A typical house had three compartments separated by a yard, each of which housed a family where the wife worked as a trader and the husband worked as a craftsman. When the kids grew up and got married, their parents allotted a compartment to every couple. If more space was needed, the compartment would be extended vertically and had several floors. As a result, the houses in the old quarter were tube-shaped, meaning they were several metres broad, tens of metres deep, and had two or three stories. This style of architecture, normally seen in Vietnam’s old urban areas, provides ventilation and natural light. In addition to the tube-shaped dwellings, Hanoi’s ancient quarter contains temples, pagodas, and shrines that were once used as worshipping places for villages, hamlets, and guilds. These works demonstrate that citizens of the capital city came from all over the country to earn a living and establish themselves.
Impact of French Architecture: The advent of distinctively French architectural works in the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century aided in the creation of distinct imprints on Hanoi’s architecture. In 1803 when King Gia Long ordered the re-construction of the Hanoi Citadel with the Vauban plan under the supervision of four French engineers, French architecture made its first appearance in Hanoi. Traditional scale, art, structural engineering, and architectural materials have all changed as a result of the impact of French architecture in Hanoi. Cement, steel, and iron were used to replace the principal raw materials used in construction, such as bamboo, leaves, wood, brick, and tile. The entire architecture of Hanoi has been affected by this trend since then. People stopped building houses in traditional Vietnamese architecture because they appeared to be inferior. Block dwellings have sprung up in Hanoi in place of the traditional Vietnamese garden house. Even after the French left Vietnam, French architecture continues to have a profound influence in Hanoi. Until recently, Hanoians have been building their city in the style of Hanoi’s French colonial history. The old French structures, which were supposed to belong to a single regime, are now meticulously kept and used by Vietnamese, demonstrating the harmony in combining indigenous and alien cultural features while still playing vital roles in all parts of Hanoians’ lives. Some schools, like Chu Van An, Tran Phu, or Trung Vuong, remained educational institutions; others became state agency headquarters; other villas became residences for top officials and ambassadors. Others, like the Opera House, Metropole Hotel, Saint Joseph Cathedral, and others, have remained unchanged since their births and have become emblems of the city.
Roles in Socio-Cultural Aspect: The buildings were first erected primarily to fulfil the needs of French officials and their families. After essentially capturing all of Indochina, French colonials embarked on a large construction project in Hanoi to transform it into the country’s capital. As a result, structures during this period were created with political and territorial reorganisation in mind. General Governor of Indochina Palace (now the Presidential Palace), Hang Co railway station (now Ha Noi Railway Station), Opera House (1901-1911), and Metropole Hotel are examples of notable architecture from this period. Other marble constructions were also created to benefit the community (Long Bien Bridge, Dong Xuan Market, local schools, etc.) or to be dedicated to religious purposes like Saint Joseph Cathedral. Having lived through numerous periods and reasons, the French have left an indelible mark on Hanoi’s culture. Many other cultural features of ordinary ways of living are influenced by architecture. When the French nominated Hanoi in the past, the inhabitants were taught by French culture. As a result, Vietnam’s music, art, fashion, and even thought patterns have shifted. Until now, upon arriving in Hanoi, you can still observe many French relics, particularly in the spaces between ancient French buildings, where people continue to listen to French-style music, maintain their antique furniture, and prepare a mix of Vietnamese and French dishes. While walking along the Hoang Dieu or Tran Phu pavements, you may notice several elderly men dressed in vintage clothing, playing the violin, and lost in nostalgia. Despite years of war and natural disasters, this region of the world has managed to maintain its architectural style for over a thousand years. Today, the area is bustling with visitors looking for a quiet time among the peaceful courtyards, aged trees, and well-kept green lawns.
Before the French occupation, it had established a reputation as the Red River Delta’s economic and trading centre. The historic Buddhist One Pillar Pagoda and the Bach Ma Temple, one of Hanoi’s oldest surviving temples dating back to the 9th century, are both located in the Old Quarter. The way the homes have been shaped is one of the most intriguing architectural characteristics of the Old Quarter. For hundreds of years, King’s decreed that citizens should not construct structures taller than the king’s palanquin. People found that they needed to use the front of their houses as storefronts due to the dense population and short amount of land available. The interior of the house would be lengthened to accommodate manufacturing, dining, and living. The Old Quarter is still characterised by these types of short and narrow yet exceptionally long tubular houses. The many years of French occupation are thought to have shaped Hanoi’s architecture more than any other period. Wide, tree-lined boulevards began to emerge naturally and gradually, in typical French colonial fashion, giving rise to the so-called French Quarter. A significant landmark is the Hanoi Opera House, which was built in 1911 and is modelled after the famed Parisian Palais Garnier. There are no tours of the opera house, so the only way to see the inside is to attend one of the many performances.
Several French buildings were demolished as a result of several historical changes, yet practically all of them were preserved in decent condition. They become witnesses to a dreadful chapter in the country’s history, but they also serve to remind people of a fascinating cultural exchange between the two countries. Visitors to Hanoi may not require a tour guide to explain what happened in the past; instead, they can learn about it by looking at the remnants left behind. These structures have now become prominent tourist attractions in Hanoi, in addition to their important roles.