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introduction Edit

The project is to find a community-driven solution for improving the deteriorated living environment of the old French colonial villa at 12 Ngo Tram Street while preserving its existing social and architectural assets. French colonial villas in Hanoi built in 1920s are degrading rapidly, illustrated by a recent collapse of one villa in the city centre.

The 12 Ngo Tram Villa is now a residential building of 14 households (30-40 residents) with land use right certificate. The rooms have been informally subdivided, extended, and additionally formed in common areas. Sanitation condition is bad and water leaks frequently. The building’s structural safety is the most critical issue given the wall-gaps and cracks.

The community hosts the project with the support of community architects and organisers. Through a community mapping process on physical and social conditions and a series of workshops, the community will develop concrete action and budget plan for a solution.

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the core team Edit

The community hosts the project with support from our team. From the first meeting on the need for an action and feasibility of a project, the building management board members in the community discussed beyond the structural safety matter of the building: it discussed the general direction, management and supervision of the project. The community had a brainstorming on the ways to generate more building revenue (e.g. renting space for motorbike parking or setting up a small café), and has committed to develop strategies to secure its fund for upgrading the building. In case the project needs to work with local government, the community will directly communicate with the ward authority with the support from the team.

The project team consists of one representative of the community, two international community architects (CAs), one local CA and one community organiser. My role will be the community organiser and also a bridge between the community and the CAs (I’m a member of the community) and other external supporters/technical assistants.

The Vietnamese CA has abundant experience of community-driven housing project since 2009 in more than 10 cities in Vietnam. The South Korean CA has 4 years professional experience at an architectural firm, 2 years practice as CA at informal settlements, and 3 years work for housing rights and policy advocacy at international development agencies. Another international CA, Norwegian, has worked with communities for disaster recovery in the Philippines for 3 years and currently working on projects in China and Vietnam.

The credit of the project belongs both to the community and the project team. In case the community builds up a tie with local authority, the credit will be extended to the authority as well.

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what is still needed and why Edit
Funding support:
  • What we need: USD 4,000
  • For what purpose: (i) community workshops for mapping and action planning (purchasing items necessary for the workshops, such as measuring tools, large map, staionary, etc); (ii) documenting the outputs of the workshop and visiualising them (priting, editing, renting a working space of the project team); (iii) final workshop for outsiders in order to share the community's story and plan (renting a space, editing and printing out handouts) 
  • The project is in very beginning phase. After the community mapping process and initial structural safety assessment, the team will support the community for visualising their outputs and plans. With the community's proposal, the team and the community will seek for further funding.
  • What we can offer: the sponsor(s) will be addressed in all published outputs and also have co-ownership of the project with the community and the team. After the mapping process and a series of workshops for developing an action plan (incl. budget esitmation), the community will develop its financial plan, meaning it will mobilise matching funds for the next step.    
  • Need: A technical assistance for assessing the building's structural safety and for exploring solutions of structural enhancement while preserving the current assets, such as the French-Indochina style and the informally extended and adjusted living space in the building. Someone who has experience for historic building preservation would be much helpful. 
  • Why: The project was first initiated by the community's concern on the building's structural safety, triggered by a sudden collapse of an old French colonial villa in similar condition in the early 2016. The project team consists of 3 community architects and one community organiser, missing a structural engineer or an expert on historic building preservation. To develop the community's plan for improving the building, the structural assessment/advice on possible solutions are critical. Based on it, the community can develop a concrete action and financial plan, and start a dialogue with local authorities for a solution.

  • Offers: the advisor(s) will be addressed as a project team member, and get credit for her/his contribution. Financial support for accommodation, meals, travelling cost, financial compensation and etc. are not available yet. The advisor can stay at the villa with local means by the community during her/his visit for the task.

impact Edit

The participatory architectural process of the project will be a tool to visualise the problems that the community is facing, and also to help the community with developing tangible ideas. The process is not simply developing a solution by professional architects after a survey and community consultation. It rather provides proper information and architectural tools to the community in right timing, and thus letting them to develop their own solutions. The ability to make informed decisions on future transformations of the building will strengthen the ownership of the community on the project.

The project will start small actions that can produce visible outputs in a short time in order to build up solid trust and confidence amongst the community members. The project is owned, managed, implemented and supervised by the community, with the technical support of the project team. The community naturally improve their capacity on organisational management. Participatory mapping, workshops and solution development process will enhance the capacity on making informed decisions, developing feasible action and financial plans for a problem, which is a step forward from vague assumptions, simple complains and worries, or empty claims.

During the project, the community will bring its plan to the local authority and discuss a way of working together for resolving its problem rather than waiting for subsidies and confirmed policy from government. This will increase its capacity to develop productive partnership with local government, meaning the empowerment of communities in urban development process in Hanoi.

On a larger scale, this building can set an example for other old French colonial villas in Hanoi that are facing the same challenges as 12 Ngo Tram. Through this project, the project team will develop a strategy to spread the community’s knowledge and experience to other communities in similar conditions.

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external links Edit


Project details
Project name: Upgrading 12 Ngo Tram – an old French colonial housing
Description: A community-driven upgrading of an old French colonial villa
Category: housing
Design: French colonial villa with Indochina style
Building status: in use
Construction period: 1920s-30s (subdivisions and informal extensions since 1980s)
Demolished: n.a.
Needs: funding support, advice
Location: Hanoi, Vietnam
Coordinates: 21°1'51'' N, 105°50'44.1'' E
Tags: participation, community practice, incremental development, urban, case study
Project ID: 619
Published: 18 September 2016
Last updated: 12 October 2016
(images have individual licenses)
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CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
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