Hanoi's Colonial Architecture

Although the French colonial period came to an end a long time ago, much of the French arts and deco style are still imprinted in the architecture of Hanoi. One hundred years under colonization of French, Vietnam did not lose its traditional color, but it also absorbs new perspectives from a modern France. Along the history of Hanoi city, it is not overstated to claim that ancient French architecture has contributed significantly in creating a unique, magnetic and charming Hanoi with its elegance and nobility.

It is complicated to tell exactly the time French colonial construction format penetrated into Hanoi, but most archaeologists and architectural researchers consent that the first appearance of French architecture in Hanoi was more than 200 years ago, when King Gia Long initiated a project to reconstruct Hanoi under Vauban architectural style with the monitor of French architects.

However, it was not until 1875 when the Concession Area was generated, the construction with ancient French style has been built in larger number and also larger area in Hanoi with various designs that were Western-like for most public constructions. Art Deco Style, which is designed with simple shapes, Neo-Gothic Style for churches and Rural style for villas with memory of French of their homeland. The combination of French format with other architectural culture of Vietnam and China was also encouraged.

At that time, French colonial architecture played a crucial role in transforming Hanoi from an obsolescent city with old Eastern constructions to a fresh modern and allured city with Western features. Nevertheless, the transformation did not totally eliminate all elements of Vietnamese architectural culture, but merged them with appropriate characteristics of French construction to invent new style of architecture name Dong Duong (Indochina) style which is distinctive, harmonious and charming. It is said that among those colonial areas of French Empire all over the world, Hanoi in particular and Vietnam in general possess the most wonderful ancient French constructions.

There is a considerable number of classical French constructions that are conserved at present in Hanoi and fortunately most of them have retained the original appearances with initial patterns and materials. They have all become either culture symbols of Hanoi or used by Vietnamese authorities as office of numerous important departments such as Ministry of Foreign Affair, State Banks of Vietnam, The Palace of Presidents. Some others are still admired in the daily life of Hanoians as places to be resident and historical evidence of French cultural appearance in this allured city and tranquil elements of memorial Hanoi inside a modern, uproarious and active Hanoi today.

* Note: This is the first edition of our monthly featured series Vietnam In Deep - a collection of essays about Vietnam culture and beauty. If you have any questions or comments, please email us: editors@vietnamonline.com. These are copyrighted materials and should not be used without Vietnam Online permission. 
 
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