Hanoi’s Creative spaces – the “goldmines” need exploiting

Over the past few years, smart cities and creative cities are the concepts having been mentioned frequently in many countries around the world.  Because of the difference in the cultural potential, the infrastructure, and the creativity of each city government and its residents, the different cities will achieve the same aims (smart cities and creative cities) in various ways. 

The lessons from the success of the creative cities in the world

Affirming the culture as a supportive factor for sustainable development, UNESCO has launched Creative Cities Network with the participation of 180 cities from 72 countries since 2004. The title conferred upon the cities is one of the following: UNESCO City of Literature / Cinema / Music / Crafts and Folk Art / Design / Gastronomy / Media Arts. It can be seen that the cultural diversity of the creative cities not only results from their existing strengths but also continues to be fortified.

Barcelona is one of the very first cities taking part in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. People often think of Barcelona as a famous  Spanish football team,  but the field that makes the signature brand – Creative City –  of Barcelona is literature. With many publishers, Barcelona – a vibrant center of Spain – can focus on developing the publishing industry to rouse people to read books and be interested in literature.  Indeed, Barcelona has become the “Center of European detective fiction” with lots of world’s famous authors of detective stories converging at many discussions and round-tables in many cities and attracting the attention of professionals and literature lovers.

Jeonju is famous for traditional Korean food; however, to be recognized as a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO, Jeonju has taken careful plans. Along with preserving and passing the traditional Korean family cuisine for generations, Korea has promoted the culinary industry to internationalize Korean cuisine. Jeonju has built extensive cum intensive relationships with many other cities around the world through research activities, culinary exchanges, specialized food festivals such as the Bibimbap festival, the international exhibition of fermented foods, etc.  The fun and unique of the cuisine festival attract many tourists, who love the beauty of Korea and love to experience the local culinary and cultural programs, come to Jeonju.

Singapore also is one of the ASEAN cities participating in UNESCO  Creative Cities Network. It stands as a Creative City of Design with the designation in transport and environment. Singapore has always set the greening of the city and the utilization of vacant space for the community as the top priorities in planning and constructing the city. With a total land area of 724.2 square kilometers, Singapore (the land of lions) has constructed lots of skyscrapers. Thanks to the meticulous plan for the greening process, the green parks and the recreational areas of the residential quarters, Singapore becomes a livable city. Singapore attaches special importance to the distribution of housing projects, commercial areas, industrial zone so that people can easily access green spaces. However rapidly the urbanization goes on in Singapore, green space has always played a vital role in the country’s socio-economic development.

Hanoi Creative City of Design

The stories of Barcelona, Jeonju, and Singapore reveal that the determinant doesn’t lie in the total area of a city or the long history of culture. It’s more important for it to choose the forte which can promote development. As a major cultural center of the country with many traditional craft villages, folk arts, many historical – cultural relics, a “culinary paradise” ranking in many international tourism websites, Hanoi has registered and been recognized as a Creative City in architecture by UNESCO.

Recently years, It is in Hanoi that the pedestrian street space near Hoan Kiem Lake becomes the successful creative design “projects” because of receiving a lot of positive responses from the people and tourists. It is just one of the creative spaces that are in operation in Hanoi. Ambassador of the European Union to Vietnam – Mr. Bruno Angelet said: “Vietnam’s growing network of cultural and creative hubs lends the necessary support to artists and creative practitioners, helping them build a healthy living environment where people can access and enjoy cultural life.

Phung Hung Mural Street – one of the creative spaces of Hanoi

Currently, Vietnam has had more than 140 creative hubs, concentrated in two major cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. With an open definition in the Vietnamese context, creative hubs can be real locations such as Hanoi Book Street, Phung Hung Mural Street, Trinh Cong Son Pedestrian Street designed by the city government, or private building space such as Heritage Space, Saturday afternoon Café, Manzi, Oi Hanoi …, or an online platform as Hanoi Grapevine, or creative spaces “without space” such as The Onion Cellar, Empathy Museum … The proliferation of creative hubs in Hanoi (with about 70 spaces) and across the country, shows a positive signal in nurturing and developing culture from the community itself, also confirms the proper direction of Hanoi in choosing to promote the development of creative cultural spaces.

The creative hubs not only bring spiritual cultural values to the people but also provide employment opportunities, make a significant contribution to the regional economy, create a foundation for innovation. Only when Hanoi can utilize all cultural resources will it become a creative city. The cultural resources could be the nurturing and promoting culture systems, the tangible and intangible cultural heritage and the attractiveness of urban life. When creative spaces are thoroughly exploited, they will be the “goldmines” creating a signature brand fỏ Hanoi- Hanoi Creative City of Design. They are the foundation for the sustainable development of Hanoi in the future.

By Hạ Yến (HNMCT)