Youth and Public Space in Hanoi, Vietnam

Friday, July 18, 2014: 6:50 PM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Alice MIQUET , Urbanisme, University of Montreal, Canada
Stephanie GEERTMAN , Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Canada
Since Vietnam began to integrate with the global economy and culture in the mid 1980s, public spaces have been greatly transformed. They have increasingly been privatized and commercialized, and become subject to surveillance and rules, mirroring the global trend. However, in Hanoi, a very dense capital with scarce public space, the consequences of this trend are not only a decline in public space, but also an intensification and diversification of use of public space, including increasingly informal activities. These processes resulted in restricted access to the city's largest public spaces, which are mostly fenced off and for which an entry fee is charged. At the same time, the city witnesses an increasing use of smaller public spaces as squares. They have become heavily populated by urban youth because of their easy access (no fees or fences). The Vietnamese youth that grew up in the new era of globalization are today developing a new urban culture in the squares of Hanoi, manifested in skating, biking, rollerblading and street dancing.

Based on the results of 40 interviews with youth held on two squares in Hanoi – one located in the inner city, Lenin Square, the other one in a residential peri-urban area, Trung Hoa-Nhan Chinh – and 15 interviews with professional and institutional planners, this paper provides an understanding of the use of public space by urban youth and examines how they negotiate rules and restrictions and deal with other users. The paper aims to give an insight in the role of public space in the context of a new emerging urban youth culture in Vietnam, and in the dichotomy between tightness and looseness of control over public spaces.