Experts call for conserving Hanoi's industrial heritage

By Doan Loan   November 24, 2023 | 11:26 pm PT
Half of Hanoi's 185 industrial heritage buildings has been destroyed and architectural experts want the city to restore the remaining ones.

Of the 95 that remain, six were built before 1954, 36 between 1954 and 1986, 42 between 1986 and 2015 while accurate information is not available about the other 11, Dinh Hai Yen of the Vietnam Association of Architects said at a workshop in Hanoi on Thursday.

Some of them represent a historical period, and were considered the most modern in Hanoi and the northern region at the time they were built.

On the list of those built before 1954 during the French colonial period are the Hanoi Beer, Hanoi Wine, Yen Phu electricity plant, and Gia Lam Train factories.

"Those buildings in general have the potential to be conserved and reused as reminders of a historical period," Yen said, suggesting that Hanoi should soon create criteria for assessing and preserving its industrial heritage.

She also said the city should develop specific penalties, spelling out the responsibilities of the authorities and investors in the management, use and conversion of heritage structures.

It should include valuable industrial projects in the general planning for developing the capital, currently in the public consultation stage, she added.

Hang Dau Water Tower, a project with many historical values in Hanois Hoan Kiem District. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Hang Dau Water Tower, a project with many historical values in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem District. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Vuong Hai Long, dean of the architecture faculty at the Hanoi University of Architecture, said many industrial heritage structures have been demolished and replaced by new ones, including the Hanoi Mechanical Factory, Tran Hung Dao Mechanical Factory and Thang Long Tobacco Factory.

They have been converted into property projects to meet the housing demand, marking a loss of heritage, he said.

Industrial heritage should be considered a great asset in the construction of public spaces and urban design, he said, pointing to instances around the world of converting historical buildings into public spaces.

Pham Thi Thanh Huong, head of the cultural department at the UNESCO office in Hanoi, said the World Heritage Convention recognizes industrial heritage but not Vietnam's Cultural Heritage Law, making it difficult to manage and restore such structures.

So the law needs to be amended so that buildings could be classified to see if they are valuable enough for conservation.

Last week Hanoi's 130-year-old Hang Dau Water Tower was transformed to host an art event until Dec. 31.

As part of the 2023 Hanoi Creative Design Festival organized by the city and the Vietnamese Association of Architects, other historical sites like the Gia Lam Train Factory, Hanoi Railway Station, Long Bien Railway Station, and Long Bien Bridge will also host art events.

Do Dinh Hong, director of the city Department of Culture and Sports, said the water tower is considered a precious industrial heritage that needs to be preserved.

But the law does not recognize "industrial heritage" and so it is still the property of the Hanoi Clean Water Corporation and not classified as a heritage structure, he said.

His department would create a mechanism to preserve public assets with cultural value such as the water tower and Gia Lam Train Factory and make them tourist attractions, he added.

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