A neighbourhood in Hanoi constructed by its inhabitants

This project started from the idea that self-construction is a way to address the modest means of the context but became an investigation in finding a balance between user freedom, collaboration incentives and indirect guidance through the development of a building system.

As there is a high degree of self-organisation of social and economic life in Hanoi already, the role of architecture in this project is to allow for a range of possible outcomes by facilitating self-organisation and collaboration while ensuring certain qualities of living.

Ultimately, the potential of self-organisation lies in its capacity to create a neighbourhood that is much closer and more adaptable to the local and rapidly transforming preferences of the inhabitants of Hanoi.

Self-built neighbourhood scenario

In this neighbourhood in Hanoi built by its inhabitants, live and work situations interconnected by inhabitants to an extensive economic network attract street vendors, customers and suppliers from both the neighbourhood and its urban context, while new communal gathering spaces and patches of greenery accommodate non-commercial, social activity.

Atop the economic network

In commercial clusters, inhabitants collaboratively interconnect their buildings with pedestrian footbridges, which also create wider public space on the ground and thereby intensify economic activity on both levels. Collaboration also facilitates the appropriation of public space for the specifically Vietnamese social and economic activities and creates a sense of shared responsibility.

Inside a communal gathering space

In the communal cluster, inhabitants collaboratively set up a new kind of covered gathering space in between their dwellings, which is co-used but also open to the public. The clusters thereby create mutual benefit for the entire neighbourhood, while necessitating the collaboration of only a very limited number of families.

Around a secluded patch of greenery

Small patches of greenery are introduced as top-down measure to ensure the creation of pocket parks in the neighbourhood and allow inhabitants to create building clusters with secluded atmosphere around.

Three cluster types

Three cluster types create specific differentiated public spaces: Commercial clusters create a network of live and work and wider public space for economic activity through collaboratively installed pedestrian footbridges. Communal gathering spaces and secluded clusters around top-down introduced patches of greenery create evenly emerging public spaces for social activity.

Neighbourhood scenario section

This section shows communal gathering space and pocket park as focal points of social activity, while the economic network accommodates live and work situations. These activities are consciously facilitated by architectural features such as porches, decks and elevated walkways.

From initial self-building to prosperity

Building system and clusters allow the inhabitants alongside rising income to extend their buildings. As the neighbourhood is becoming more and more prosperous, inhabitants upgrade their dwellings from basic live and work to residential or commercial buildings, making the neighbourhood a new higher value residential and service quarter in Hanoi.

Structural module in scale 1 to 3

Building one structural module in scale 1 to 3 is a way of testing on the one hand its structural rigidity, on the other hand its feasibility for quick and easy self-assembly.

Indirect guidance

The building system allows for varying sizes and typologies, for horizontal and vertical extension and for upgrading. However, varying lengths of beams, cantilevers and custom designed steel plates effectively limit the size of a building to prevent extensive building growth. Thereby, building an individual building automatically creates public space around it - a trade off between individual and common interest.

Handing out model building parts

Handing out model parts of the building system to other persons is a way of testing its capacity to accommodate user freedom and guide user-driven building. The tests were successful in showing unforeseen - but but actually very desirable - alternative use of parts and prove the systems adequacy in imposing limits to building.