Visitors to the Cantonese Assembly Hall on Hang Buom Street in Hanoi are amazed to discover a unique and innovative space within the historical building. Situated in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the hall showcases a confluence of Vietnamese, Chinese, and French cultural influences, making it an architectural gem. In recent years, it has transformed into a bustling venue for exhibitions, workshops, and seminars, serving as a meeting point for artists and the general public. As a testament to the grandeur of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel, the Cantonese Assembly Hall has been designated as the main venue for this year’s Photo Hanoi Biennale, which runs from April 21 to June 3.

Leveraging its abundant creative resources and extensive network of creative spaces, Hanoi has undertaken the initiative to consolidate them into a unified network. The city aims to position itself as a haven for innovative cultural spaces, fostering community connections, inspiring creativity, and enhancing the allure of its urban areas, which are steeped in traditional values. Creative spaces play a vital role in enriching the community, generating employment opportunities, and supporting sustainable development goals.

Hanoi joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network for Design in 2019, setting in motion a concerted effort to develop cultural industries, establish itself as a creative city, and fulfill its commitments to UNESCO. This commitment has materialized through a series of policies and numerous creative events orchestrated by the city.

Hanoi boasts an impressive portfolio of 124 creative spaces, encompassing diverse disciplines such as design, music, publishing, cinema, and more. These spaces are managed by both public and private organizations and encompass a wide array of establishments, including museums, libraries, art spaces, galleries, cultural centers, educational centers, coffee shops, and co-working spaces.

Phan Dang Son, Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Architects, acknowledges the immense potential of Hanoi’s historical and cultural heritage. However, he also highlights the need for greater realization of this potential. To this end, a robust program for the development of creative spaces is crucial for Hanoi’s tourism industry, promising to enhance its allure and charm. Son emphasizes that this program will provide the upcoming generation with a platform to showcase their ingenuity, contributing significantly to raising awareness of Vietnamese culture worldwide.

Jonghyu Nam, Acting Chief Representative of UN-HABITAT in Vietnam, expresses his intent to collaborate with Hanoi in categorizing and evaluating creative spaces, with the ultimate objective of building a sustainable creative network. To establish this creative network, the Hanoi Department of Culture and Sports has been gathering feedback from regulators regarding the criteria for classification and evaluation. Do Dinh Hong, Director of the Hanoi Department of Culture and Sports, expects these criteria to facilitate the preservation and enrichment of innovative areas, granting residents and tourists a chance to appreciate the local cultural values.

Creative spaces that meet the established criteria for the Hanoi Creative Space Network will receive membership certificates and enjoy tax incentives in accordance with regulations. Additionally, the network will actively promote the activities of its members on the official information website system of Hanoi Creative City.

Nguyen Thu Ha, Director of VICAS, raises concerns about the bureaucratic nature of the criteria, urging the cultural and creative space network to operate with a spirit of volunteerism and minimize administrative procedures. Several creative spaces have shown explicit willingness to support the networking of cultural and creative spaces, requesting additional assistance ranging from funding to promotion, leveraging their unique strengths.

Do Dinh Hong stresses the significance of establishing a framework of standards to classify and evaluate Hanoi’s cultural and creative spaces. This framework will serve as the foundation for identifying creative hubs and connecting the Hanoi Creative Hub Network with global and domestic creative spaces. Hong’s proposal emphasizes that the promulgation of these criteria will nurture the development of creative spaces.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network currently comprises 295 cities in 90 member countries, all committed to fostering global cooperation by focusing on creative urban planning. This collective endeavor represents a valuable resource to Hanoi, bolstering its aspirations for the growth of the cultural industry.