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. The French architecture in Hanoi is unique. It doesn’t exist anywhere else in Southeast Asia and Asia.
The Long Bien Bridge – a typical example of the French architectural style in Hanoi The Long Bien Bridge was constructed from 1989 to 1902 during French’s occupation of the country. Though the bridge was designed by French, it was built directly by Vietnamese workers with indigenous construction materials like woods from Phu Tho, Yen Bai, Thanh Hoa province, cement from Hai Phong, Long Tho lime from Hue. The bridge was formerly named Paul Doumer by the French, but Vietnamese have called it Long Bien or Cai River Bridge for a long time, and Long Bien becomes the most popular name of the bridge. Originally, Long Bien had 19 spans and it was the first steel bridge across Red river in Hanoi, and one of four greatest bridges in the world at the time it was built. Long Bien was considered the pride, symbol of architecture in the Far East. The bridge was a connection point to transport tons of rice from Northern and Northern Central area of Vietnam to Dien Bien Phu battle, and contributed to the win of Vietnam army against French, 1954. More than 100 years with decades of war, Long Bien Bridge was bombed many times by air attacks by American army in 1967, 1972; and many spans of the bridge were destroyed. The left spans still remaining today remind us of an unforgettable past. The bridge, hence, is not only a traffic construction, a nice architecture, but also a living historical relic.
Government Guest House Have you ever asked yourself a question why The palace of the Governor of Tonkin has yellow walls and green windows fitting perfectly with the honey-colored tropical sun? It is because the architects adopted an eclectic style, opting for buildings with railings surrounded by gardens to avoid the tropical heat.
A short walk away is the famous Metropole Hotel, a luxurious and elegant building with white walls. It is an award-winning French colonial-style hotel lying in the heart of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake and the magnificent Opera House.Boasting a classical white façade, green shutters, original wrought iron detail, wood paneling and a lush courtyard lawn, the hotel is one of the region’s few remaining hotels of its era. Built in 1901 by two private French investors, the hotel quickly became the rendez-vous point for colonial society in the first half of the century. Following Vietnamese independence in the 1950s, the new national government opted to maintain it as the official hotel for visiting VIP’s. During and after the war years, it became a base for press and diplomats.
Located in the heart of the city, the Hanoi Opera House is like a sumptuous palace of colonnades and arches. Strongly inspired by the Garnier Opera House in Paris, this building was built between 1901 and 1910. It was modeled on the Palais Garnier, the older of Paris's two opera houses, and is considered to be one of the architectural landmarks of Hanoi. After the departure of the French the opera house became the scene for several political events as well as the scene of street fighting during the fight for Hanoi.
During colonialism, a Vietnamese person stepping into Ville Francaise ( The French City) which was sometimes also known as Khu pho Tay (the Westerners’s Quarter) felt like a foreigner in the capital of his own country. Today, Hanoians still refer to that sector of the city as the “French Quarter” The French Quarter’s main artery is Trang Tien Street, once called Rue Paul Bert in honour of the French resident general of Tonkin in 1886. Actually, Hanoi Old Quarter is often the first place to come and the last place to leave of all city visitors. It has affected by French Architecture. The grace of Hanoi also lies in its wide French-inspired street lined with beautiful villas and ancient trees. Each house has its own style that reflects the different regions of France. The style of the central region
can be found in Phan Dinh Phung, Hoang Dieu, Tran Phu and Le Hong Phong street while the southern style left its mark on Quang Trung and Tran Quoc Toan street. The Indochinese style dominates the houses in Ly Nam De street. There are more than 1,600 villas dating from the French colonial regime, two-thirds owned by the state… The French architectural heritage blended with historical relics like the Temple of Literature, the One Pillar Pagoda and the Old Quarter of Hanoi makes Hanoi more attractive and unique. As it grows, Hanoi remains aware that preserving its architectural heritage is a way to ensure sustainable growth.
Nguyen Thanh Huyen